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 





Happy birthday GDPR

A year before the GDPR came into force we started training marketers and others on how to ensure compliance with the new regulation.

A year on, we thought it would be a good time to discover where some of the companies that we trained are now. We asked five simple questions:

  1. How comfortable are you that your business is now fully GDPR compliant?

Not all were certain that they were fully compliant. All saw complying with the GDPR as a ‘journey’ with the need to constantly update and review their approach. There was a fear factor or lack of confidence for some.  Issues had been experienced by some with data transfers outside the EU.

  1. What are the good things that have happened as a result of the GDPR coming into force?

All saw some positives in the GDPR coming into force a year ago. Generally, it has meant that those spoken to have become more organised with data (when and where it is held) and more stringent in tracking consent – where appropriate.  Specific comments included:

“GDPR makes us think twice – for example whether to use mailing lists. It has stopped us doing things that we shouldn’t have done in the past”


“Customers are clear about what we are doing with their data”


“Clearing out large quantities of data that we didn’t need to hold”

  1. What are the bad things that have happened?

The work, time and money spent in getting ready for the regulation was the comment from most people. Having to keep it in mind at all times and the ongoing level of administrative work was another. There were also some concerns voiced over the amount of conflicting information that still appears to be out there regarding exactly what is needed to get it right.

One person commented that, on a wider issue, the GDPR has made marketing relationships between organisations and consumers harder to develop. This echoes comments from others in recent articles.

  1. What data protection and privacy areas would you still like to improve?

All thought that there were areas where their organisations could improve. Particular mentions include: more exploration of which data could be linked to a natural person; improving physical data protection going forward; the slightly draconian wording of some of the statements being used and the need to review privacy policies.

  1. Final comments?

Last words included:

“It’s been a lot more work that we thought it would be. We started with the big picture. The detail keeps going and going.”


“..be good if the ico did let us know how we were doing. Not black and white.”


“…GDPR hasn’t had the impact I thought it would.”


“…found the sales team has struggled with it especially with relationship building.”

Are there many happy returns for the GDPR?

A selection of marketers that we have trained largely think so. Overall, there does seem to be benefits to both organisations and individuals although the amount of time and effort it continues to need is a concern for many.