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Survey Tips

How to get better insights with a solid survey design plan

How to get better insights with a solid survey design plan

It’s not that different when it comes to surveys. You wouldn’t create a survey without thinking it through first. Especially since confusing or lengthy surveys will likely result in, well, bad results.

The great news is that all you need is a survey design plan, which is the foundation of any good survey. A survey design plan keeps you focused, from your overarching goals down to the questions you ask. Here’s how to easily create a survey plan of your own to make sure you get reliable, actionable insights.

A survey goal is a broad statement designed to provide a high-level direction or purpose for running your research. Your survey can have more than one goal, but try to limit it to one or two. Here are a few examples:

  • Measure overall satisfaction with our customer support
  • Understand customer satisfaction with our product (or service)
  • Assess customer loyalty
  • Enhance product satisfaction

A survey objective is a specific, measurable, and achievable statement that can be validated through your research. One goal can have multiple survey objectives. For example, if your goal is to “Measure overall satisfaction with your customer support team,” your objectives could be:

  • Measure satisfaction with customer service interaction
  • Identify key drivers of satisfaction, like resolution time satisfaction
  • Measure satisfaction with quality of service

In a survey design plan, it’s important to distinguish between goals and objectives. You use your objectives to write good survey questions that are specific and will result in actionable data. Your objectives have to align to your goals, which keep you focused. And a focused survey is a shorter survey, which makes it more likely people will fill it out. 

You’ve got your objectives. Now you can ask survey questions that will help you meet them. Here are some example questions from our ready-to-use customer service survey feedback template:

  • Objective: Measure overall satisfaction with customer service interaction
  • Question: How satisfied or dissatisfied are you with the service you received?
  • Objective: Identify key factors influencing satisfaction, like resolution time
  • Question: How much time did it take us to address your questions and concerns?
  • Objective: Measure satisfaction with quality of service
  • Question: Overall, how would you rate the quality of your customer service experience?

You’ll want to provide consistent, clear answer choices for each of these questions. That’s because each answer choice corresponds to the survey data you collect. And you’ll probably want to get some written feedback, too. We’ll cover all of that next.

woman on headset

Once you’ve decided what to ask, you need to decide how to ask. It might be tempting to ask a bunch of open-ended questions so you can hear from customers in their own words. But it’s better to use those questions sparingly and strategically.

Instead, use mostly close-ended questions. These are survey questions with pre-defined answers that someone chooses from. They’re easier for respondents to answer. And they produce data that’s easier to analyze.

There are many different survey question types, each with their pros and cons. Here’s an example of a close-ended multiple-choice question:

How much time did it take us to address your questions and concerns?

  • Much shorter than expected
  • Shorter than expected
  • About what I expected
  • Longer than expected
  • Much longer than expected

In this example, respondents only choose one answer. Sometimes you’ll want to use a checkbox question, which allows respondents to choose multiple answers. Only use this option when more than one answer could apply.

Take a look at the answer choices above. They range from “much shorter” to “much longer” and are balanced on both sides of the neutral “about what I expected” option. When using scale-based answer options, check to make sure you have the same number of options in either direction. This helps prevent bias and gives you more useful data.

Of course, not all rating scales are in words. One of the most recognizable customer loyalty metrics is the Net Promoter Score (NPS). Respondents are asked to rate the likelihood that they’d recommend a company from 0 to 10.

Viverly customer satisfaction survey

As with any question with a numeric rating scale, you’ll want to make it clear what the numbers actually mean. Here, 0 means “not at all likely” while 10 means “extremely likely.” Without these qualifying words above the numbers, a respondent might feel lost, give an inaccurate answer, or just give up on taking the survey.

Remember those open-ended or textbox questions? You can use these to understand why someone rated you the way they did. For example, after someone rates you from 0 to 10, you can ask them to explain why they gave you the rating they did. It’s a good idea to make this question optional so people don’t get stuck or frustrated with your survey.

  1. Ask easier-to-answer questions at the beginning. You can ask harder-to-answer open-ended or sensitive questions toward the end of the survey. This will help ease your respondent into the survey and reduce their likelihood of dropping out early on. And if your respondent does quit, you’ll still be able to see the answers they chose before dropping off.
  1. Include demographic survey questions, like age and location. Use the answers to segment your data, giving you a fuller picture of your target market or audience. If you integrate SurveyMonkey with a platform like Salesforce or Marketo, you can map existing customer info to responses, so you can limit your demographic questions.
  1. Avoid asking leading and loaded questions. You will get biased responses when you ask, "Our product has helped many customers like you. How helpful would you rate our product?” Even using an unbalanced rating scale, with too many options on the “helpful” side, could produce biased answers.
  1. Focus on one topic per question. Look at this question: “How would you rate the overall quality and timeliness of your customer service interaction?” This is called a double-barrelled question, and it’s a common survey mistake. It’s not clear how you’d answer this question if you weren’t happy with how long it took but were overall satisfied with the response. Talk about unreliable results.
  1. Consider offering survey incentives. No matter what industry you’re in, if you’re measuring customer satisfaction, it’s important to keep your survey as short as possible. That said, if you’re conducting research, you might have a much longer survey. To get people to take your survey, you might need to offer an incentive like a gift card or discount code. Otherwise you could risk someone speeding through your survey, skewing your results.
  • Got an idea for your survey but not much else? We’ve got more than 250 ready-made survey templates for almost any situation. In addition to our templates, we have hundreds of pre-written survey questions in our Question Bank. Easily drag and drop questions into your survey design. Our survey templates and questions are written by survey methodologists to reduce bias.
  • Rely on SurveyMonkey Genius, powered by AI and machine learning, to improve your survey questions and answers. If you’re writing your own questions, Answer Genius will suggest better phrasing and give you relevant answer choices based on what you’re asking. Or submit a prompt to our Build with AI feature. AI will create a complete survey tailored to your unique needs. You can customize the survey or use it as-is.
  • Want more help with your survey design plan? Our professional services team is here for you. We offer a range of services from consulting on survey design to results analysis and beyond.

Remember, a solid survey design plan is the foundation of a successful survey. Take the time to define your goals and objectives to capture actionable, reliable data.

Watch this on-demand webinar for more survey design and analysis tips, including how to uncover meaningful results.

NPS®, Net Promoter®, and Net Promoter® Score are registered trademarks of Satmetrix Systems, Inc., Bain & Company, and Fred Reichheld.