Getting Respondents to Love Your Survey
Good data from a survey requires, among other things, thoughtful feedback from respondents. Low-quality data most often comes not from fraudulent or lazy respondents, but from well-meaning survey takers who are bored or irritated with surveys that are not user-friendly.
In this article we focus not on the unengaged respondents who may be offering up poor-quality data (which is usually our own fault) but instead ask what we can learn from survey takers who say they loved a particular survey. Why do they love good surveys, and what about them do they love?
Survey Sampling, a sample source for online and telephone surveys that supplies much of the market research industry, recently asked people who were “extremely satisfied” with a particular survey to elaborate on what makes a survey extremely satisfying. Findings were published in a recent article printed in the Market Research Association’s Alert Magazine (December 2010).
One category of responses reflected their own “needs-fulfillment” about why they like to participate in surveys generally. They love it when surveys deliver higher-level experiences:
- They like to learn new things, and surveys often prompt new questions and curiosities about the issues and topics being studied
- They like to reflect on their opinions and experiences, and appreciate the thoughtful, systematic way in which a good survey can prompt them to do this
- They appreciate the opportunity to engage in new experiences, which market research often provides
- They like to have fun, and many surveys can be a fun diversion from the work-a-day routine
A second category of responses reflected the specific qualities of the surveys that we should always keep in mind as our own best practices. Not surprisingly, respondents are much more satisfied with surveys that are:
- Easy to use, with nicely formatted questions, simple and direct wording, and tasks that are reasonable
- Short, preferably under 20 minutes, which is the threshold at which data quality measurably declines
- Relevant, so that they feel engaged in the topic and interested in offering thoughtful answers to questions
- Free of technical glitches
It is amazing that simple best practices like making sure a survey works and is free of technical glitches are so often violated, either by people fielding their own surveys or by research practitioners who don’t bother to worry about data quality.
The implications of this research are clear, and the findings offer good tips for those of us responsible for designing, testing, and fielding surveys. Keep surveys easy, short, and relevant, and make sure they work. Plus, make surveys interesting so that the survey experience itself is gratifying.
In short, survey takers love to be challenged and they love to think about and express their options. But they don’t love tedious and long surveys that do not take into account their needs as survey takers.
Need help figuring out how to balance your need for data with a respondents need for engagement? Give us a call. You’ll love our careful and balanced approach as much as your respondents will love your surveys.
—Joe Hopper, Ph.D.