Here it goes again. Another questionnaire landed in your inbox. Someone came up to you on the street to ask you some questions. You dodge the bullet, you speed up pace, delete the email – ignore. But when you are in need of knowing what your customers think of what you offer them, when you are eager to launch a new product and you are not sure what features it should have to satisfy market needs, not having the feedback can become a hurdle.
There are a couple of places on my way to work where I pop in for coffee. I have never scanned their menu out of lack of interest. Yet, the other day I lingered in the venue for a while longer than usual, a waiter approached me and handed me a tablet with a questionnaire to fill out. After a few typical and superficial how-would- you -rate- our service type of questions, I get to be asked:
Is the menu choice wide enough?
Hang on, how did we get to this? I scroll back and see no mention if I ever dined at the place. A yes or no question with no room for comments. No option to say I don’t know or never took interest in it. I’m forced to choose between the two and neither reflects what I think.
Wouldn’t it have been more appropriate to ask me about the purpose of my visits before I evaluate their menu?
I think I know, but in reality, I don’t
When I am presented with a problem, I like to get the big picture first before embarking on discovering the how and why of every component of the matter. Zooming in on a problem, helps detect what you thought you knew but you don’t.
Here is a major flaw of many surveys -their authors assume a little too much, a little too often.
If I have never had a chance to have a glimpse at what you offer, do not ask me about it. Prepare the ground. Ask simple, preparatory questions starting with what, how and why. Do not assume that that I have any sentiment about your product when I might not have had a chance to develop any. That is of course unless you want to get the wrong idea how your clients perceive your product.
Since I know that I don’t know, I want to know it all.
I get to be asked about the wait staff and then about the menu with no clear connection between the two. They are all different aspects of the product, but because you try to cram too much into one questionnaire it makes it look chaotic, the respondent is confused and tired by jumping from one theme to another.
Questionnaires tend to have no through line, where one question leads to another.
In the above example, the next questions had nothing to do with the menu. What will you find out with this question? Not much if it is not followed by another one that digs deeper into the matter. Let’s assume I regularly dine at the place and the manager has heard the dessert is poor. Eager to expand the dessert menu and improve its quality, what options does he have? Questions about preferences or conditions that hinder clients from enjoying specific type of food might lead a way to a plethora of options.
Choose your battles, you cannot get all the info in one go. Apply a rational structure, the one you would use if you wanted to buy your own product. You cannot know it all and tiring the respondents with too many random questions that will only put them off from getting you any feedback.
Your opinion matters
Have you ever heard someone say I don’t have time for your survey?
Lack of time is an omnipresent reason, but sometimes there is more to it. Have you picked the right audience for your survey? Did you do your homework to investigate if the questions you want to ask can be answered by the respondent you target?
Asking any random person, you come across is another major error. You should not only know what to ask but whom to ask. If I use bank mobile app for all my transactions, I might not be the right pick to rate their website’s user friendliness. If my pattern of purchase indicated that I bought your product once six months ago, I might not be the right target in terms of assessing the product’s quality. Many surveys end up in the hands of the wrong audience, it is therefore not surprising why the feedback ratio is so low.
If indeed time is a concern, how willing will your respondents be to answer 20 short rather than 15 long, elaborated questions?
Knowing that vast majority is abhorred by reading complex phrases, processing this information, and taking a stance to it might mean a red alert for many people. But, if you ask brief and succinct questions, you will get your potential respondents engaged. So, bear in mind the look and feel of the questionnaire if it is sent over by email, post or is available online. It should entice to answer and not be skipped.
Surveys are a powerful tool. Yet, creating a survey too long, with random, unfocused questions where only its author’s assumptions are reflected, will render no valuable response or no feedback whatsoever.