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Hitting a Grand Slam with Your Next Survey Lisa Hanses


In a perfect world, you’d know exactly what your customers, or the owners in your association, were thinking and could give them exactly what they want. Unfortunately, things don’t quite work this way, so you’ve got to use tools you have available to find out more about your customers or owners. The availability of online surveys means anyone can create an effective survey in a short time.


A great survey provides you with clear, reliable, actionable insight to inform your decision making. Great surveys have higher response rates, higher quality data and are easy to complete.


Here are some tips on how to build a great survey.


Purpose. Great surveys have easily understood, focused objectives. Think through what you want to learn from your survey. Write down each answer you want, with a blank in the spot of the thing you want to learn—the type of service to offer, the feature people are missing, or the correctness of a statement. Once you’ve completed this exercise, use the list to build questions. Starting with a list of answers and turning them into questions will ensure you include all of the questions you need, and word them in a way that will get effective answers. It will also prevent you from inflating your survey with insignificant questions.


Short & Focused. Keep your survey as short as possible by limiting the number of questions. It is generally better to focus on a single objective than try to create a master survey covering multiple objectives. Long surveys can lead to “survey fatigue.” When survey fatigue hits, respondents either quit or stop paying attention and randomly check boxes. Either way, your data gets compromised. Use questions that are straight to the point and do not assume anything from the respondents: that they are loyal customers, that they know about your industry’s jargon, or that they know your product inside and out.


Simple. Make your questions as specific and direct as possible and avoid the use of jargon.


For example, compare the wording of the question “What has your experience been like working with our customer service team?” to “How satisfied are you with the response time of our Customer Service team?”


10 Community Associations Journal | April 2017


Consistent Rating Scale. Most surveys allow you to use pre- defined scales to help you make a survey quickly (e.g. from 1 – 5). It is best to use just one kind of rating scale so your respondent will grow accustomed to using it, making the survey completion time faster. A ranking scale is a great way to find a more precise measure of people’s thoughts than a Yes/No question could give.


Logical Ordering. Make sure your survey flows in a logical order. It is a good idea to start from broader based questions and move to those narrower in scope. It is usually better to collect demographic data and ask any sensitive questions at the end. If you are asking for contact information, place that information last.


Show a Progress Bar. One of the easiest ways to keep people motivated as they move through your survey is to show a progress bar.


Pre–Test Your Survey. Always pre–test your survey with a few members of your target audience and/or co–workers. Pre- testing will help identify unclear questions, badly-worded responses, glitches, and unexpected question interpretations.


Consider Your Audience. Statistics show the highest open and click rates take place on Monday, Friday and Sunday. People overwhelmingly prefer to complete a feedback survey online at a colossal 91%, either through website submission or sending an email. Meanwhile, only 3% of people said they prefer snail mail.


Send Reminders. While not appropriate for all surveys, sending reminders to those who haven’t previously responded can provide a significant boost in response rates.


Offer an Incentive. Offering an incentive is very effective at improving response rates. People like the idea of getting something for their time. Research has shown incentives typically boost response rates by 50% on average.


No matter how much thought and hard work you put into creating your survey, it’s going to have flaws—and that’s okay. No survey is perfect, but investing time and thought into planning and writing will bring you much closer to getting the feedback you need. And that’s the ultimate goal—the survey is simply a tool to get you there.


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