7 Common Survey Design Mistakes

7 Common Survey Design Mistakes

Survey Hints & Tips: What are the biggest mistakes people make when creating a customer satisfaction survey?


Making surveys too long

At VirtuaTell we deliver surveys on your behalf through a variety of devices; over the phone, online, via SMS or by email. Each of these methods may have its preferred style of question or way for customers to answer. But what is universal between them is that none of them are ideal for surveys that are too long.

It is an easy error to make, borne out of a genuine productive desire to understand as much as possible about how customers view your company and how they feel about the service they are receiving. Often, a survey may have had multiple contributors and therefore contain all the questions for all departments.  But remember, these surveys are an extension of your company. The surveys bear your name and are a reflection of your brand. So if they are verbose, long winded and assuming your respondent has nothing better to do with their time than work for you, THAT is the thoughts that will be associated with your brand.   So why not try to make them as efficient and as pleasant to encounter as your staff.

Assuming the respondent’s time is free

People have busy lives. Don’t assume if you are calling a customer to answer a survey that they have time. Start your survey by explicitly asking your customer if they have the time to spare, and if they don’t email the survey through to them to complete when they do. VirtuaTell use real-time customer satisfaction surveys because they are the most accurate means to get customer feedback AND ensure the results are unbiased by the passage of time. If your customers are rushed into answering your questions when they really don’t have the time, then you run the risk of getting ill-considered and inaccurate results.

In an online survey tell them up front that the survey won’t take very long to re-assure them that it won’t take up too much of their time – then DON’T!

Choose the correct media channel

If they called you, offer a telephone survey.  If the e-mailed you, offer an online survey and so on.  Multi-channel surveys including the phone channel, are what VirtuaTell specialise in.

Using grammatically correct wording that does not read or sound well

Despite what you may have been told in school it is not always 100% necessary (or even helpful) to use grammatically correct sentences or verbose, superfluous, elaborate wording in your survey.

The most vital goal when writing your questions for VirtuaTell to deliver, is to be able to communicate what you require accurately. And succinctly.

Making surveys too long

New York, New York was so great they named it twice. This point is so vital that we have included it twice. We can’t stress strongly enough how important it is to keep you surveys concise.  For details of our KISKIS methodology, click here.

Offer the surveys in real-time, immediately after the customer event.

On many occasions, companies wait far too long before offering surveys.  During this time, the customer has forgotten half of the experience they had and either answers incorrectly or untruthfully.  Either way, you are basing your decisions on false result data.  That is why VirtuaTell specialise on conducting real-time surveys, immediately after the customer event.

Asking Vague questions

If you ask a series of vague questions you will create lots of information but you won’t be able to quantify and analyse the results easy. A text question or voice recording gives you lots of valuable detail but these need to be supplementary questions to a question where you ask them to rate a service on a fixed scale.

For the very best survey design and response rates, contact VirtuaTell

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6 rules when setting up customer surveys

6 rules when setting up customer surveys

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.