Five common survey mistakes and how to avoid them

Writing surveys seem like an easy task. However, without proper forethought, poorly written surveys could ruin your insights. We’ve seen bad surveys go viral for the wrong reasons. We’ve also seen organizations who’ve made decisions from bad data that resulted in huge losses. Perhaps you may know a few people who’ve lost their job over a bad survey project. Nothing is worse than thinking you have the results you need to make major business decisions only to be completely wrong in the end.  Here are the most common survey mistakes people make and what you can do to avoid them in your own surveys.

  1. Avoid asking loaded questions

Do not write survey questions that automatically assume respondents agree with the question being asked. As survey writers, it is our duty to create questions that solicit unbiased and honest answers from our target audience. Remove any opinions that could potentially sway a response.

Loaded question example: Why is plain vanilla ice cream so boring?

The word ‘plain’ and ‘boring’ gives the perception that vanilla ice cream is not as exciting as other ice cream flavors.

A better way to write the question: Describe your feelings about vanilla ice cream.

This question allows people to answer honestly about ice cream. Some may think it’s still plain and boring but others may enjoy it and describe something different you may have otherwise missed.

  1. Avoid asking leading questions

Similar to a loaded question, leading questions automatically assumes a respondent will agree with your biased opinion on the topic.

Leading question example: How expensive is Salt and Straw ice cream?

The word ‘expensive’ automatically leads a person to think that Salt and Salt ice cream is pricier compared to other brands.

A better way to ask: Does the price of Salt and Straw ice cream live up to its value?

Taking out the word ‘expensive,’ we are able to get people’s thoughts on Salt and Straw’s pricing and how much they value their ice cream experience.

  1. Combining questions together

Nothing produces respondent confusion like a combination question. A survey question should be one question that users can answer, not a multi-part question.

Combination question example: How do you like x and y feature of the new website?

If a person likes x feature but is not fond of y, you will never truly know when using closed-ended question types.

A better way to ask: How do you like x feature of the new website? How do you like y feature of the new website?

Breaking apart multi-part questions will increase survey response quality.

  1. Asking too many questions

On average, respondents don’t want to spend more than 5 minutes on a survey. It’s in your best interest to present questions that are quick and concise and easy to respond to. Don’t dupe a respondent into taking a survey that’s only 30 questions long but takes 30 minutes to complete. Be upfront with the number of questions and how long it will take to finish. If you do require a longer survey, be transparent with the length and offer a worthwhile incentive to help lower the dropout rate.

  1. Targeting the wrong people

Nobody likes to answer surveys they can’t relate to. As the survey creator, we need to develop a survey that resonates with our target audience. It’s important to ask these questions while we are writing the survey:

  • Who are they?
  • Where are they from?
  • What do you already know about them?
  • Depending on how they answer, what further questions do you need answers for?
  • How are you going to deliver the survey?

Three solutions to target the right folks

  1. Apply profiling questions and logic and skip pattern settings that will allow you to ask follow up questions. Customize the survey experience by using what they already answered to empower respondents to offer their most authentic response.
  2. If there are any known profiling information (such as city, state, household income, car type), then use custom variables to validate their information and customize the question to their known information. This shows that you are familiar with them and can save time on the survey length.
  3. Use sample from QuestionPro Audience to target specific respondents instead of going with the general population list. Whether you are looking for males between the ages of 22-29 looking to purchase their first home or households with at least two dogs, sample companies can pre-screen and identify better-qualified respondents to answer your survey in a quick and timely manner.

The end goal is to create surveys that show respect and appreciation to respondents who offer their time to share their feedback. When you avoid these five survey mistakes, your survey will launch smoothly and your data will be full of honest and accurate results.

Need help writing surveys? We’ve got lots of survey templates to help you out or reach out to our support team and we’ll be happy to help you on your journey.