A crucial success factor for any business or organization is knowing and satisfying the needs of your customers or stakeholders. Surveying to gauge expectations, perceptions, satisfaction, and identify areas for improvement can provide actional insights toward making adjustments for the future.
Many organizations that collect municipal/regional taxes or fees are required to survey stakeholders and report results, such as the Municipal & Regional District Tax (MRDT) Program. In order to be compliant with program requirements, participating organizations are required to prove that funds are being used effectively and that stakeholders approve of fund allocations.
Survey generation can be complex and time-consuming. Whether you are developing a survey to gather stakeholder or customer insights, or for government reporting, The Web Advisors can provide you a turn-key Survey Administration Process including project plan creation, survey generation, approval, database compilation, distribution, and reporting in slide presentation format, saving time and effort, and ensuring reliable data with actionable insights.
Should you opt to administer a survey yourself, here are 10 common survey mistakes to avoid…
- Loaded questions and leading words
- Nonspecific questions
- Double-barreled questions
- Confusing or unfamiliar words
- Misplaced questions
- Failing to ask follow up questions
- Overusing mandatory questions
- Non-exhaustive listings
- Mutually non-exclusive response categories
- Too long!
Common Errors to Avoid When Writing Surveys
1. Loaded questions and leading words
The language used in your survey should be as neutral as possible in order to avoid creating bias. Even a small degree of bias can change how people answer, so it’s best to:
- Prevent begging the question by avoiding phrases that sound persuasive or leading, e.g. “don’t you think that…?”
- Stay consistent when using synonymous words. Even substituting “could,” “might” and “should” can have a meaningful impact on your results.
2. Nonspecific questions
Vague questions lead to vague answers and unhelpful data. Ensure that your survey results are relevant and useful by:
- Wording questions to set the parameters of the answer, e.g. “thinking about the last 12 months, how often have you visited the tourism centre?”
- Specifying what you want to know.
- Gathering feedback on the clarity of your questions during the review process.
3. Double-barreled questions
Avoid having multiple questions in one survey point. You will gain more valuable insights by asking specific singular questions.
- E.g. “Please rate your satisfaction with the cleanliness of the hotel room and lobby”
- Should be:
- “Please rate your satisfaction with the cleanliness of the hotel room”
- “Please rate your satisfaction with the cleanliness of the hotel lobby”
4. Confusing or unfamiliar words
Surveys are typically sent to a sample population composed of people with varying literacy levels. Do not assume respondents will all have high literacy levels – use plain language and include these tips:
- Keep it simple – wording should be at a 9th to 11th-grade reading level.
- Ensure the audience understands your language level, terminology, and intent.
- Avoid jargon and acronyms, or define/explain them.
5. Misplaced questions
The order of your questions matters because question flow can unintentionally introduce bias. Consider the following:
- Randomize question order so that each respondent gets a different experience. If your survey has interdependent questions, consider randomizing groups of questions.
- Avoid “ringer” questions. These are questions with the purpose of capturing participants’ interest and they don’t influence the final data. These questions can introduce unnecessary noise into your data, so use them with caution.
6. Failing to ask follow up questions
A major purpose of surveys is to collect actionable feedback, but some surveys fall short. If you want your data to help guide decision-making, you need to understand why respondents answered the way they did, and give them the opportunity to provide feedback. Try using these three types of follow-up questions:
- Open-ended: Allows respondents to input their responses in their own words. e.g. “Is there anything else that we could have done to improve your visit to our resort?”
- Multiple response (select all that apply): Gives respondents the option to select any of the categories listed, including an “other, please specify.”
- Scales: Measure dimensions like satisfaction or likelihood of visiting again to help the surveyor gauge the intensity of the respondents’ answers.
7. Overusing mandatory questions
An excess of mandatory questions can lead to survey abandonment and negatively affect your response rate. Respondents should never feel forced to answer be forced to participate: If you can:
- Make sensitive questions skippable.
- Word sensitive questions carefully, and check how the wording is perceived when you review your survey.
- Include a “don’t know” or “prefer not to say” option.
8. Non-exhaustive listings
Respondents prefer to have response options that include one that’s correct for them.
- Add a final “other” option with a free text box for the respondent to elaborate on their answer.
- Check that almost all likely responses are covered by reviewing your survey questionnaire.
9. Mutually non-exclusive response categories
A common survey creation error is mutually non-exclusive response categories. Confirm that your response categories are mutually exclusive
- E.g. “You’ve visited our destination: a) 1-3 times b) 3-5 times c) 5-8 times
- If a respondent has visited 3 or 5 times, they will struggle to answer a question set up like this. Use mutually exclusive multiple-choice questions as a general rule.
10. Too long!
And saving perhaps the most simple for last… the social acronym of TLDR: too long didn’t read, could be slightly appended to TLDC: too long didn’t complete. Keep your surveys to a maximum of 15 minutes to complete, and be sure to consider page length on for mobile screens first with up to 21% of surveys now being completed on mobile.
Integrating these tips will ensure that your survey data is accurate, relevant, and provides actionable insights.
We understand how extensive the survey administration process can be, and we’re here to help.