We’re commonly asked about best practices for creating online surveys. How should I write my questions? What types of questions should I use? How long should my survey be? Surprisingly, as we’ve scoured the web looking for secrets, we haven’t seen these best practices distilled down into a simple list. As you prepare for your next communication to customers or employees, we’re confident that these tips will help you improve your engagement, brand perception, and response rates.

1. Assume Your Survey Will be Opened on a Smartphone

It’s incredible to see companies now thinking mobile-first. Only a few short years ago you could assume audiences were viewing content in a browser, usually on a desktop or laptop. Today’s audiences are on a myriad of devices with different form factors, and already half of all online surveys are opened on smartphones and tablets. Wise designers tend to preview every survey question on multiple devices before distribution.

Which experience do you think would result in a higher response rate?
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2. Keep the Overall Survey Short and Sweet

We’ve all received a “30 question customer satisfaction survey” from a great company we’ve done business with — or even worse — the “50 question employee satisfaction survey” from an employer. Rafat over at over at skift.com recently published a great article on how one of the world’s leading hotels chains is getting it wrong. At GetFeedback, we’re fans of keeping surveys short and sweet. We advise reducing a survey to 10 questions or less…or how about even 5? If you can deliver a delightful experience you’ve earned the right to send another survey in the future.

3. Reduce the Number of Answer Choices in Each Question

It’s a common tendency to create a survey question, and then begin to list every possible answer as a choice. While all of those answers may provide every facet necessary for your deep analysis, they leave a survey respondent with their head spinning. Too many choices will cause folks to either abandon a survey or even worse, select a random answer just to keep going. We think both of those outcomes are less than ideal. Instead, we recommend keeping the number of available choices to 5 or fewer. Hey, it’s just a guideline, but will keep your audience engaged and deliver meaningful results.

4. Try Your Best to Avoid Grid Questions

What’s a grid question you ask? Well in traditional survey tools you will know a grid question as a sea of radio buttons asking you to rate a product or service on a scale of 1-10 across many different metrics. “On a scale of 1-10, how would you rate our hotel on: cleanliness, value, comfort, quality of food, welcome reception, spa services, baggage handling” and on and on. Grid questions are convenient because you can essentially ask multiple questions in 1, but they are known to be taxing on the user. Wherever possible, try to get rid of them or reduce to a single grid question per survey.

5. Consider Making all Open-Ended Questions Optional

Open ended questions or “short answer” questions allow the free-form entry of text into a box. They are great when you’re looking for direct feedback from someone, but they require a deeper level of thinking on behalf of the respondent. Some folks just aren’t looking to type out their detailed feelings, so we suggest reducing the overall number of open-ended questions to ideally 1, place it at the very end, and make it optional.

6. Give the Respondent an Incentive to Continue

Everyone likes to be rewarded for their time, especially your important customers, or your great employees. Incentives such as “you’ll be entered to win an Amazon gift card” or “you’ll receive a 20% off coupon” work wonders to boost completion rates. It’s a great idea to include the incentive at the very beginning of the survey and pay it off at the end being clear to the respondent how they redeem the offer. In many cases simply showing respondents the results of the survey at the end is a fabulous incentive!

7. Treat Every Survey as a Marketing Conversation

An online survey is a conversation with your audience and should be treated with the same respect you’d treat every other marketing communication. Businesses don’t send plain text-only emails anymore because today’s brands realize that every interaction should be engaging and part of a broader, ongoing conversation. As Scott Holden, VP Marketing at Salesforce.com says, these interactions should be treated “more like a conversation than a traditional survey.”

We hope that these 7 secrets will help you and your organization boost completion rates and improve the experience you deliver to your most important audiences. Who said online surveys can’t be fun?

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