I seem to be in the midst of all kinds of different types of surveys as this new year unfolds – from 360 feedback surveys which evaluate a person’s performance in key areas of management competence to stakeholder surveys where the information gathered will be used for strategic planning to meet the demands of the customer. Back in July of 2010, Deb shared the importance of surveying the customer and using surveys as the best way to measure whether an organization and/or department is meeting or exceeding the customer’s expectations. This week’s blog is drilling down to give you some general tips on survey construction and administration.
1. Devote time to planning the survey process. Even though you may be under pressure to deliver feedback to your department or team, the more time you spend in carefully planning the survey process, the more meaningful results you will receive. There is nothing more frustrating than sending out a survey and realizing you didn’t get significant participation, can’t gather any concrete conclusions from the data or are embarrassed because you left out key individuals. Be careful not to forget that time spent planning effective administration of the survey can be as critical as the construction of the survey itself.
2. Begin with the end in mind and gain clarity on what you need to learn from the survey. Like focusing on results in goal setting, the first step in the survey process is identifying what results or information/data you want to have when the survey is completed. Simply completing the statement – “We need to know…” will help you frame the content areas for the survey. Remember to also think ahead; if you are creating a baseline of data for future surveys, make sure you are including areas that might not be needed right now but could serve as a baseline for future surveys.
3. Ask the right people. Think about the “who.” With a stakeholder or customer survey, you will want to involve all, or some representation of, your stakeholders or customers in the process. With large populations, you can randomly select a portion of the larger group or purposefully select customers on other criteria such as geographic location, percentage of sales, age, gender, department or division, etc.
With any survey, think about how you might want to isolate data once you have it based on the different groupings of participants. It’s tempting to just gather the information from the whole group and then see a problem and wish that you could isolate exactly which group of people are having that problem. All those factors need to be identified in the planning phase as well and included in the demographic section of the survey.
Don’t forget to pay attention to the survey invitation – explaining the “whys” (why we are doing this and why we are asking you in particular) encourages participation and lets individuals know of the importance of their feedback.
4. Match the survey format to the stakeholder. Don’t’ forget you have many survey vehicles to choose from including customer/ stakeholder focus groups, interviews, 5 statement postcards and the most common, a paper or online statement/comment survey of varying lengths. The vehicle chosen should be the best one to get appropriate and adequate data needed. Also consider “what’s in it for them.” The more the decisions coming out of the feedback will impact them, the more extensive the survey they may be willing to complete. Think about your own experience: when do you complete surveys and when you just toss them aside or hit “delete?” The same will be true for your feedback providers.
5. Design the survey to get the data you need. In hurrying to meet deadlines and in the ease of some online processes to create surveys, it’s easy just to put something together and send it out. Only later, when it’s time to analyze what you got back, you may wish you had taken the time to construct the survey differently. Consider these hints before you send out your next survey: ask the right questions, using an effective scale, frame the statements in either the positive or the negative, word your statements to address one factor at a time. For a more in-depth analysis of these key concepts of survey construction download our free Surveying Guidelines.
6. When it’s all said and done, use and share the results. Participants may make the assumption you are using the results, but if you really want to encourage them to participate again in your repeat survey, it’s wise to share with them how the feedback impacted future decisions, new services or products or individual development. A thank you also goes a long way and some clients have donated money to a local charity or given away raffle items to individuals participating in the surveys. That helps too!
There’s a quick look at some ideas you can incorporate into your next survey project – whether you are part of a survey planning team or crafting your own survey on Survey Monkey. Now on to getting what you want out of your next survey!
An Inside Look:
“The Art of Surveying: How to Plan, Implement, Analyze & Present Results”
(Sign up for a free 30-Minute online discussion with Lisa)
February 3rd at 1pm (add to my calendar)