Survey Question Tips and Mistakes to Avoid

Companies of all sizes use customer input to influence company decisions. Providers of products and services use feedback gained from customer surveys. These surveys may be informal questions asked via email or phone, or formatted in an online survey. The design of each survey question can influence the answers. Follow these tips to gather quality data and avoid skewing the results:

  • Start with the answers
  • Use the right items
  • Don’t ask leading questions, avoid bias
Formsite survey question

In the Beginning

When first considering the survey it’s typically easy to come up with many questions. To focus and organize the questions, start with the answers the survey will produce. Write the answer as a statement, then use the answer to form the questions. For example:

  • Our customers want more [small/large] flower arrangements
  • New arrangements [should/should not] include edible treats
  • Colors that are ‘in’ this season are: [earthy/pastel/electric]

Using these answers makes the survey questions easier to generate and group logically.

Survey Question Items

Formsite survey question ranking

The type of item used can also influence the quality of data received. Item types include:

  • Binary questions (yes/no)
  • Multiple choice
  • Choose all that apply
  • Likert scales (very likely, somewhat likely, not likely)
  • Ranking (choose top 3 with 1 being your favorite)
  • Number (how many…)

Questions need to contain appropriate answers that allow for all possibilities. For example, follow-up questions shouldn’t assume a previous question’s answer. Instead, use Rules to show the correct follow-up question based on the previous item’s answer.

Likert scales can also be more user-friendly by including a ‘none’ or ‘not applicable (N/A)’ choice. Using an even number of choices helps to reduce middle of the road answers, but be sure to only use those with opinion questions.

The position of some answers may also cause skewed results. For example, if the first answer is selected most of the time, consider using Formsite’s Randomize Choices setting. That will display the choices in a random order to prevent positional bias.

Bias and Leading Questions

Keeping bias out of the survey can be difficult. Have colleagues review the questions to make sure there are no leading questions that may affect the results.

  • Leading question: “Do you have any problems with this service?”
  • Fixed question: “How is your experience with this service?”

Asking about problems specifically doesn’t allow for positive experiences. Keep all questions as neutral as possible.

  • Leading question: “Are you worried about the rise in crime in America?”
  • Fixed question: “What is your opinion about the crime rate in America?”

The first question asks about ‘worry’ and assumes that the crime rate is rising. Removing the bias allows for the visitor to state their own level of concern.

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