How not to accidentally talk to someone like a machine.
Imagine your business sells toner cartridges, and that you have just sold some cartridges to a new customer. Now imagine that you meet the customer at a local trade show. Would you ask the customer – all in one sentence and without pause:
“hello thanks for buying some toner cartridges have your installed them did they work OK was their quality worse/the same/superior to your previous cartridges did you find them easy to install on a scale of 1 to 5 how do you rate our customer services did we deliver when we said we would would you buy them again would you recommend these to a friend or colleague?”
Faced with that barrage of questions, the buyer would likely just stare at you, then walk away shaking their head. And you gained no insight.
Of course, in reality, you would never just fire a string of questions in that way. In fact, if they said ‘no’ to the first question, then you would not ask the remainder of the questions.
Yet this is exactly how some companies present their surveys. i.e. they present all of the questions in a single block!
I participate in a lot of surveys, so I am no longer surprised by the way they are often constructed. Recently, on a popular consumer website, I was presented with a block of 35 questions, and actually most of them could have been dropped based on my first few answers. The end result was that the retailer loses engagement rather than gaining insight.
To gain insight and retain attention through a survey, talk like a human in your surveys. Friendly, interactive and personable. One question at a time. Listen to each response. Tailor your subsequent questions on previous answers. Be human.
These are some tips to help achieve great survey results:
- Ask the most important questions first, so that you get the most useful, most valuable information should the respondent stop midway.
- Never ask a question where a previous answer renders the question irrelevant.
- Ask one question at a time.
- Present follow-up questions based on previous answers.
- Keep the survey as short as necessary to attain your insight.
Most survey systems have (just) some of these capabilities, but to achieve the best results you need a survey tool that offers
- The ability to ask one question at a time, but more usefully – is designed to do that.
- Intelligent routing, so that you configure the survey to ask relevant questions in the right sequence.
Note that some survey tools charge a premium, or expect an annual contract, for some of these advanced capabilities.