What is a random sample, you may be asking, and why would you need one? Well let’s say, for example, that you want to survey your customers to understand how you’re meeting their needs, and how you could do better. Your whole customer base is a population. You’re obviously not going to survey every single person in this population. Maybe you don’t have all of their contact information. Maybe they won’t all reply to your survey. Whatever the reason, the group of customers you have the ability to contact with your survey is your sampling frame. And the people you actually contact with your survey and who actually fill it out are your sample. You want to make sure your sample is randomly selected (hence, a random sample) to make sure that everyone in your sampling frame has an equal chance of being selected.
You don’t want to just select a “convenience sample,” the last 20 people who ordered from you, the last 20 customers when they’re listed alphabetically, etc. All these methods are inherently biased. If you sample the last 20 customers for example, they may be your newest customers who are only familiar with your most recent products or website design. By generating a random sample, you’re minimizing the bias that results from picking an convenience sample from your sampling frame.
This can sound daunting, but you don’t actually need to be a statistician or mathlete to do this. All you need is an Excel spreadsheet! Just put your sampling frame—the customers you have contact info for—into your spreadsheet. Once you have your sampling frame (potential survey respondents) in Excel, you can easily select a random sample of them. For example, if you have 3,000 customers and you would like to select a random sample of 500 to receive a customer satisfaction survey, follow these steps:
To make sure the number of respondents in your random sample are statistically significant, check out this blog post. Random samples make it easy to get feedback from a large population for any of the following:
There you have it, survey-makers. Have you tried it out and have a use case for us? Share them with us in the comment section below. We’d love to hear your stories.
Here are some ideas to ensure that respondents will answer your surveys.
If your survey is short and sweet, there's a greater chance that more respondents will complete it.
Little incentives like small discount or an entry into a drawing can help ensure respondents complete your survey.
With SurveyMonkey Audience, you can purchase access to an audience who meets specific demographic criteria for your survey. It's a great way to get targeted responses from a specific group.