5 Tips For Better Surveys

5 Tips For Better Surveys

by Jenny on November 30, 2018 Comments Off on 5 Tips For Better Surveys

Earlier this month it was announced that SAP is acquiring Qualtrics, an online survey software maker, for a whopping $8 billion. That is an incredibly large sum of money for any company, let alone a survey software company that started in one family’s home with two employees.

After taking a moment to let the magnitude of that dollar amount sink in, I started thinking about the implications of this acquisition in regards to the online survey industry’s growth and development over the past 5-10 years.

Now more than ever, companies are seeing the value of leveraging customer feedback in guiding their business decisions. This is good!

Now more than ever, companies are firing off an exponentially growing number of surveys delivered across a variety of platforms covering a mixed bag of topics. This is not so good.

As a business owner and a parent I’ve come to realize that just because you CAN do something doesn’t mean you SHOULD do that thing. Here I’d like to discuss a few items to consider as you develop your customer feedback research project, and offer some tips for getting the most out of your research efforts.

We’re all aware of the easy-to-use online survey platforms for creating, distributing and collecting surveys. There are plenty of different options with different features to meet the needs of your specific project size, scope and objectives. Anyone can quickly sign up for a free account and immediately start sending customer feedback surveys with a few keystrokes and clicks. Yes, anyone CAN do this… but should they?

Conducting a customer feedback research project is a great opportunity to connect with your customers, gain valuable insights and improve your product or service offerings. At the same time, the associated risk is that your survey might get lumped together with the countless other surveys consumers receive and sent directly to the recycle bin. Not only does this waste your valuable time and resources, it is counterproductive to the ultimate goal of standing out in a competitive market place.

I’m a consumer and I receive countless surveys throughout the year. Full disclosure, chances are I’m deleting the survey invitation before I open it.

As a consumer I absolutely have opinions about the products and services I purchase. I would absolutely like to share some of my thoughts with the brands I care about, but I also have A LOT of other things going on in my day. I also have A LOT of other emails that come through my inbox and I’m presented with A LOT of marketing or promotional pieces from A LOT of different brands.

It’s not that I lack the desire to share my opinions, it’s just that I’m hard to reach and I have to carefully pick-and-choose where I spend my time.

As a professional, I use myself as the perfect example of how difficult it can be to reach and connect with consumers to collect meaningful feedback. But I also know it’s not a lost cause, because under the right circumstances I will take time out of my busy schedule to provide feedback to brands that catch my eye and pique my interest.

So my professional challenge becomes – how do I effectively capture the attention and engage myself as a consumer to motivate me to complete a survey? Here’s my approach:


Treat the survey like a marketing piece.

Any time I interact with a brand, my opinion of said brand is being shaped. Whether it’s a promotional offer, a commercial, an in-person experience, visiting their website, etc., all of these experiences combine to form my overall brand perception. So why would an online survey be any different?

A survey is a branded touchpoint and should be treated as such. Include your marketing team during the survey design phase and put some effort into the look-and-feel of the survey. This is important not only to engage and motivate survey participation, but also from a brand consistency standpoint.


Only ask questions that you would ask in-person.

Let’s be honest, standard survey questions are boring and outdated. Imagine sitting at a restaurant and your server walks up to ask, “On a scale of 1 to 10, how satisfied are you with your experience?” I would probably stare blankly, unsure of how to even address the question. This doesn’t happen in the real world because it doesn’t make sense and it wouldn’t provide helpful feedback.

Modern consumers are looking for personalized experiences where they feel respected, appreciated and valued. Taking a conversational approach to survey questions will show you view customers as unique individuals rather than a statistic, dollar sign or sales conversion. This will convey sincerity and encourage honest feedback rather than present a standardized tone that they’ve seen many times before.


Make the survey fun and engaging.

Why are emojis so popular for messaging? Because they’re fun to use, they’re more expressive than text and they’re easy for readers to understand. Colors and images evoke emotion, they pique interest, they provide a level of mental stimulation that Times New Roman font simply doesn’t. This isn’t cutting-edge psychology, but it is a commonly underutilized aspect of human nature.

As the saying goes, a picture is worth a thousand words. So offering a series of pictures as response options instead of words or phrases can capture the same (if not more detailed) feedback sentiment while presenting the respondent with a more engaging survey experience. Wither it’s an image, simple animation or responsive interaction, people are more likely to participate when there’s an element of fun involved.


Offer context and explain why the feedback is important.

No matter what I’m doing, I like to know how my efforts are contributing to an ultimate goal. The more I know about WHAT I’m doing and WHY I’m being asked to do it, the more willing and motivated I will be to participate. Every day I’m overwhelmed with requests for my time and attention, so being upfront and straightforward with the reasons for the request shows that my time is respected and that my efforts will be meaningful.

As the world of market research becomes over-saturated with surveys and lottery-type incentives, we’re finding that consumers would rather make a lasting impact on their favorite brands than “complete a survey for the chance to win” something they didn’t ask for. If your brand wants to improve a product or service, make that the subject line. If the goal is to learn more about customers to strengthen and personalize relationships, include that in the survey invitation. The more context around WHY you’re asking for a consumer’s time and effort, the more likely they are to at least consider responding – which is way better than being sent directly to the recycle bin.


Follow-up with respondents to share results and how their feedback was used.

If I take the time to fill out a survey, it’s because I like the brand and their stated objective for the survey was important to me. If I don’t hear anything from them after that, I assume they aren’t listening and that my opinion didn’t really matter all that much. Yes, it’s nice to have a “thank you for participating” message to let me know my responses were received, but the real difference maker is hearing back from the brand about key takeaways and/or what is being done with the results. Now I know my efforts made an impact and I’m more likely to participate in future surveys when that brand asks for my input.

People who respond to your surveys deserve a message thanking them for their time and effort. It’s common courtesy. It’s also really easy to set up and automatic response for when a survey is completed that person gets a “thank you for your time” message. Looking beyond the immediate response, there’s an opportunity to go a step further and stand out among all the other brands asking for customer feedback. After a research project has been completed, sharing just a few high-level results statistics can go a long, long way in building connections and strengthening relationships. Letting your customers know that you heard them, being specific with one or two key findings, and then making a statement regarding some action being taken as a result of their input… this is the icing on the cake. This is the difference between being good and being great. This is also how you build trust with the group of respondents who are more likely to participate in future surveys because they know their opinions matter.


As I mentioned at the beginning, it’s really easy to create and distribute an online survey these days. Although it’s important to note that the available survey platforms and software usually offer the market research HOW – which still leave unaddressed the questions of who, what, when, where and why? This is where a detailed and cohesive Market Research Strategy becomes of vital importance. Otherwise, it’s easy to spin wheels and burn rubber without actually making any progress.


For over 30 years we’ve partnered with brands across the country to get the most out of their favorite online survey platform by developing an overarching market research strategy. From survey design to results analytics, our proven approach yields the data-driven insights needed to take brands to the next level.

Interested in learning more? Give us a shout and let’s get a conversation started!



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Jenny Dinnen is President of Sales and Marketing at MacKenzie Corporation. Driven to maximize customer's value and exceed expectations, Jenny carries a can-do attitude wherever she goes. She maintains open communication channels with both her clients and her staff to ensure all goals and objectives are being met in an expeditious manner. Jenny is a big-picture thinker who leads MacKenzie in developing strategies for growth while maintaining a focus on the core services that have made the company a success. Basically, when something needs to get done, go see Jenny. Before joining MacKenzie, Jenny worked at HD Supply as a Marketing Manager and Household Auto Finance in their marketing department. Jenny received her undergrad degree in Marketing from the University of Colorado (Boulder) and her MBA from the University of Redlands.

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