Surveys are a great way to collect feedback from a lot of people at once. The logistics of sending out surveys for respondents to complete in their own time also makes this form of research a lot simpler than most.
But, whether you’re carrying out business research among potential clients or looking to gauge how the general public feels with a market research questionnaire, there are certain survey best practices that always hold true.
The results from intricate, well-researched surveys might tell you a lot about your target audience. But make it too long and your completion rates will suffer. Likewise, five-minute surveys might get you more respondents, but are your questions delving deep enough to tell you anything?
With all this in mind, let’s take a look at some of the key principles you should follow when carrying out research.
- Define Your Research Goal
To get the most from your research, you need to define a clear and attainable research goal. Designing a survey is easier if your goal is precise and well-defined, and your results will be more valuable and relevant as a result.
For example, imagine that you want to understand why customers are leaving your business. Forget vague goals such as, “I want to know more about customer satisfaction.” Instead, your goal should be, “I want to understand the key reasons why customers are leaving.” With a clear goal in place, you have a clear reference point for formulating relevant and meaningful questions.
- Speak Their Language
Designing a survey allows you to start a conversation with your respondent. This means you have to talk their language if you want them to understand your questions and respond with honesty and accuracy.
As with any form of writing, make sure to aim for your target audience and avoid using internal jargon. This is especially important when carrying out business-to-customer (B2C) research. For example, this insurance industry jargon might be obvious to you and your colleagues. But you can’t expect your customers or industry outsiders to know what it all means. If it’s not possible to avoid using terminology altogether, you should at least provide a clear definition every time you use it.
When designing business-to-business (B2B) research, using industry terminology is acceptable. But, we’d still recommend spelling out abbreviations. This way, there’s no possibility of confusion or misinterpretation.
- Ask Clear and Balanced Questions
When designing your questions, clarity and balance are the most important principles to bear in mind.
First, you should use mostly closed-ended questions. These questions offer the respondent pre-populated answer choices in the form of checkboxes, a numbered response, or some other exact form of information. Not only are these questions easier for respondents to understand and answer, but they also provide you with quantitative data. In contrast, since open-ended questions take longer to answer and are more difficult to analyze, try to include no more than one or two in each survey.
Closed-ended questions can also ask the respondent for their opinion on a certain statement. But, by providing a scale that allows them to rate their agreement from 1 to 5 (e.g. 1 = strongly disagree, 5 = strongly agree), it’s easier to measure their reaction in your analysis.
But, you need to ensure that both the question and answer scale offer balanced options. For example, if you want to find out how helpful your customer service agents are, your wording should be neutral and unbiased. Here, you could offer a statement, such as “Customer service agents at Company X are ____” or the question, “How helpful or unhelpful are the customer service agents at Company X?”
You would then need to offer the respondent a sliding scale that ranges from very unhelpful to very helpful. Only offering possible responses such as “very helpful”, “helpful”, and “neither helpful nor unhelpful” doesn’t allow for a true, balanced response.
- Time It Right
Timing matters a lot when it comes to sending out survey email invitations to your target audience. Although, the best time to send one depends on whether it’s a B2B survey or a B2C survey.
Research on completion rates shows that recipients are more likely to complete B2B surveys on Mondays. Throughout most of the week, completion rates are between eight and 10 percent. But on Mondays, the completion rate is a much more promising 16 percent.
For B2C surveys, completion rates tend to be quite similar throughout the week, with completion rates of between 11 and 13 percent on most days. However, on Thursdays and Sundays, this figure dips to nine percent so it could be best to avoid sending out B2C survey email invitations on these days.
- Size Matters
One of the most important deciding factors when it comes to completion rates is the length of the survey. You’re far more likely to receive more completed surveys and more thoughtful responses if you try to keep the length under 15 minutes.
Remember, even if you’re offering some kind of incentive for completing your market research survey, your respondents are giving up their valuable time to provide you with the information you want. Show them that you respect their time by not taking up too much of it.
Consider These Survey Best Practices When Carrying Out Research
Designing a survey requires careful consideration of your research goal and how to best investigate it through precise and relevant questions. You also have to ensure that these questions are as easy to answer as possible, and that your survey and accompanying email invitations are timed just right for optimal completion rates.
But, with a clear understanding of your target audience, it’ll be a lot easier to follow these survey best practices and find out exactly what you want to know.
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