There is an art to finding the right words to use in your surveys. Or perhaps that should say: There is a science to writing surveys that get the best results and if you are using automated phone and online surveys such as those supplied by VirtuaTell there are even more “do’s and don’ts” . If not done correctly the language that you use to phrase questions can ultimately have an unintended impact on the results you receive.  Linguists and academics have spent decades researching the effect that different words, phrases and sentences can have on the way we think.

To help you write surveys that will gain the most accurate results for your company here are 6 rules when setting up customer surveys to help you succeed in wasting as little effort as possible:

  1. Design all surveys with the customer environment in mind.  You are unable to monitor the environment in which your survey is being completed but you DO know if an SMS survey will be read on a mobile phone or an automated phone survey will be heard via a telephone, so design the survey for that medium.  SMS surveys should be short, online surveys should be well designed and easy to read and Phone surveys should be worded for the ear, not the eye and should factor in the possibility of external noise.
  2. Keep to the same scales where possible.  In designing surveys, it is imperative to remember that respondents are helping you out. Therefore, try to keep their mental stress to a minimum. Switching from a question that asks for a numerical rating (1-5, 1-10 or the NPS score, 0-10) to one, that rates levels of satisfaction(Very Satisfied, Satisfied, Disatisfied, Very Disatisfied), to one that  seeks to ascertain how closely a customer agrees with a statement(Strongly agree, agree, disagree, strongly disagree), is mentally demanding for them and likely to be off-putting so try and keep scales consistent.
  3. Avoid using idioms and slang.  Your customers may be foreign-born or may have a learning difficulty that prevents them from distinguishing between metaphor and literal meaning. Idioms and slang can cause confusion and arguably can sound unprofessional.  But that doesn’t mean that colloquial language should be avoided – especially when using phone surveys. In fact, it is worth considering how a more relaxed and conversational tone could be used to help put respondents at ease and make them feel less as though they are undergoing a test.
  4. When asking text or recording questions, don’t ask leading questions.  For journalists grilling political candidates that may be the quickest way to get at the truth. For your survey the act of suggesting an answer in the question is likely to bias your results and make them an inaccurate reflection of your customer’s experience.
  5. Capture verbatim recordings and open comments, especially as the final questions.   These open questions give the respondent the chance to say what is on their mind, in their words and are often the most valuable content available to you. DO NOT use them for SMS surveys (which should only be a single question or use the VirtuaTell SMS methodology).


And finally, KEEP THE SURVEY SHORT!   At VirtuaTell we campaign constantly to keep surveys short and don’t assume the respondent has limitless time to answer your questions.  If you DO need more than 4 or 5 questions answered, cycle, randomise and spread the questions over multiple respondents.  A short survey will result in someone being happy to answer another one sometime – a long survey penalises them for helping you out.

For more information CLICK HERE to Contact VirtuaTell.