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Creating surveys: How to ask effective questions in the correct way

Regular surveys are an important step towards corporate success.
Creating surveys – a well-prepared questionnaire is the heart of any survey.

Define the subject matter and objectives of the survey in the basic concept

To create a meaningful survey, the first step is to set a thematic focus and define the objectives associated with this. In general, the subject matter should be clearly delineated and not be too broad. How can meaningful objectives be derived from the subject matter? What insights would you like to gain from the survey? Are there already similar studies and surveys that may provide helpful input? Based on the objectives formulated, set the priorities for the questions to be asked. Bear in mind: the more clearly defined the survey design is in the questionnaire, the more accurate the results of the analysis will be.

Designing surveys: Time is a factor for success

A clearly defined subject matter and a compact design are also key criteria for success as regards the time required. In online surveys, the time factor plays a central role when it comes to respondents’ motivation. A low or moderate amount of time required is accepted much more often and leads to fewer dropouts. Progress indicators can also be a useful tool to give respondents guidance and reduce the dropout rate.

Tip: Small rewards, such as vouchers or exclusive competitions, create an additional incentive to take part and increase respondents’ motivation to complete the questionnaire.

Creating questionnaires: It’s all about the right structure

Once the basic concept is in place, the next step is to create a suitable questionnaire. The questionnaire should have a clear structure. This gives respondents an easy introduction to the subject matter, creates trust and motivation and helps respondents to navigate their way around the survey. Questionnaires usually follow a certain pattern:

  • The introduction introduces the subject matter and provides factual information for the respondent. Who is collecting the data? What is the purpose of the survey? Who are the contact people? Why should respondents take part? What data security regulations apply?
  • As part of the introduction, a guide offers practical assistance in filling out the questionnaire and explains what to bear in mind when answering the questions.
  • The main section of the questionnaire covers all content questions. “Icebreaker questions”, which are kept general, simple and innocuous, offer an easy introduction and create a positive and trusting atmosphere. In principle, it is a good idea to sort the questions according to two rules: from general to concrete and from simple to abstract.
  • The main section usually finishes with one or more open-ended questions in which the respondents caCreating surveys: 10 tips for successful questions

Various questioning techniques and types of question are used when creating surveys. Well prepared, structured and varied, they ensure a high response rate and deliver reliable results:

  • Closed-ended questions provide a fixed number of possible responses and allow a quick analysis of the results. Open-ended questions, on the other hand, offer respondents the opportunity to formulate their responses freely, but involve much more effort for everyone involved. Therefore, no more than two open-ended questions should be asked per survey, ideally at the end of the questionnaire.
  • Long and complex questions can quickly overwhelm respondents. You should therefore formulate the questions simply and unambiguously and always define unclear terms.
  • Use familiar and understandable scales in the survey, for example based on the school grading system. This makes it easier for respondents to answer the questions.
  • When formulating the questions, you should also make sure that you ask neutral and objective questions so as not to lead respondents to give a specific response.
  • A variety of response options enables honest, well-considered feedback. On the other hand, one-sided response options that do not cover the full spectrum of the customer service experience quickly lead to distortions and reduce your credibility.
  • Double questions, where several things are assessed at once, often lead to confusion and incomplete responses. For example, if a respondent feels that customer service is committed but rates advisory skills negatively, he or she is forced to assess only one aspect or skip the question.
  • Not all respondents can, or want to, answer everything. Where it makes sense, questions should therefore be optional (“not specified”, “I don’t know”), as pressure can quickly lead to dropouts or random responses.
  • Additional, freely definable response options (“other”) allow alternative statements and expand the response scales.
  • Filter questions and plausibility questions help you to cluster the survey respondents more accurately and check whether the responses are conclusive.
  • Before you start the survey, you should carry out a realistic test run, for example with selected respondents or among colleagues. The test run gives you input to optimize your questionnaire.

Free checklist as a guide for your survey

A well-prepared and structured questionnaire is the heart of any survey and creates the basis for reliable, meaningful results in the context of market analyses or customer surveys. Our free checklist “Successful Survey Questions” allows you to analyze your questionnaire closely and offers practical assistance for a successful survey.

Download the checklist now!
Daniel Dodt
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