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4 Steps to a Better Research Survey

What are the 4 steps to a successful research questionnaire? Read the blog and download our free sample customer satisfaction survey.

July 23rd 2014, by jack

The four fundamentals of good quality questionnaire design

Good quality customer research is essential to understanding what customers expect of an organisation, how well services are delivered, the strength of relationship, if they will recommend you and buy your services or products again.

With so much valuable and insightful information available why create a questionnaire which doesn’t provide the right answers or frustrates respondents so much they drop out mid-way through the interview? Professional and effective questionnaire design will support positive response rates and good questions enrich the output and enable actions to be taken from research.

So what are the 4 steps to a successful research questionnaire?

  • Deciding what questions should be asked
  • Determining the most appropriate response
  • Planning how should the questionnaire be set out
  • Choosing whether to pilot the questionnaire

1. What questions should be asked?

There are a few rules that should be applied around questions:

  • Questions must be actionable, if not don’t ask it
  • Questions should not be ambiguous
  • Questions must only ask about one attribute
  • Questions must be phrased for the chosen rating scale

You can use a number of methods to choose your questions, including:

  • Workshops with business function leads and process owners
  • Focus groups with customers
  • Qualitative research with customers
  • Cross-functional working groups to map the customer journey

2. What is the most appropriate response type?

Having selected the type of question, decide what the best response type is for that question - attitude, behaviour or classification.

  • Open-ended questions - These questions normally invite comments and enable respondents to provide precise feedback.
  • Pre-coded responses - These are questions where a list of pre-coded responses will appear in a drop down menu, such as: ‘Yes/No’, or ‘How often would you like to receive a newsletter? – Monthly, quarterly, six-monthly, annually.’ There are known as ‘closed’ questions.
  • Verbal rating scales - Typically a 5-point scale running from ‘Very Good through to Very Poor’, or 4-point: ‘Excellent, Good, Fair or Poor’. Verbal rating scales can be applied to most adjectives - good/poor, happy/unhappy, satisfied/dissatisfied, pleased/displeased, suitable/unsuitable, and so on.
  • Agreement scales - These will often offer 5 verbal response options, such as, ‘Strongly agree, Agree, Neither agree or disagree, Disagree, Strongly disagree’. This scale is often applied when asking the respondent if they agree with good service provision or product quality.

Our example Customer Satisfaction Survey, which you can download here, shows how you might assess service quality. It uses a 1-10 rating scale, which enables respondents to understand the numerical values and provides granularity in the output data. There is also provision for open-ended questions, inviting comments and qualitative feedback from the respondent.


3. How should the questionnaire be set out?

There are different approaches towards setting out questionnaires: some can be developed with questions grouped into areas that share the same sentiment. Some are completely randomised, enabling factor analysis to be applied.

The flow of a questionnaire is important, when considering service process or journey the interview should reflect and pick up each touch point, possibly using diagnostics to gather more insight. Customer comments tend to be more insightful when they relate directly to parts of the process the customer has actually experienced - particularly important when sentiment analysis is being applied during reporting.

Online questionnaires should be designed to reflect an appropriate professional image - design will have a significant impact on response rates, respondent buy-in and the accuracy of data collected. Simplicity is key to any self-completion questionnaire design.

4. Why pilot your questionnaire?

Experience tells us that running a research pilot is the best thing you can do to ensure a success survey.

A pilot hones the content and structure of a questionnaire; helping to define the validity of questions, ensure wording is correct, acts as a check on routing and guides understanding of what options or filters should be included.

Contrary to what you might expect, piloting your questionnaire is more efficient. It’s like a practice run that helps you deliver it professionally, and helps ensure your respondents will be engaged and willing to participate.

When undertaking a questionnaire pilot a good cross section of the targeted sample groups should be interviewed. This enables routing to be tested, distribution of responses and rating across different respondent groups and type of comments received from either process related questions or open ended verbatim questions.

Need some help?

Done well, customer surveys can provide extremely valuable insights into how customers perceive your company. It delivers actions for your staff or processes that will improve customer satisfaction and loyalty.

The value you get from using a market research company to conduct your survey is almost unlimited:

  • Competitor analysis and insights
  • Trained, dedicated telephone interviewers
  • Professional advice and support, from survey design to action facilitation
  • Industry experts, who know how to turn your data into profit
  • Compliance with data protection laws and regulations

Our team have significant experience developing questionnaires applying different data collection and research methodologies and technical requirements.

If you are considering a customer survey and would like to discuss your requirements with us please call on or send us an email via the contact form.

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