“Hold the phone John! Another survey you say?”

“Coming right up, Al!”

“Send it out by email and we will revisit again next week.”

“Ok, Al, consider it done.”

The easiest intervention to solving a problem is to send out a survey. What most organizations don’t realize they are doing their customer base a disservice by taking the easy way to obtaining feedback without by sending out a survey that doesn’t measure the entire picture.

Put yourself in the respondents’ shoes. What would you do?

A)  You never see the survey and don’t fill it out.

B)  Don’t fill it out entirely because of time.

C) See survey but don’t fill it out because of prior history resolving issues.

D) See survey and fill out in detail.

Here are the six suggestions to why surveys aren’t worth the paper they are written on.

1. The wrong people respond.

If you get a 10% response rate on the survey then I’d be more worried about the 90% that didn’t respond. There could be a lack of trust in the organization, reputation not following through, or see the survey as purely lip service to solve a problem.

2. They rarely measure ROI

Most surveys measure how people feel rather than what they implement as a result. Instead of asking about whether you enjoyed XYZ ask what are you using as a result of XYZ, how has XYZ contributed to your profitability, or how much time as XYZ saved you.

3. Do not observe body language

If 87% of communication is body language then you sure aren’t going to get that from a survey. Just because someone typed in a response doesn’t mean they aren’t standing in front of the computer screaming at it.

4. No inflection of tone

Most surveys obtain written responses and do not demonstrate any variance on the inflection of a person’s tone. In other words, I can that “I LOVE THIS IDEA” vs “i love this idea” but it still doesn’t tell me whether someone is being sarcastic in tone, trying to be funny, serious, etc.

5. Questions steer responses

Surveys that are created in-house are incredibly biased. The reason why we have surveys is to solicit unbiased responses to choose a direction to move forward. If the in house staff or team understand the possible outcomes they could very well create the questions to steer responses in their favor rather than discover a remedy to solve the respondents’ concerns.

6. No incentive

A survey without communicating an incentive is like asking a dog to roll over and not give a treat. Sometimes the incentive could reflect “What’s in it for them” as a result of taking their time and how the information will be assimilated to improve their condition. More than likely an extra bonus such as gift card, priority in drawing, etc. will increase the conversion rate of respondents.

Surveys are just one way of collecting data. Others include phone interviews, focus groups, observational assessment, etc. If you just rely on surveys then chances are you aren’t getting the full picture.

If you do plan to use surveys there here is how to make them better.


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