11 Tips For Writing Better Survey Questions

Think you know what your customers want? Think you know how they perceive your company? Every business needs this kind of consumer data, but nothing will steer a business wrong as quickly as responses from a confusing or incomplete survey.

How can you ask the right questions in a way that will inspire truthful response?

Here are 11 tips to help you create a survey that will provide you with data you can depend upon.

1. Write short questions. People have a short attention span when it comes to surveys, so concise, clear and to-the-point questions rule.

2. Minimize the number of questions. Again, short attention spans favor lean questionnaires, so know what you absolutely need to know and target that information. Save follow-ups or less important questions for another survey.

3. Write technically correct questions. Misspelling, grammatical errors and unclear language can repel a respondent and reflects poorly on the company posing the questions.

4. Use simple, straightforward language. Assume an eighth-grade education for most undefined audiences. Use short sentences and few of them.

5. Limit each question to a single thought. Don’t confuse the respondent by asking them questions like “How do you feel about our service and our hours of operation?”

6. Avoid too many choices. Asking people to rate the speed of service for your Internet site on a scale of 0 to 25 leaves them with too many choices. Give them 5 possible responses and you’ll get better data.

7. Don’t expect your audience to have total recall. Asking them how many times they’ve used your service in the past three years is expecting a great deal of your respondents. Limiting this to the last year might be an easier task for them.

8. Ask the easy and interesting questions first. Give the survey taker a sense of accomplishment by placing those no-brainer and fun questions at the front. He’ll be more prone to stick with the survey until the end.

9. Organize the questions in a logical manner. If you have three questions about customer service and two about the value of a warranty, clump them together that way; don’t mix them up and expect survey takers to follow the questions around like bumper cars.

10. Take care not to ask biased questions. Instead of asking, “How much do you like our product?” you might ask, “How do you feel about our product?”

11. Balance negative and positive responses. If you have “like a lot” and “like” as options, you should also have “dislike” and “dislike a lot” as question answer options.

Writing a good survey is no harder than writing a good resume: everything should be clear, concise, and well presented. Keep these tips in mind to polish yours and you'll gather data that will allow your company to thrive.