How to Use External and Custom Variables to Save Time in Data Analysis

One of the things we are always promoting is keeping your surveys short.  But that can be easier said than done when we need so much information from our respondents.


Well, there’s actually a fairly easy way to deal with this dilemma — you can use External and Custom Variables to not only shorten your survey, but make sure that the information that is attached to each response is accurate.  Let me give you a real life example.

For several years I ran some customer surveys for a financial services client.  The surveys would run weekly to get their satisfaction scores based on their most recent transactions.

As you would imagine, some clients had more than one transaction during the week, so simply sending them a survey invitation was NOT going to help us improve their experience on any specific transaction.  So this is how we dealt with that scenario.

The client created a downloaded report (internally) that captured the clients name, email and transaction that they ran.  We created an external custom variable for the name of the transaction.  And then inside the invitation letter, we used the default “Name” custom variable to personalize the message and then inserted their specific transaction that they had for that week that was attached to that specific survey.

If the respondent had more than one transaction that week – they would get more than one survey invitation that clarified exactly which transaction experience they were rating on that survey.

The outcome

This might sound complicated and difficult – but believe me it only took about five minutes to do.

The client would send me the report spreadsheet.  I would use the list feature in QuestionPro to upload the list with the external variables mapped out.  We would run the survey and the responses would come flooding in.

This process gave the client very clear data about what the satisfaction scores were for each transaction and allowed them to track satisfaction scores not only for the transaction, but for any team member that was associated with that process.

Learn more about how to incorporate external and custom variables into your survey here:

Custom Variables:
Data Pre-population:
Mail Merge: