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Consumer survey is a consumer research technique in which a questionnaire is used to gather

information from a sample of consumers. The questionnaire may be sent directly to the sample
group through the mail, or the information may be obtained through in-person or telephone
interviews.

Steps to Creating Effective Customer Surveys

In the wake of Google's Penguin update, the quality of your online content should be one of your
top priorities. Not only can packing your pages full of high-value posts improve your presence in
the natural search results, it also can go a long way toward improving customers' experience
on your website.

One way you can determine which types of content you should focus on is through customer
surveys. Follow these five steps to conduct effective surveys that turn up the most insightful
results:

1. Do preliminary research.
To create an effective survey, you want to be as targeted as possible. Simply asking readers, "What
topics do you want me to write about?" may not turn up as many good ideas as asking them about
specific subjects.

To decide on your topics, first go to your Google Analytics account and look at your Top 10
content pages. If you see any similarities between these articles in terms of their topics, ask your
readers which ones they're most interested in.

2. Draft your questions.


For best results, include no more than five to 10 questions in your surveys. Consumers generally
have short attention spans, so if you bombard them with dozens of rapid-fire questions, your
completion rates can drop significantly.

As you're writing your survey questions, try to let participants expand on their thoughts. "Yes or
no" questions won't give you as much information as free-form text responses.
3. Offer an incentive for completing the survey.
While your survey is still in the planning stages, you may want to come up with an incentive to
encourage readers to answer all of the questions. Many websites offer a small discount or a
downloadable white paper to motivate people to participate.

If you do decide to offer an incentive, think through how you'll distribute it to readers. Sending
incentives to participants can be time consuming, so look for a survey program
like SurveyMonkey that lets you automate the follow-up process.

4. Set up your survey.


Now, it's time to set up the program that will record your answers. If you're a skilled programmer,
you may be able to code your own survey response form and embed it in your website.
Alternatively, you can check out data collection programs such as SurveyMonkey
or KwikSurveys if you'd rather use an automated approach or you'd like to take advantage of
features you may not be able to code yourself.

Both of these tools enable you to set up simple customer feedback forms for free. SurveyMonkey
also offers paid plans if you're interested in more advanced features, such as the automated follow-
up described above. SurveyMonkey's plans start at $17 a month for a "Select" membership.

5. Publicize your survey to readers.


Once your survey is ready to go, get the word out to your readers by advertising it on:

• Your website
• At the end of your blog posts
• Within your email marketing messages
• On your social media profiles
• In your email signature

Remember that readers may not have time to take your survey when they first see it mentioned.
It's important to advertise it in multiple places to ensure the highest possible completion rates.
As responses come in, evaluate them and where appropriate, make changes to your website or your
digital marketing plan. Responding to this feedback will show your readers that you value their
insights, and it will go a long way toward achieving your search engine optimization goals.

Tips for Building Effective Surveys

You don’t have to be an expert to build and distribute an effective online survey, but by checking
your survey against tried-and-tested benchmarks, you can help ensure you’re collecting the best
data possible.
Thousands of books and articles have been written about survey methodology, but in case you
don’t have hours to devote to becoming a guru, here are ten best practices to consider when
building and distributing your survey.

1. Make Sure That Every Question Is Necessary

You’re building your survey to obtain important insights, so every question in the survey should
play a direct part. It’s best to plan your survey by first identifying the data you need to collect
and then writing your questions. Survey questions are such a valuable part of your surveys that we
wrote a whole nother article on it here.

2. Keep it Short and Simple

Respondents are less likely to complete long surveys, or surveys that bounce around haphazardly
from topic to topic. Therefore, make sure your survey follows a logical order and that it takes a
reasonable amount of time to complete.

3. Ask Direct Questions

Vague or poorly worded questions confuse respondents and make your data less useful. Strive
for clear and precise language that will make your questions easy to answer.

4. Ask One Question at a Time


Take a closer look at questions in your survey that contain the word “and”—it can be a red flag
that your question has two parts. Here’s a sample: “Which of these cell phone service providers
has the best customer support and reliability?” In this case, a respondent may feel that one service
is more reliable, but another has better customer support.

5. Avoid Leading and Biased Questions

Some descriptive words and phrases may interject some bias into your questions, or point the
respondent in the direction of a particular answer. In particular, scrutinize adjectives and adverbs
in your questions. If they’re not needed, take them out.

In addition, an unbalanced response scale can lead a respondent in the same way a poorly worded
question might. Make sure your response scales have a definitive midpoint (aim for odd numbers
of possible responses) and that they cover the whole range of possible reactions to the question.

6. Speak Your Respondent’s Language

Use language and terminology that your respondents will understand. Make words and sentences
as simple as possible and avoid technical jargon. However, don’t oversimplify a question to the
point that it will change the way the question will be interpreted.

7. Use Response Scales Whenever Possible

Response scales that give the direction and intensity of attitudes provide rich data. By contrast,
categorical or binary response options, such as true/false or yes/no response options, generally
produce less informative data.
Avoid using scales that ask respondents to agree or disagree with statements, however. Some
people are biased toward agreeing with statements, and this can result in invalid and unreliable
data.

8. Avoid Using Grids or Matrices for Responses

Oftentimes respondents don’t fill in grids correctly or accurately according to their true feelings.
Also, grids aren’t mobile-friendly. It’s better to separate questions with grid responses into
multiple questions in your survey with regular response scales.

9. Rephrase Yes/No Questions if Possible

Many yes/no questions can be reworked by including phrases such as “How much,” “How often,”
or “How likely.” Make this change whenever possible and include a response scale for richer data.

10. Take Your Survey for a Test Drive

Ask at least five people to test your survey to help you catch and correct problems before you
distribute.

Benefits of Survey Research

The benefits of Survey Research

Cost

Surveys are relatively inexpensive. Online surveys and mobile surveys, in particular, have a very
small cost per respondent. Even if incentives are given to respondents, the cost per response is
often far less than the cost of administering a paper survey or phone survey, and the number of
potential responses can be in the thousands.
Extensive

Surveys are useful in describing the characteristics of a large population. No other research method
can provide this broad capability, which ensures a more accurate sample to gather targeted results
in which to draw conclusions and make important decisions.

Flexible

Surveys can be administered in many modes, including: online surveys, email surveys, social
media surveys, paper surveys, mobile surveys, telephone surveys, and face-to-face interview
surveys. For remote or hard-to-reach respondents, using a mixed mode of survey research may be
necessary (e.g. administer both online surveys and paper surveys to collect responses and compile
survey results into one data set, ready for analysis).

Dependable

The anonymity of surveys allows respondents to answer with more candid and valid answers. To
get the most accurate data, you need respondents to be as open and honest as possible with their
answers. Surveys conducted anonymously provide an avenue for more honest and unambiguous
responses than other types of research methodologies, especially if it is clearly stated that survey
answers will remain completely confidential.

Advantages and Disadvantages of Surveys

Surveys are easy to develop, especially when using the advanced survey softwaresolutions
available today. Many researchers are tempted to do much of their data collection online; however,
it is not always the preferred mode of data collection, especially if respondents are in hard-to-reach
areas. Whether a researcher uses an online survey, mobile survey, paper survey, or a combination
of all modes, the mode should depend on the type of study and the demographics of respondents.

Online surveys and mobile surveys tend to be the most cost-effective modes of survey research,
yet they may not reach those respondents that can only respond using alternate modes. Results of
online surveys and mobile surveys may suffer and differ greatly if important respondents are left
out of the research. Hard-to-reach respondents may be easier to reach using more traditional
methods such as paper surveys or face-to-face interviews.

Advanced survey software solutions have multi-mode capabilities for online surveys, mobile
surveys, email surveys, paper surveys, kiosk surveys, and more, giving researchers the ability to
survey even the hardest-to reach consumers, and analyze data from all survey modes collectively.

The ability to reach respondents is one challenge of surveys. However, surveys have several
advantages and disadvantages. They are as follows:

Advantages

 Relatively easy to administer


 Can be developed in less time (compared to other data-collection methods)
 Cost-effective, but cost depends on survey mode
 Can be administered remotely via online, mobile devices, mail, email, kiosk, or telephone.
 Conducted remotely can reduce or prevent geographical dependence
 Capable of collecting data from a large number of respondents
 Numerous questions can be asked about a subject, giving extensive flexibility in data
analysis
 With survey software, advanced statistical techniques can be utilized to analyze survey
data to determine validity, reliability, and statistical significance, including the ability to
analyze multiple variables
 A broad range of data can be collected (e.g., attitudes, opinions, beliefs, values, behavior,
factual).
 Standardized surveys are relatively free from several types of errors

Disadvantages

The reliability of survey data may depend on the following factors:

 Respondents may not feel encouraged to provide accurate, honest answers


 Respondents may not feel comfortable providing answers that present themselves in a
unfavorable manner.
 Respondents may not be fully aware of their reasons for any given answer because of lack
of memory on the subject, or even boredom.
 Surveys with closed-ended questions may have a lower validity rate than other question
types.
 Data errors due to question non-responses may exist. The number of respondents who
choose to respond to a survey question may be different from those who chose not to
respond, thus creating bias.
 Survey question answer options could lead to unclear data because certain answer options
may be interpreted differently by respondents. For example, the answer option “somewhat
agree” may represent different things to different subjects, and have its own meaning to
each individual respondent. ‘Yes’ or ‘no’ answer options can also be problematic.
Respondents may answer “no” if the option “only once” is not available.
 Customized surveys can run the risk of containing certain types of errors

Strengths and weaknesses of survey research

Strengths of survey methods

Researchers employing survey methods to collect data enjoy a number of benefits. First, surveys
are an excellent way to gather lots of information from many people. In a study of older people’s
experiences in the workplace, researchers were able to mail a written questionnaire to around 500
people who lived throughout the state of Maine at a cost of just over $1,000. This cost included
printing copies of a seven-page survey, printing a cover letter, addressing and stuffing envelopes,
mailing the survey, and buying return postage for the survey. I realize that $1,000 is nothing to
sneeze at, but just imagine what it might have cost to visit each of those people individually to
interview them in person. You would have to dedicate a few weeks of your life at least, drive
around the state, and pay for meals and lodging to interview each person individually. We could
double, triple, or even quadruple our costs pretty quickly by opting for an in-person method of data
collection over a mailed survey. Thus, surveys are relatively cost-effective.
Related to the benefit of cost-effectiveness is a survey’s potential for generalizability. Because
surveys allow researchers to collect data from very large samples for a relatively low cost, survey
methods lend themselves to probability sampling techniques, which we discussed in Chapter 10.
Of all the data collection methods described in this textbook, survey research is probably the best
method to use when one hopes to gain a representative picture of the attitudes and characteristics
of a large group.

Survey research also tends to be a reliable method of inquiry. This is because surveys are
standardized in that the same questions, phrased in exactly the same way, are posed to participants.
Other methods, such as qualitative interviewing, which we’ll learn about in Chapter 13, do not
offer the same consistency that a quantitative survey offers. This is not to say that all surveys are
always reliable. A poorly phrased question can cause respondents to interpret its meaning
differently, which can reduce that question’s reliability. Assuming well-constructed questions and
survey design, one strength of this methodology is its potential to produce reliable results.

The versatility of survey research is also an asset. Surveys are used by all kinds of people in all
kinds of professions. The versatility offered by survey research means that understanding how to
construct and administer surveys is a useful skill to have for all kinds of jobs. Lawyers might use
surveys in their efforts to select juries, social service and other organizations (e.g., churches, clubs,
fundraising groups, activist groups) use them to evaluate the effectiveness of their efforts,
businesses use them to learn how to market their products, governments use them to understand
community opinions and needs, and politicians and media outlets use surveys to understand their
constituencies.

In sum, the following are benefits of survey research:

 Cost-effectiveness
 Generalizability
 Reliability
 Versatility

Weaknesses of survey methods

As with all methods of data collection, survey research also comes with a few drawbacks. First,
while one might argue that surveys are flexible in the sense that we can ask any number of
questions on any number of topics in them, the fact that the survey researcher is generally stuck
with a single instrument for collecting data, the questionnaire. Surveys are in many ways
rather inflexible. Let’s say you mail a survey out to 1,000 people and then discover, as responses
start coming in, that your phrasing on a particular question seems to be confusing a number of
respondents. At this stage, it’s too late for a do-over or to change the question for the respondents
who haven’t yet returned their surveys. When conducting in-depth interviews, on the other hand,
a researcher can provide respondents further explanation if they’re confused by a question and can
tweak their questions as they learn more about how respondents seem to understand them.
Depth can also be a problem with surveys. Survey questions are standardized; thus, it can be
difficult to ask anything other than very general questions that a broad range of people will
understand. Because of this, survey results may not be as valid as results obtained using methods
of data collection that allow a researcher to more comprehensively examine whatever topic is being
studied. Let’s say, for example, that you want to learn something about voters’ willingness to elect
an African American president, as in our opening example in this chapter. General Social Survey
respondents were asked, “If your party nominated an African American for president, would you
vote for him if he were qualified for the job?” Respondents were then asked to respond either yes
or no to the question. But what if someone’s opinion was more complex than could be answered
with a simple yes or no? What if, for example, a person was willing to vote for an African American
woman but not an African American man? [1]

In sum, potential drawbacks to survey research include the following:

 Inflexibility
 Lack of depth