The Campaign For Better Surveys

The launch of SurveyMonkey in 1999 democratised market research. Anybody with an internet connection and a browser can now put together and send out a survey. In some ways this is good for the market research industry, raising its profile and giving those who couldn’t otherwise afford it the ability to gather opinion.

But there is a downside. The increasing quantity of surveys has driven down quality. People who have little or no knowledge of survey or questionnaire design are firing off surveys ignorant of the potential damage they cause. Survey and questionnaire design skills are not widely valued. There is an “anyone can do it” attitude.

We are passionate about the quality and integrity of surveys and worried about the impact of surveys that aren’t fit for purpose. To this end we’ve launched The Campaign For Better Surveys, our attempt to make people aware of the consequences of bad surveys and drive up quality.

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Why is survey quality important?

A range of stakeholders suffer as a result of bad surveys:

The organisation sponsoring the survey

  • If a survey doesn’t ask the right questions in the right way of the right people at the right time then the data produced is worthless. Many businesses are making decisions based on data that hasn’t been properly collected and, hence, is not fit for purpose.
  • A bad survey negatively impacts on the organisation it comes from. Like any form of communication surveys present an image of your business. Companies wouldn’t send out advertising campaigns designed by the work experience student so why do some send out surveys that look like school projects?

Respondents

  • Respondents should be treated with respect. The survey experience should be made as interesting and enjoyable as possible for respondents. People give up their time for little or no reward to complete surveys in the expectation that their voices can be heard. Bad survey design results in respondents failing to finish the survey or giving incomplete or incorrect answers to finish it as soon as possible, making results unreliable and unusable. A bad experience also means they’re unlikely to give their time again to complete future surveys.

The market research industry

  • Poor quality surveys pose a real threat to their future viability. The more respondents have bad experiences, the less likely they are to complete surveys in the future. Response rates have fallen in recent years and expectations are that they will continue to do so. If we can’t get people to answer surveys then we'll lose them as a research tool.
  • Bad research is at best useless and at worst provides false information for decision making. The worse experiences senior executives have of market research the less likely they will be to value it and to commit serious budgets to it in future.

What are we doing about it?

With over 40 years of combined experience as market researchers, data processors, interviewers and respondents we like to think we have some idea of what makes a good survey and we’d like to share some of that knowledge to help raise standards.

The Campaign For Better Surveys is made up of the following:

  • Hints and Tips: this website publishes a blog containing straightforward, easy to understand practical hints, tips and advice for producing better surveys. Click here to read it.
  • Twitter: follow the @bettersurveys1 Twitter feed for more hints and tips as well as links to other useful survey design resources.
  • Training courses: we offer bespoke training courses designed to give people the skills, knowledge and confidence to design and execute basic surveys. Please contact us for further details.
  • Consultancy: if you have a project you’re working on or thinking of starting we can provide a consultancy service, refining and advising on surveys to make them as effective and user-friendly as possible. This is an extremely cost effective service allowing you to send out professional surveys for a fraction of the price a market research agency would charge for designing and managing a survey for you.
  • Full project management: if you’d rather outsource your market research, or any element of it then we can provide a full service solution. From survey and questionnaire design through to data processing, analysis and interpretation we have the skills and experience to make your project a success.

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