By Ray Beharry
Sometimes, it’s easier to fail than succeed—at least that’s true in the world of marketing surveys. Chances are that if you’ve ever created or distributed a customer satisfaction survey, you know the drill: Spend hours trying to devise a meaningful feedback loop, determine the best market to survey, figure a means to collect the survey, and decide what to do with the survey results.
Unfortunately, a frequent part of the process also includes frustration. That’s often due to a lack of responses, a lack of useful survey responses, or a lack of knowing what to do after the results arrive. And sometimes the process simply takes too much time to be valuable. If this has happened to you, rest assured, you are not alone.
So how do you avoid the common pitfalls marketers experience? How can you devise a survey that captures enough responses to actually make a difference? Learn from other people’s mistakes. We’ve outlined five of the most common reasons marketing surveys fail and how to make your next survey more successful.
1. Too many questions
It likely comes as no surprise that the number of questions asked has a direct impact on the rate of completion. The most successful surveys are no more than 10 questions. According to research, the total survey completion time for a one-question survey is 1 minute and 15 seconds; for a 10-question survey, that time spent jumps to 5 minutes; and a 30-question survey often involves approximately 10 minutes of a person’s time. Not only do respondents usually spend much less time per question for longer surveys, the rate of abandonment increases exponentially with each new question. For surveys that take more than 7 to 8 minutes, the rate of completion drops from 5 percent to 20 percent.
2. Ineffective questions
All too often, companies devote far more time figuring out how to distribute surveys instead of preparing effective surveys. Consequently, the information gleaned isn’t meaningful. Here are tips to avoid this common mistake:
- Work backwards. Figure out what information you want to gain before drafting the questions.
- Determine objectives. Realize what decisions will be made after the survey is complete to determine what questions should be asked.
- Make a test run. Sample your survey on friends and colleagues before wide distribution.
- Avoid leading questions. Ensure that you aren’t asking questions that tell respondents how to respond. For example, replace “Experts say you should only buy blue shoes. Do you buy blue shoes?” with “I buy blue shoes…” Also, avoid options, such as “often,” “seldom,” and “rarely.”
3. Ambiguous rating systems
There is a tendency for companies to ask people to rate things on a number scale. Although this provides a general overview of whether a person feels positive, negative, or neutral, the answer is quite arbitrary. For instance, one person may rate something as an 8, meaning a company did great, but the person sees room for improvement; on the other hand, another person may rate something as a 10 out of fear that an employee will be fired or reprimanded for anything less. In other words, a person’s values can affect the way they answer so much, that it interferes with their credibility. Consider more definitive questions instead.
4. No anonymity
If you want honesty, allow people to be anonymous in their survey responses. People are far more candid when they don’t fear retaliation. Since data today is so readily stored, tracked, and available customers worry that the service they receive will decline if they give negative responses. Allow anonymous feedback if you want valid answers.
5. A lack of follow-through
If customers know that their investment of time and energy will trigger improvement, they will be far more willing to participate in surveys. Similarly, if they are able to find out the results of a survey, there will be more engagement. It’s important for you to follow through with your customers after collecting information. Publish the results, or at least some of the results, so that customers can see how others responded. Identify what you intend to do with the results as well.