Make it personal

Far too many questionnaire designers fail to take into account the respondent. It is easy to spot a questionnaire that has been produced based entirely on internal or client requirements. Their needs are, of course, paramount but to get maximum value from surveys you need to design questions to get the best quality of response.

I received a survey a couple of days ago from a local council asking about sports provision within the city. They didn’t ask any questions about the sports I may or may not do, the facilities I use or what I’d like to see the council do in the future. Instead they presented 8 different “Vision Aims” with their “strategic objectives” and then asked if I agreed or disagreed with each one. One of the questions is shown below:

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This one question demonstrates a number of examples of bad practice, a couple of which I will return to in future blogs, but it is a prime example of one designed from the point of view of the needs of internal stakeholders at the expense of the needs of respondents.

For face-to-face and telephone surveys the best interviewers establish a rapport and make respondents feel like they're being listened to. Online surveys obviously don't have the benefit of an interviewer establishing a human connection so its especially important that the questionnaire is designed with the respondent in mind.

When you meet someone new you tend to warm to them if they ask polite questions about your life and what you think. People who just talk about themselves and how they see the world are rarely popular (and make terrible researchers!). A good questionnaire should be like a good conversation. Make it personal – ask about what people do in their life and how they view things. What would they like to see your organisation improve? Don’t just present them with your ideas and ask what they think of them. You’ll make the experience dull and lifeless resulting in poor quality response and you’ll be missing out on finding out really makes your respondents tick.

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