How To Create Surveys That Work

Customer feedback is an important part of any business.  Without it, businesses often wouldn’t know when they need to make changes, add new products or improve their services.  Thanks to the Internet and email, there is now a fast and simple way to get feedback from your customers – online surveys.

An online survey is the same as a normal survey – a series of questions that the respondent has to answer – except it’s on the Internet.  They are a great option for businesses of any size for collecting information from their customers or other groups.  Not only are they easy to create, they are also very cost-effective to distribute and collecting and analysing results is simple.  

You can create basic online surveys in your email program, but for the most professional presentation and the best results, you need to use an email marketing system like Bloomtools Ezy Communicator.  

Here are the 6 steps to creating an effective online survey:

1. Prepare yourself

There is no point in throwing together a few survey questions and sending it straight out to your entire database – you’ll be very lucky if you get anything valuable back.  In order to get the best results from your survey, you need to spend a bit of time planning before you send it.

The first thing to do is to set out your objectives. Think about exactly what the purpose of your survey is and what you want to achieve with it.  It may be something simple like improving customer service or something more specific like streamlining your ordering system with suppliers.  Outlining your objectives also helps you target your survey to particular groups within your database.  Sending the same survey to your whole database will probably be a waste of time because there are so many different groups within your list.

Spending some time planning your survey will make it far easier to write the questions you need and ensure you get the best results possible.  

2. Brainstorm your questions

So now you know what the survey is about and who it is aimed at, it’s time to start writing your questions.  Sit down with a pen and paper or use a whiteboard to brainstorm everything you want to ask your recipients about in the survey.  Don’t worry about formally writing up the questions straight away – get your ideas down first, and then finalise the wording of the questions later.

You should start off with basic information such as age, gender and location just so you have an idea of what type of person the recipient is.  It’s best not to ask for a name, because people are far more likely to respond honestly to an anonymous survey.  Also, don’t be too specific with these questions – use age brackets like ’20-30 years old’ and general locations like states or regions.

After you’ve got the basics covered, you need to focus on the serious questions.  The nature of these questions will really depend on what you are trying to achieve with your survey, so there are no real rules or guidelines, apart from keeping it as short, simple and relevant as possible.  

3. Organise your questions

The next step in creating an online survey is to organise your questions.  This involves the structure of the answers for your questions and also the order in which your questions appear.

With the answers to your questions, you have three main options – free text, multiple choice or multiple tick boxes.  

  • Free text - provide a space for the recipient to answer in any way they please and write as much as they want.  This is best for questions that need a longer, more detailed answer, but it does make measuring results difficult. 
  • Multiple choice - list several answer options for the question and allowing the recipient to choose only one answer.  Multiple choice is quick and simple for participants, but can restrict their answer. 
  • Multiple tick boxes - are similar to multiple choice, but respondents are not restricted to one answer, so they can tick as many boxes as they like.  

The type of answer structure you choose can impact on the results of your survey, so make you sure you choose logical answers that will encourage people to participate.  

Now that your questions and answers are ready to go, you need to put the questions in the most logical and easy to understand order.  Apart from starting with basic demographic information like age, the placement of your questions is really up to and what you think makes the most sense.  Also, if your survey is long it is a good idea to divide your questions into sections such as “Store Layout”, “Product Range” and “Staff Service”, to make it easier for your contacts to navigate and understand.

4. Attract participants

Now that you’ve created this great survey, how do you get people to participate in it?  Distributing and promoting your online survey is easy and cost effective thanks to email marketing.  Simply use your email marketing program (like the Bloomtools Ezy Communicator) to email your survey to your contacts.  

The response rate of an email survey will be far higher than that of a traditional printed survey because it is easy for the recipient to open and complete it on their computer and it is completely free for them.  However, you will still have do some work to convince them to participate.  You will need to write a compelling email subject line that immediately explains what the email is about and indicates what you want to find out from them, such as “Did you enjoy your meal at Tracey’s Café? ” or “Tell us how we can improve our ordering system”.  Mentioning the word survey in your subject line will turn people away, so attract their attention with a ‘help us help you’ subject line, then explain the details of the survey in the body of the email.  Remember, the subject line is usually only 50 characters long, so if you don’t have enough space to include your company name, make sure you use it in the sender line so the recipient can recognise your brand.

Once you’ve captured their attention with the subject line, you need to close the deal with your email copy.  Include a header along the lines of “Your thoughts are important to us – please share them with us” which will make them feel valued.  In your main copy, you need to explain that you would like them to take a survey and what information you want to find out from them.  You should also let them know what’s in it for them (better service, quicker deliveries etc.), approximately how long the survey will take to complete and personalise it with their details from your database.  

Here is an example of an email promoting a survey:

Sender: James Smith – James’ Office Furniture
Subject line: How was your shopping experience with us?
Header: We value your opinion – please share your feedback on our service and products

‘Dear Sue,

Thank you for your recent purchase of an ergonomic office chair at James’ Office Furniture.  In order to find out if the product and the service from my team met your expectations, I would like to invite you to participate in a short survey.  This survey will ask you about your shopping experience at James’ Office Furniture and will only take a few minutes to complete.

The feedback from this survey will help my staff and I improve our service to you when you shop with us in the future.  Your participation is greatly appreciated.

Yours sincerely,

James Smith
Owner, James’ Office Furniture’

5. Analyse your results

This is step that all your work has been leading up to.  If you don’t take the proper time and care when analyzing your results, your survey efforts will be wasted.  If you are using a system like the Bloomtools Ezy Communicator, the results of your online survey are collected for you and displayed in an easy to read graph to make analysis fast and simple.  If you are manually collecting all your results, you will need to go through each survey response and tally all of the answers, then count them all up at the end and make your own graphs in a program like Microsoft Excel.

Once you’ve got all your statistics in front of you, you will be able to compare these to your objectives.  Did the survey tell you what you wanted to know?  Are there any trends or surprises that you weren’t expecting?  You can get a lot of great insight from the results of your survey so make sure you set aside time to really go through the results with a fine-tooth comb.  Also, make sure you read all of the responses to your free text questions carefully, because they cannot be statistically analysed.

6. Take action

The final step is to make the changes and improvements that your survey results suggest.  If responses indicate that your service is slow, sit down with your team members and plan ways to make it better, or if your product range isn’t wide enough, add some new products.  Once you’ve made these changes, let the survey participants know.  Create a group in your database of people that completed the survey, then send them a short email about the changes you have made to give them better service, more products or quicker delivery.  They will appreciate that you have really listened to their opinions and it may encourage them to make another purchase.

Follow these six simple steps and not only will you be creating great online surveys, you’ll be improving your business as a result!