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EFFECTIVE QUESTIONNAIRE DESIGN – TOP TIPS

 

In today’s world of big data, AI, machine learning, sentiment analysis, analytics, metrics and more why do we need to bother to use questionnaires?

The simple answer is that we still need primary research or information that is gathered for a specific purpose. Very often, the answers that we are looking for either don’t exist or are not readily available to us.

If we think about Customer Experience (CX), for example, we can glean a lot of insight from user data but we can add even more intelligence by asking specific questions.

So, the questionnaire remains an important tool for most of us. How do we make sure that we design them to be as effective as they can be?

Our top five tips are:

  1. Be clear on why you are creating a questionnaire in the first place
  • What is it you need to know?
  • What are the key answers that you want to have at the end of the survey?
  1. Make sure that the collection method or methods are relevant to your target audience
  • How and when will the questionnaire be delivered? A long paper based questionnaire is unlikely to gain many responses from an audience solely dealing with you online, for example.
  • Who needs to get the questionnaire? If you have a large customer base, does everyone need to participate to get a representative sample?
  1. Keep the number of questions to a minimum
  • However much your audience may think of you, there is a limit to the amount of time respondents will give you – no matter much you incentivise them. Time is a precious commodity so respect theirs.
  • Tell the respondents how long it will take before they start. Be honest.
  • Make the questions relevant and interesting. The respondents should not be bored with your questionnaire at any stage!
  • Make the questions clear, easy to understand and answer. Avoid confusing respondents.
  • Check and double check that all the questions are really Avoid the temptation to ask too much in one questionnaire. We call this the ‘kitchen sink approach’.
  • Put any classification questions such as where they live, their age, gender, business sector and so on at the end. Your aim is not to create a “why do they need to know this?” brake on their willingness to participate before they have even started.
  • Don’t forget to include the final ‘gold dust’

      “What other comments would you like to make?

This open question gives respondents an opportunity to give you deep insight into the one or two things that they want to tell you but you have not asked them. This can give you invaluable information.

  1. Use a variety of response formats
  • Avoid the questionnaire being too predictable (that ‘boring’ word again)
  • Make it fun/ interesting to complete if you can
  • Consider using video or audio comments, being able to select and deselect in a visual context, graphics, sliders, rating scales, drag and drop, hotspot mapping, timed responses and more. Be creative.
  • Pre-test. A ‘must’, this one. Prepopulate with responses that you either want to test or have had from pre-testing. A small number of qualitative interviews with selected respondents before designing your questionnaire is an excellent way of finding out these parameters. This keeps completion as easy as possible, will increase response rates and therefore the value of the insight you gain.
  1. Make the questionnaire attractive and easy to complete
  • Use colour
  • Use your branding and make it visually appealing. If you don’t appear to care why should they?
  • Give clear instructions. Assume nothing. Tell the respondents what you want them to do and why, where they go next etc.…
  • Use progress bars or percentage completed indicators. Reassure them that you have thought about how much of their time this will take.
  • Use numbered questions and section headings for the same reasons.
  • Use ‘routing’ and ‘piping’ within the questionnaire to personalise the respondents experience.
  • Once you’ve designed your questionnaire, test it thoroughly to ensure that it works correctly before you send it out.

Finally, make sure that you meet your obligations from a privacy and data protection compliance perspective.

Good luck with your questionnaire.

For more help and advice on research related matters contact us 

 

 

 

 

TO BE BRIEF…

In our role as marketing researchers we see briefs in all shapes and sizes. Research briefs, I hasten to add.

With the massive changes we are seeing in the world of marketing research driven by the growth in: available data; engagement channels; user generated content; new methods; new technologies; analytics; concerns over privacy and so on, it is a source of bemusement at times that written research briefs are still often scant, lacking in key information, with unclear objectives or not done at all.

This may sound like a criticism of clients and prospective clients but it really isn’t. It is just surprising that the briefing process seems to be so difficult to get right.

When teaching the subject, I always say

“Without a good brief it is nearly impossible to get a good proposal”.

In the absence of a written brief we will often write one for the client and get agreement to it prior to delivering a proposal.

So here are my five key tips for writing that all important research brief:

1. State the purpose – what decisions do you need to take as a result of the research and why do they need to be taken?

2. Write a ‘shopping list’ – what information do you need to receive at the end of the research process to make those decisions? Writing a brief in this way short circuits the process of arriving at research objectives and enables the researcher or agency to deliver that information through the proposed method(s).

3. Consider the research scope – which products, services, markets, customers, clients, prospects, geographies, demographics etc. need to be researched and why – if not clear from 1. above?

4. Outline your preferred method – what are your thoughts on the method that could be used? In general, most marketers have an initial view on how the research might be undertaken, via what channels and this can be a very good guide for developing the proposal.

5. Think about timing and cost – When is the research needed by? Yes, I know “ASAP” but think about the latest date by which the results must be available to make the decisions detailed in 1?
Also, giving at least a rough guide on likely budget and insisting that the proposed costs are fully broken down so that you can see where your money would be spent is really worth considering.

Good luck with creating effective research briefs.