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Effective Survey Development

How to Write a Survey?

Effective survey development will help you improve your business; ask customers, employees, and stakeholders questions and use the answers to strengthen your operation. You can access free online survey software to provide a survey questionnaire example and templates on how to write a survey. Use survey answers to improve and change business processes. Make sure you listen to the feedback and take action.

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You can use free online survey software to build your survey. There are a number of online software companies that will allow you a free trial period; I suggest you use that opportunity to develop your survey. The software will provide you with a survey questionnaire example and other templates.

Surveys ask for feedback and input from your targeted group; such as all, or specific segments, of your stakeholders (customers, suppliers, employees, community, and others).

And, if you get good answers to your focused questions ... it will help you develop the right strategy to help you move your small business plan forward.

Use Survey Development as an
Effective Feedback Tool

Without asking for that feedback, and without asking the right questions, you will never know what your contacts are thinking and feeling until itÂ’s too late. For example, when customers stop buying from you, employees quit, your neighbors or others in your business community lodge complaints with city hall, and more.

For many of my years in business, survey development consisted of developing the right questions (a key part of any survey building) and distributing the survey:

  • Via in-person surveys (face to face); either one-to-one or in focus groups
  • Via phone surveys (voice to voice)
  • Via mail surveys (printed version)
  • Via email surveys (web-based, online surveys)

In recent years, free online survey software tools have simplified the process so that learning how to write a survey is much easier to do. And these tools can also provide a process for you to develop free online surveys (or almost-free). We will focus more on online surveys in this discussion since they are a great, low-cost and quick alternative to other surveys.

Effectiveness of Free Online Survey Software

How successful are surveys? What kind of response rate can you expect? The answer to both questions: it depends.

Survey Development -
Success and Response Rates Depend on:

  • Clearly understanding what you want to know
  • Effective survey design
  • Crystal clear questions (ambiguous questions will lead to unclear answers) - use a survey questionnaire example or template to see how professionals build their surveys
  • How long it takes to complete the survey: a 5 minutes survey will have a higher response rate and often be more accurate than a 20 minutes survey where the answers might start contradicting each other as the respondent gets tired or distracted.

    Longer surveys often have a higher rate of abandoned responses and incomplete responses.

  • Survey method: for example, online surveys emailed to business people between 8:00 a.m. and 10:00 a.m. (beginning of the work) day has a higher response rate than one sent later in the day.

    Email has a better response rate than phone surveys. And email also has a better response rate than mailed surveys. But focus group surveys have a better response rate than email. And so on.

  • Timing is important. Don't send out online surveys on a Friday afternoon; most potential respondents won't participate. And if you conduct a survey by phone, understand what's the best time of day for your specific target group.

Free Online Survey Development, Survey Questionnaire Example, and Other Tools

You need to understand what results you need and want from your survey development. You need to ensure that you receive a high response rate and that you receive relatively quick (within 2 weeks) responses.

Successful web-based online surveys, which are economical and effective to set up, can help you find the answers to your questions. Survey development today is both art (the design) and science (the technical aspect of building the right questions, the type of survey methods to use, the timing, and more). Most survey software will provide you with templates and/or sample surveys. Most survey software will also provide you with the ability to design a custom survey at a low cost. Email deployment of your survey will be easy (import your contacts). And analysis of the results is fairly automatic.

I've used an online survey tool for survey development that was so effective that I designed my mail-out survey on it, printed it out, mailed it and when the responses were mailed back in the self-addressed, pre-paid postage envelope, I had the responses entered into the online survey program so that I could benefit from the excellent analysis tools that the software program offered.

(P.S. I mailed the survey to a group of printers; I wanted to make the survey relevant to them, therefore I did a printed and mailed survey, versus the more popular and more economical web-based online survey.)

A high response rate is the desired result from the launch of any survey. With a high response rate, you can make decisions (for example, whether or not you should add a new product or whether the re-organization in your customer service group was effective, and so on). The results will be seen to be more accurate and supportive of decision making if a larger-than-average survey response rate was achieved. A low response rate should be handled with care: do not make decisions or changes to your business if you have a low response rate. Find a way to improve or change your survey to elicit a higher response (some companies offer a prize to the first respondent to encourage responses).

Survey Development:
Why do some surveys have low response rates?

  • Questions are not understandable.

    Action: Always test your survey by sending to several people you know or who are in your office. Make sure that each question is absolutely clear.

  • The respondent is confused by the design and instructions.

    Action: Be consistent in design and clear in instructions.

  • The survey takes too much time to complete. Phone surveys that start out by telling you it will take 20 minutes of your time usually have low response. Mail surveys with many pages also have lower than average responses.

    Action: From an extreme perspective, you can send out a one-question survey if your understanding of the target group of respondents is that they don't want to spend time filling in or completing a lengthy survey. Or your survey development can include time considerations throughout the design and ensure that it takes less than 7 or 8 minutes to complete. Many online surveys will not show you the number of pages of the survey but will show you the percentage complete as you answer it.

  • Telephone and/or door-to-door surveys have low response rates. People view these as an intrusion on their time. The one exception in the face-to-face survey is focus groups.

    Action: Focus group respondents and participants understand that they are at the focus group to provide feedback; if you can hold a focus group and invite your target mix of people you can have a valid and strong response rate. This is an expensive method however and while you will enjoy a high response rate, it will be a small representative group.

  • No pre-warning of the survey or follow-up.

    Action: If you want to increase response rates, advise your target group that you will be sending out a survey and ask for their support and feedback. Send the survey out. Have a system that allows you to recognize those who have responded and follow up (re-send survey or send a reminder) a couple of days after the survey would have arrived (most responses come in the first 2 days of receiving a survey).

Write a Survey
Increase your Survey Response Rates by:

  • Using incentives (a prize, a dollar amount, a coupon) to elicit participation.
  • If you're doing a phone survey and the person is not in when you call, leave your 1-800 (toll free) number to encourage a response when it's convenient to them.
  • Send a notice out before you launch your survey. Postcard marketing of the survey is linked to high survey response rates. Send a reminder or a second survey if no response from the first survey mailing, call, or contact.
  • Identify who is conducting the survey, why and what will be done with the results (clearly identify that you will use responses to do something; otherwise why should they waste their time, but do not promise to do everything, it is usually not possible and/or too costly).

Survey development is a somewhat technical process but, in today's environment, there are excellent survey tools to use (and there are a number of free online survey software programs available).

Surveys are an exceptionally effective way (if done well) of getting valuable information from your customers, employees and other stakeholders. Be careful not to send too many surveys out, too often you will find that people ignore them and your response rates will drop dramatically.

Do make sure you use the information you gather in your survey development to improve your business and to help your business growth.

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