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How to Write Incredibly Effective Survey Questions

survey-questions

You know that customer feedback is important. You know that, in order to evaluate the happiness and loyalty of your customers, you need to know what they truly think about your product or service.

So, how do you get those insights? A customer survey.

Once you know how to create a survey, you might be wondering what types of questions you should ask. The first question is one you need to answer -- what information are you trying to find out?

Once you know the answer to that question, you can start drafting your own survey questions. Keep reading this blog post to learn about different survey questions types, what information they can tell you, and examples of each -- along with some hard and fast best practices to follow.

Survey Question Types

1. Multiple Choice

Multiple choice survey questions are questions that offer respondents a variety of different responses to choose from. These questions are usually accompanied by an "other" option that the respondent can fill in with a customer answer if the options don't apply to them.

Multiple choice survey questions among the most popular types of survey questions because they're easy for respondents to fill out, and the results produce clean data that's easy to break out and analyze. Ask multiple-choice questions to learn about your customers' demographic information, product or service usage, and consumer priorities.

Single-Answer

Single-answer multiple choice questions only allow respondents to select one answer from a list of options. These frequently appear online as circular buttons respondents can click.

Multiple-Answer

Multiple-answer multiple choice questions allow respondents to select all responses that apply from a list of options. These frequently appear as checkboxes respondents can select.

2. Rating Scale

Rating scale questions (also known as ordinal questions) ask respondents to rate something on a numerical scale assigned to sentiment. The question might ask respondents to rate satisfaction or happiness on a scale of 1-10, and indicate which number is assigned to positive and negative sentiment.

Rating scale survey questions are helpful to measure progress over time. If you send the same group a rating scale several times throughout a time period, you can measure if the sentiment is trending positive or negative.

Use rating scale questions to gauge your company's Net Promoter Score® (NPS), an example of a common rating scale survey question.

3. Likert Scale

Likert scale survey questions evaluate if a respondent agrees or disagrees with a question. Usually appearing on a five or seven-point scale, the scale might range from "not at all likely" to "highly likely," or "strongly disagree" to "strongly agree."

Use Likert scale questions to evaluate customer satisfaction.

4. Ranking

Ranking survey questions ask respondents to rank a variety of different answer options in terms of relative priority or importance to them. Ranking questions provide qualitative feedback about the pool of respondents, but they don't offer the "why" behind the respondents' choice.

Use ranking questions to learn about customer needs and behavior to analyze how they're using your product or service, and what needs they might still have that your product doesn't serve.

5. Semantic Differential

Semantic differential survey questions also ask for respondents to rate something on a scale, but each end of the scale is a different, opposing statement. So, instead of answering the question "Do you agree or disagree with X?" respondents must answer questions about how something makes them feel or is perceived to them.

For example, a semantic differential question might ask, "On a scale of 1 to 5, how would you evaluate the service you received?" with 1 being "terrible" and 5 being "exceptional." These questions are all about evaluating respondents intuitive responses, but they can be tougher to evaluate than more cut-and-dry responses, like agreement or disagreement.

Use semantic differential questions to get clear-cut qualitative feedback from your customers.

Likert Scale vs. Semantic Differential

Both Likert scale and semantic differential questions are asked on a scale respondents have to evaluate, but the difference lies in how the questions are asked. With Likert scale survey questions, respondents are presented with a statement they must agree or disagree with. With semantic differential survey questions, respondents are asked to complete a sentence, with each end of the scale consisting of different and opposing words or phrases.

6. Dichotomous

Dichotomous survey questions offer only two responses that respondents must choose between. These questions are quick and easy for the respondents to answer and for you to analyze, but they don't leave much room for interpretation, either.

Use dichotomous questions to get more clear-cut data that's quick and simple to analyze.

Open-Ended Survey Questions

We didn't include another type of survey question on the list above: open-ended survey questions.

Where the survey types above all have closed-ended answers that you input as different options to choose from, open-ended questions are usually accompanied by an empty text box, where the respondent can write a customer answer to the question.

This qualitative feedback can be incredibly helpful to understand and interpret customer sentiment and challenges, but it isn't the easiest data to interpret if you want to analyze trends or changes in opinions. You need humans to interpret qualitative feedback to analyze for sentiment, tone, or spelling errors.

We suggest including open-ended questions alongside at least one other closed-ended question to collect data you can analyze and forecast over time, as well as those valuable qualitative insights straight from the horse's mouth.

Survey Question Examples

1. Multiple Choice

Here's an example of a single-answer multiple choice question:

singleanswersurveyexample

Here's an example of a multiple-answer multiple choice question:

multipleanswerquestionexample

2. Rating Scale

Here's an example of a rating scale survey question in a frequently-used format: NPS.

ratingscaleexample

3. Likert Scale

Here's an example of a five-point Likert scale:

likertscaleexample

Here's an example of a seven-point Likert scale:

satisfaction survey-1

4. Ranking

Here's an example of a ranking survey question:

rankingquestionexample

5. Semantic Differential

Here are examples of semantic differential survey questions:

semanticdifferentialquestionexample

6. Dichotomous

Here's an example of a dichotomous survey question:

dichotomousquestionexample

7. Open-Ended

Here's an example of an open-ended question you might include in a survey:

openendedquestionexample

Survey Question Best Practices

1. Don't write leading questions.

These will lead your respondents to answer a question in a certain way based solely on the wording of the question.

2. Don't write loaded questions.

These typically contain emotionally charged assumptions that can push a respondent toward answering in a specific way.

3. Don't assume.

You know what they say about assuming. Don't build assumptions about what the respondent knows or thinks into the questions -- rather, include details or additional information for them.

4. Don't use jargon.

Jargon can make respondents feel unintelligent. Use clear, straightforward language that doesn't require a respondent to consult a dictionary.

5. Don't not use double negatives.

Confusing, right? What I meant to say was "don't use double negatives." They're confusing, and irritate respondents. Possibly to the point of not completing your survey.

6. Don't write double-barreled questions.

This is when you ask two questions at once. If you present two questions at the same time, respondents won't know which one to answer -- and your results will be misleading.

7. Don't let people opt out.

You're taking a survey to get people's opinions -- so don't let them not provide it with something like "No comment," or "Not relevant."

Net Promoter, Net Promoter System, Net Promoter Score, NPS and the NPS-related emoticons are registered trademarks of Bain & Company, Inc., Fred Reichheld and Satmetrix Systems, Inc.

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