What is the true purpose of a survey? It may seem like an obvious question, but all too often this planning phase is overlooked. Every survey that you design and distribute should have clear objectives by which you can measure the success of your project. People take surveys for all kinds of reasons, but all great surveys have a few things in common. Big polls:
- Have a clear purpose
- They are easy to manage
- They are easy to take
- Produce accurate data
- It enables you to make informed decisions with confidence.
So of course you want your survey to be great. But how do you start? The foundations of all the best survey projects are laid long before the first responses arrive; they begin during what we call the Need phase of survey design, and that’s what we’ll cover here. It’s tempting to jump right into the written questions and choose the colors, but if you don’t understand why you’re asking these questions, you risk putting your data at risk.
What is a survey?
Surveys are a method of collecting information from individuals. Surveys have a variety of purposes, and can be done in many ways. Surveys can be conducted to gather information through a printed questionnaire, by phone, by mail, in person, by floppy disk, or on the web. This information is collected using standardized procedures so that all participants are asked the same questions in the same way. It involves asking people for information in some structured format. Depending on what is being analyzed, the surveyed participants may represent themselves, their employer or an organization to which they belong.
Why do you really want to take a survey?
When deciding to conduct a survey, you need to understand your goals and objectives. Sure you want to ask some specific people some questions, but what do you plan to do with their answers?
Before creating a single checkbox, brainstorm with all the stakeholders to determine the exact purpose of the survey and what you hope to achieve. Once you have set these goals, you can more easily select and refine detailed goals. This helps all stakeholders to know what action will be taken based on the survey results.
Why Conduct a Greatly Designed Survey
Take the time to plan your survey design results in:
- Surveys that run more smoothly.
- Happier respondents
- More accurate data
- Easier reporting
Basically, it looks smart because the project is going well and it gives your team the data they were looking for. So it’s definitely worth taking the time upfront to dive into the tough questions about the purpose of a survey.
Set a survey goal
Once you’ve managed to control the need behind your survey, it’s time to identify a survey objective. Remember, a goal is not a single learning objective (we will see that later). An objective is what you are going to do with the data you collect and why.
A good survey goal: Use a survey to determine which markets are best suited to our existing products so that we can expand into those markets.
A bad goal of the survey: make more money.
The first example mentions the original need for the survey (expanding into new markets), as well as how the survey will meet that need (determining which markets are suitable for existing products). Of course, the goal of expanding into new markets is almost always to make more money, but that kind of overgeneralization won’t be helpful in the future when it comes time to write real questions or design survey reports.
Why do companies conduct surveys?
Surveys are one of the absolute best ways to get information from potential and / or existing customers before you have invested too much time or capital in a new company. They also allow organizations to keep a finger on the pulse of their current customers or audience so they can be alert to any unusual changes, whether positive or negative.
Some of the most common reasons behind survey projects are:
- Investigate the possibilities of expanding into new markets or market segments.
- To prove or disprove a hypothesis about your audience, competitors, etc.
- Track customer satisfaction levels
- Compare your brand awareness with that of your competitors.
- Measure changes in employee happiness over time.
- Get feedback on new or potential products
Questions to help you determine the purpose of a survey
So that we are all thinking the same thing during this discussion, let’s establish a shared definition of what a survey is:
A survey is a set of questions repeatedly asked to a sample of a population to mathematically derive the characteristics of the total population. This tells us that at least some of our goals should probably focus on things that our audience has in common (or things that we suspect they might have in common).
When trying to determine the needs you hope to meet with your survey, it may be helpful to ask yourself and your team some of these questions:
- What are we trying to find out exactly?
- Why do we want to know?
- What do we hope to do with this data when we are done?
- What kind of reports or data do we need?
- Who is our intended audience or population?
- How are we going to access that target audience?
Questions about your company or brand may include:
- How well known is our brand?
- Will customers buy this product?
- If we offer X benefit, will it increase the happiness of our employees?
- Will my product do well in a new market?
Determine your learning goals
Learning objectives are the specific data that you want to get from your survey results. Basically, each one is a step that should help you reach your survey goal.
Three is a good number of learning objectives for a single survey, and never set more than five.
To set learning objectives for your survey, we recommend that you organize a brainstorming session. It should include everyone who will be working on the survey, as well as all stakeholders.
Let everyone brainstorm separately for 5 minutes. Make sure everyone has a chance to have their ideas heard. Have a scribe to make sure you capture all ideas. Let the ideas flow freely, do not judge!
Remember that there are no bad ideas.
Make sure your scribe takes particular note of ideas submitted by stakeholders. That way, you can be sure to write questions that address your particular needs or concerns.
Refining brainstorming ideas
After the brainstorming session, take the ideas and begin the process of turning them into clear learning objectives. Look for patterns, repetitions, and common ground. These are likely to become your goals.
List your top three, and include a couple that you can research but don’t seem like such a high priority. Offer the list to your stakeholders to review and let them choose their top three.
You may also find that brainstorming generates a lot of question ideas as well. Make a note of them for future work, but make sure you only pick the questions that you REALLY need to ask.
Above all, make sure everything is tied to your original survey objective.
Connecting Survey ROI (Return on Investment) and Objectives
Surveys take time and money. If the cost of conducting it is more than what you will get out of it, your survey may not be worth it.
So if you can’t determine ROI with at least some precision, then there is no incentive to take action on what you learn.
This means that all your questions must be linked to specific learning objectives. Without this connection, you may not be able to act on the data you collect. This makes your survey just an expense, with no return on the time and money you invested in it.
What are the top 4 reasons why companies and researchers should conduct surveys?
- Discover the answers . In a non-intimidating survey environment, you will learn about what motivates respondents and what is important to them, and collect meaningful feedback, feedback and comments. A non-intimidating survey environment is best suited to the privacy needs of the respondent. Respondents are more likely to provide open and honest feedback in a more private survey method. Methods such as online surveys, paper surveys, or mobile surveys are more private and less intimidating than in-person interviews or telephone interviews.
- Evoke discussion. Give your respondents the opportunity to discuss important key issues. Communicate with your respondents about the topic of your survey. This allows you to dig deeper into your survey and can prompt topics related to your survey from a broader perspective.
- Base decisions on objective information . Surveying is an unbiased approach to decision making. Don’t rely on “good feelings” to make important business decisions. You can collect unbiased survey data and develop sound decisions based on the analyzed results. By analyzing the results, you can immediately address important issues, rather than wasting valuable time and resources in areas of little or no concern.
- Compare results. Survey results provide a snapshot of attitudes and behaviors, including thoughts, opinions, and comments, about the survey’s target population. This valuable feedback is your baseline for measuring and establishing a benchmark from which to compare results over time.
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Dr. Samantha Robson ( CRN: 0510146-5) is a nutritionist and website content reviewer related to her area of expertise. With a postgraduate degree in Nutrition from The University of Arizona, she is a specialist in Sports Nutrition from Oxford University and is also a member of the International Society of Sports Nutrition.