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10 Survey Best Practices and Tips You Can Put Into Action

Kate William

9 min read

Getting less-than-desirable results with your surveys? Looking for some actionable survey best practices and tips to get the best out of your surveys?

Surveys are a great tool to get feedback (or insights) directly from your audience.

But you need to follow a set of practices to put this tool to good use and get useful feedback from your target audience.

In this article, we share 10 survey best practices that will nudge your respondents to take your survey and give you accurate answers.

10 Survey Best Practices You Should Follow to Get Great Results with Your Surveys

Survey best practice #1: Keep your surveys short and simple

One of the biggest reasons why you see high drop-offs in surveys is because you expect a lot from your respondents. If you hope that they will complete your surveys that have more than 50 questions, then you are in for a shock. Many will think “The nerve they had in expecting us to spend so much time on their survey.” Trust us, you certainly do not want that. It will also take a hit on your reputation.

The most basic thing that you can do for successful surveys is to keep them as short as possible. Do remember that your respondents are not obligated to complete the survey at all. If anything, they are only doing a favor to you by completing the survey. When you design the survey, please keep in mind that it should capture their attention, and make sure you keep it that way till the survey ends.

If you keep confusing the respondents of your survey by asking questions that are not in a logical order, you will certainly see a rise in drop-offs. The questions that you draft should make a lot of sense to your audience and should be relevant to them too.

Even a 10-minute long survey can be a huge ask for most respondents. If you are providing them incentives to complete the survey, then time shouldn’t be an issue for most of them. When there is no incentive for the respondent when they complete the survey, why would they spend a lot of their time for you? This is exactly why you need to keep it short and simple.

No matter what type of surveys they are, customer satisfaction surveys best practices, employee survey best practices, NPS survey best practices, or exit survey best practices, keeping it simple and short is the most basic of survey design best practices that you should follow.

Survey best practice #2: Ask one question at a time

One more big mistake that most businesses make is they try to squeeze more than one question. It will completely confuse the answer and more often than not, even the options you provide might not end up making sense. Choosing to ask just one question is an important thing to remember in your survey design best practices.

Let’s make you understand with an example.

“How satisfied are you with the customer support team and the onboarding process?”

If the answer to both the questions is the same, then there is no problem. Either they are “Extremely disappointed” or “extremely satisfied” with both the customer support and the onboarding process. How would a respondent reply if they had a bad experience with the support team, but the onboarding process was fantastic? There’s no way to get it right when there are two questions, isn’t it?

The above type of questions are also called the double-barrelled question, and it certainly is not welcome in a survey. People will skip questions that are confusing them. Or worse, they might even leave the survey totally. The easiest way to fix this issue is by concentrating on just one option and creating a separate question for the other option.

Survey best practice #3: Mobile-first surveys

Take advantage of scripting tools that will intelligently capture the layout of the content based on the question that is being presented, screen size, and the device that is being used. When you use intelligent layouts, it tries to fit the device on a smaller screen. It provides a great experience for the user where they can respond to the survey by watching it at the right size.

Designing for mobile devices is not only about fitting the questions on the screen, but it is about providing a great experience for the respondent. The respondents should have a great experience where they do not find any friction when they are in the process.

Survey best practice #4: Avoid biased questions

There are times when some of the questions in the survey are designed in such a way that there is bias in the questions or you might even be persuading the respondent to choose a particular option. To avoid errors such as this, make sure that you only give as much information as necessary for the respondent.

Ensure that the question is only focused on the respondent’s opinions and the objectives that you intend to achieve organically. Do not introduce words in the question which can be counted as your point of view.

For example: “Did you enjoy our fantastic email marketing tool?”

“Are you satisfied with our exceptional customer service?”

Adding words like fantastic and exceptional to your questions will only make them feel as if they are being led on.

Instead of framing the above two questions in that style, here’s what you can do:

“Did you enjoy our email marketing tool?”

“Are you satisfied with our customer service?”

The above questions will get you the right answers from your respondents and you do not have to worry about being biased. It is considered one of the most pivotal best practices for surveys.

Survey best practice #5: Ask limited open-ended questions

First things first, open-ended questions are great for the audience as they allow them to share what they feel without a bunch of options limiting them. Do remember that answering an open-ended question might not be something that makes a lot of your respondents comfortable. It is best that you limit the open-ended questions to one or two. Anything more than that can be a lot to expect from your respondents.

One more thing that you should do is to add these open-ended questions at the end of the survey. If you add them right in the beginning, it can put off a lot of people. You can even add clear instructions on the kind of answer you are expecting from them.

Also, open-ended questions are not great to answer on mobile phones, thanks to the screen size and the keyboards. Do not ask two open-ended questions on the trot. Make sure that you only add them if it is really necessary. Too many of them can result in survey fatigue. You do not want that.

Survey best practice #6: Do not ask unnecessary questions

One of the most important survey best practices that you have to keep in mind is to only ask questions that are absolutely necessary. When there are a lot of questions, it can also lead to survey fatigue. Once you are ready with the initial set of questions for your survey, the next thing that you need to do is to trim down the ones that are not pivotal for the success of your survey.

You might even come across questions that are similar to something that was previously asked in the same survey. Ensure that all the stakeholders are involved when the survey questions are being made.

The questions that you ask should be straightforward and keep them engaged. If there are potentially sensitive questions that you have to ask, provide the respondents the opportunity to respond to the entire survey anonymously. Also, make sure not to put such sensitive questions at the beginning of the survey.

Survey best practice #7: Test your survey

Once you have created the questions, you will be raring to send them to your audience. Wait. Do not. At least not yet. If you want to make sure that your survey does not have any hiccups, test it. Send it to different stakeholders in your organization. Ask them what they think about the questions. What do they think about the order in which these questions are asked? Let them know about the kind of audience that you will be sending the survey links to.

Perspectives from different people in the organization can be used to enhance the survey’s effectiveness. By testing your survey, you will be able to catch all the possible errors. You will also be able to understand if there are any design issues that affect the experience of the respondents.

Noticing a spelling mistake or a typo can be disastrous for an organization. It is best to avoid it by scrutinizing each and every letter that has been added to the survey. Imagine if you were to send a survey questionnaire with many mistakes, it will deeply affect your credibility as an organization. Preview the survey and send it only when it has gone through a lot of eyes already.

Survey best practice #8: Make the survey fun

You need to connect with your audience with the help of the questions you ask. Make the survey as easy as possible for your respondents. Use light-hearted humor in your questions. Even memes are a great addition to your surveys. Making it fun is a part of survey best practices that you should be mindful about. It will increase your output as you give them the opportunity to have fun while completing the survey. One more way to make sure the survey is not monotonous is to use different types of questions, including scales.

Survey best practice #9: Use incentives

We cannot insist on the importance of providing incentives to your survey respondents. While you cannot provide incentives for all surveys, you can still use them for ones that either take up a lot of time to complete or require specific technical know-how to be a participant. In both the previous cases, you will certainly increase the response rates by providing incentives to your survey participants. People like the idea of spending a few minutes on a survey to get something back. They do not want to waste a significant amount of time.

Make sure that you find an appropriate survey incentive. If you are dealing with high-net-worth individuals, offering them a $10 coupon will not work. Do not provide incentives that are too big as you might not be able to repeat it later on and this can lead to disappointment as the respondents might be looking forward to the same incentives the second time they are asked to participate in a survey.

Survey best practice #10: Use visual aids to clarify

There will be instances when the question might sound a little too complicated for the respondents. If you do not explain what you are trying to ask, they might skip the question, or worse, they might skip the survey itself. In cases such as this, it is best that you add visual aids such as audio and videos to explain your stance clearly.

Let’s say you want feedback on the latest product from your brand, and it can get a little too complicated to explain it with just words. At this juncture, using audio and videos will ease the situation for your respondents. Instead of adding a few paragraphs to explain the question, visual aids will give a better idea to your target market.

There will be times when you might have to ask questions that might be considered personal, you need to explain to your participants the relevance of this question for your brand. Do add how you intend to use the information that they provide.

Bonus

We would hate to miss out on telling you the importance of using the rating scale wisely. When it comes to survey rating scale best practices, it is best that you use similar rating scales. If you were to use a 7-point Likert scale, then use them uniformly across the survey. Introducing a 5-point Likert scale in between can confuse the average respondent. It is best to think of this as a survey best practice to follow without fail. Do remember that the process of taking surveys should be as friction-free as possible. Keeping it easy for the respondents is the first step towards doing that.

Survey best practices for distribution

After designing the survey, the next step is to send it to your survey respondents. There are certain survey best practices which you have to follow even when it comes to the distribution of the same.

  1. Tell them about the survey in advance. Start talking about the survey at least two weeks before you send it to them so that there is an air of expectation.
  2. Make sure you tell them about the amount of time they will be spending on the survey. They need to be sure about it.
  3. Assure them that their data is safe with you and give them an idea about the purpose behind your survey. If there are personal questions or any identifiable information that the respondents are asked to share, then it is even more important for you to let them know about it in advance.
  4. Send reminders. We cannot insist more on the importance of sending survey reminders. You need to send more than one reminder. Do not send reminders on back-to-back days either. Three reminders over a period of ten days is a great addition to your survey best practices.
  5. Follow-up on the feedback that the respondents have added to the survey. If you do not take any action, then your entire survey-taking exercise is one in futility. Also called closing the feedback loop, it is important that you do it. Otherwise, your survey respondents will think that you have taken no effort on the inputs that they have offered in the survey.
  6. Thank the survey respondents for the time that they have invested in the survey. You should not take their time for granted, and create a great rapport that will help when you want them to take a survey the next time.

Conclusion

The goal of creating a survey is to find out what the respondent has gone through or how they want things changed. You cannot afford to only have a small sample size to respond to them. For your results to be considered correct and worthy of putting in time and effort, you need to have a sizable set of people respond to them. Some of the above tips will help you in getting the results that you want to achieve with your survey. Go out of your way to create fantastic survey questions, and you will be able to achieve it.

If you are looking for an online survey tool to take care of your survey needs, SurveySparrow is a choice that you will not regret making. It is one of the best tools in the market and has a variety of features, from its conditional branching feature to anonymous surveys capability, you can do so much with it.

Kate William

Content Marketer at SurveySparrow

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