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Five Tips to Creating Effective Online Surveys

Well-constructed online surveys delivered to the right audiences can be one of the primary tools for gaining insight into how to improve a product; understand perceptions of your company; or uncover a customer’s buying habits that can lead to increased sales. Want to maximize responses and minimize opt-outs? Then it’s key that organizations conducting surveys pay close attention to best practices. Customers (or employees if it’s an internal query) are your best assets, and properly-designed and administered surveys can provide meaningful feedback AND strengthen your relationships.

Here are five tips to ensure your efforts are successful:

  1. Define the survey’s purpose: Are you seeking input on your company’s customer service and ways to improve it? Are you looking for insight on which new logo best represents your business? Does your board of directors really want to know what drives employee satisfaction and retention? Limit your content to only what you need to know. Sneaking in extra questions because you’re “sending it out anyway” doesn’t benefit your response rates OR data gathering effectiveness.

  2. Short and simple: Respondents are pressed for time and don’t want to spend 45 minutes answering 30 questions. Rule of thumb: limit your questions to those respondents can answer in 7 minutes or less. You can include a mix of open-ended and multiple choice questions but make sure the wording is clear and concise, don’t use jargon and provide simple and straightforward instructions for each question.

  3. Test before sending: Before you send the survey to your audience, send a test to a few trusted, yet non-involved associates, so they can provide feedback on the structure, question flow, ease of understanding and length. Once they record answers, ensure they are properly captured and easily analyzed. Testing will allow you to make any refinements that result in the best product possible to your target audience.

  4. Know your respondents: A survey is only as good as the people responding to it. Before you send it, make sure your audience is made up of the appropriate target customers, confirm email addresses and titles and make sure your questions are relevant to their expertise or requested insight. Also, mail programs are increasingly scrutinizing “role-based” e-mail addresses such as, so make sure your contacts include verified addresses connected to an actual name.

  5. Take action based on responses. Creating, disseminating and compiling results from a survey takes effort so once you analyze your responses, use that insight to make meaningful changes or apply the learnings to improve your organization. If your customers or employees have taken the time to provide their opinions, as a company, you have a responsibility to listen to them if it can help their experience with you or help you grow your business.

A well-thought-out strategy for designing and sending surveys can benefit just about every aspect of your business, from customer service to product/service enhancements to marketplace positioning. Don’t make it more complicated than it needs to be and you’ll be rolling in responses pretty quickly.


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