How to create a pulse survey for any audience

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Chances are, the thing you’d consider your top issue today isn’t what it was at this time last year.

How do we know?

Our survey research team asks this very question to thousands of Americans in our weekly political polls, where people’s top issues change quarter-over-quarter, month-over-month, and even week-over-week.

It’s no secret that people’s sentiments can shift, but it means that if you’re not hearing from your survey respondents often, you may lose touch with their perspective.

Thankfully, there’s a survey strategy that addresses this: the pulse survey. We’ll review how to create a pulse survey and use it to identify your respondents’ opinions and track how they change over time.

Pulse survey overview

A pulse survey consists of frequent (monthly, quarterly, bi-yearly), short check-ins with the same audience. Pulse surveys often have just 3-6 questions. Despite the limited number of pulse survey questions, there are several ways this type of survey benefits your organization:

1) They spot areas that deserve immediate attention. Pulse surveys allow your respondents to identify issues they’re having right now, instead of issues they had 6 months ago. This allows you to follow up with immediate action or investigate them further.

2) They measure the impact of events, both small and large. By surveying on a consistent cadence, you’ll be able to see if an internal or external event has an impact on your baseline numbers.

3) They remind respondents that you care about them. Regular dialogue helps your respondents feel appreciated and listened to.

Bought in to running a pulse survey yet? Read on to learn best practices when writing your pulse survey questions.

Tips for writing pulse survey questions

  • Use questions that are broad enough to apply to all your respondents. If you ask people to answer questions that don’t apply to them, they may skip them or—equally as bad—answer them untruthfully.
  • Include at least one open-ended and one closed-ended question. It’s often effective to pair them together, using the open-ended question as the follow-up. This allows you to compare respondents’ sentiments and understand why they feel a certain way.
  • Focus on questions that produce easily measurable results and, when improved, translate into real business outcomes (e.g. The Net Promoter Score).
  • Consider whether to make your questions required.

We’re now left with a final critical question: “When are the best times to use a pulse survey?”

Pulse survey use cases

As you can imagine, getting constant feedback is valuable in a lot of use cases.

Though it may be more practical to start by implementing 1 or 2 of the following use cases, your organization should strive to eventually use pulse surveys in each of the following ways:

To understand and improve your employees’ experience. Employee pulse surveys are one of the most common ways to use pulse surveys. Maybe you want to understand how a change in company policy impacts morale. Or perhaps you want to know how they feel after working on a particular project. Whatever the case may be, asking pulse survey questions will get you closer to the answer.

Skipping out on an employee pulse survey can prove costly. Small things that impact the employee experience can build up if they’re ignored, which can eventually contribute to an increase in employee turnover. The costs of such an event would be significant. Replacing and training mid-level employees, for example, can cost as much as 150% of their annual salary.

Here are a couple of employee pulse survey questionnaires you can customize and use:

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To ensure your customers see value over time. Your customers are often quite different from one another. To make matters more complicated, they may have multiple goals for using your product or service that change over time.

Pulse surveys help your organization stay on top of your customers’ experience. They provide your customer support and success teams with more up-to-date information on what each customer is looking to accomplish and reveal your organization’s performance in different areas. Over the long run, understanding your customers better improves their experience and influences your business’ competitive positioning.

To kickstart your use of customer-focused pulse surveys, use our Net Promoter Score Survey Template.

To see how people feel about your brand. A brand’s level of awareness and perception can evolve over time. Brand tracking pulse surveys help you understand how specific events impact them. To measure your brand’s awareness, focus on surveying your target market; to measure your brand’s perception, survey both your customers and your target market.

In case you’d like some direction, check out these questions from our Brand Awareness Survey Template.

A pulse survey accounts for the frequent and unpredictable changes in your audiences’ opinions and preferences. When it comes to groups like your customers, employees, and your target market, implementing it is often crucial. Thankfully, you’ll only need a few questions to get started.