Posts Tagged ‘Online survey’

What’s an online survey without a purpose?

Saturday, April 20th, 2013 at 1:22 pm


If I had a penny for every time we talked about purpose…  Well… I wouldn’t be buying RBS out, but I’d have a fair few quid in my pocket!

It’s the starting point for every online survey.  Not about a question, not about a page layout, not about the way a report looks.  It’s about purpose.

Imagine any form of online survey.  You decide to copy a survey you saw a while ago, you put a few questions in you’ve heard of or been asked, you then start to think of what you might be missing and perhaps get a few opinions from others.

You end up with what you feel are too many questions.  You take a hatchet to it, you round the survey to 15 questions (because any more must surely be illegal mustn’t it?) and after merging a few, moving a few, dropping a few, you end up with the fnal version.  You stick a logo on the online survey.  Realise you then need to send it to someone.  Consider for a while what you should say in the invite.  Make it a bit too marketing led and then press the button and wait.

Then arm twist the recipients, wonder why the response rate is a bit too low, wonder why so many surveys are incomplete, look at each invidual survey response as they come in and take the comments personally and in complete isolation.

Success?  Yes?

Well… no.

We often hear from people that their first survey experience (commonly a DIY option) was something near abject failure.  Poor response rates, lack of real insight, no marketing collateral gained and no ideas or opportunities to improve how things are done.

And that’s quite simply because the survey had no purpose.

So before you start on the path of a survey, do one really important thing.  Stop.  Think.  And answer the vital question.  Just why do we want to survey XYZ audience?  What’s the purpose?

It sounds incredibly simple, but it saves so much time and acts as a very useful guide for the questions you ask and how you run a successful online survey project.

Online survey advice for Streetcar

Thursday, April 21st, 2011 at 6:15 pm

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It’s not so often people benefit from free advice, but that’s exactly what we’re going to do.

Provide advice about online surveys, shaped around a survey we’ve just received.  Good eh?

First of all… we’ve received the survey from streetcar, a company we use and like… so streetcar, if you’re reading, sorry if the advice is a little much to take.  For the rest of you, consider the points and lessons there to learn.

Ok… here we go.  The first no no.  Delivery.  The survey link was in a newsletter, tucked away right at the bottom.  So the liklihood of the survey being taken is low.  Most people will see the newsletter drop into their inbox and it will get deleted, slide down outlook, or will be viewed, but not with the intention of sharing views.

The other thing.  It landed  in my inbox at 16:18 on the Thursday before Easter.  Heard of POETS day?  Well it applies on the Thursday before Easter too.  That means the first chance many corporates will pick up that e-mail is Tuesday after Easter Monday.  It’s going to be competing with all that other e-mail from clients, suppliers, marketers and spam galore.  That reduces the liklihood of being seen even more.

Right… lets say we click on the link.  A very poorly branded page opens up.  My PC blocked the image so we had a nice red cross in the top left corner.  A colour not quite matching streetcars brand colour wraps around the image.

A font that doesn’t quite fit as the header.  Sorry…. but the free/ cheap online survey companies don’t offer amazing editing facilities so its always going to be a fudge and will look like something that you wouldnt publish on your printed material or your website.  Shame really.

Next booboo. 

The text near the survey link in the newsletter says they want to understand about customers views to improve service.  Now streetcar (remember we’re a customer and we like you)… what impression do you think you give when the first question you ask is “Which of the following cars does your business use regularly?”

Now I can share that we receive a statement every month that lists cars, mileage, time used… its all very clever.  So we know you have exact precise information of what cars we’ve used and probably where we’ve driven and when.

So what do I think that you’re asking us a question you know the answer to?  Think about it…hmm… not great eh?

Have we heard of streetvan… thats not going to improve the service we receive is it?  No… hmm… going from bad to worse this.

Has your business used a streetvan in the last 12 months?  So…. I’m asked if I’ve heard of streetvan.  If I answer no, I’m now being asked if I’ve used it!  And… you know if I have or haven’t because of your internal booking systems.

The survey goes on to ask how often we use streetvans, what we use them for, if we’re planning on using them in the next 6 months, what we might want to use them for, have we hired a traditional van, what did we use a traditional van for and then some pretty pictures of vans and which we like the look of most.

Standing back.  Looking at that through independent eyes.  What strikes you about it?

To us, the flow of questions doesn’t fit, it’s not in a logical order, and each question is dependent on the one before.  But whats more… it has absolutely nothing to do with customer service at all.  It sounds sales driven and aimed at data gathering for prospecting.  That’s not a survey, and it certainly isn’t a survey to improve the service we receive.

Branching would help massively so only relevant questions are asked, but the whole basis of the survey is flawed from the outset.

But worst of all, the only question that streetcar probably don’t know the answer to already is if someone has used a traditional van instead of a street van.

Now remember streetcar, we’re customers and friends and we like you.

You’re not alone in sending a marketing or sales led survey through a cheap or free provider and have really make a right pigs ear of it.  It’s ok… many big companies have done just that, so provided you listen to the problems and resolve them… no damage done.

So next time… think.  What’s the purpose?  Does the survey meet that purpose?  Have you got the information to hand already?  Is the survey easy to take and matches your brand identity to a high standard?

Is the time you’re sending it right?  Do you need advice from someone who does this all the time?  And what do you expect to gain from the results?

We don’t want to sound harsh.  You can imagine we see surveys all the time.  Sadly, many aren’t up to scratch and just by a bit of guidance and tapping into someones knowledge… it could have provided so much value and useful insight.

Should you “sell” using an online survey?

Saturday, May 15th, 2010 at 4:32 pm

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How many times have you clicked on a survey link and within the first few moments clicked out of it because it was an overt sales process?

Yes… we’ve done that plenty of times too.  One of the many downsides of the increase in surveymonkey type tools is that it places the ability to create surveys in the hands of people who haven’t had any guidance.  And because it’s a dirt cheap exercise it’s caught on lots.  Just like e-mail bulk marketing.

But just because its cheap it doesn’t make it valuable necessarily does it?

The sad thing is, in many circumstances, those creating the surveys don’t realise the negative sway of opinion they are creating.

Think about it… a survey enticing you to take part for a “free ipod” just give your details and take these few short questions …  You know your e-mail is going into a sausage machine don’t you? 

So if you’re thinking… “i’d really like to understand why people buy from me”… what should you do?

First step…. don’t put the survey into the hands of a sales or marketing person.  Nothing against you/ them… but the natural inclination is to ask questions that 1) your customers will see as being sales driven and data mining and 2) will sound slick and salesy.  And those are two of the worst elements to put in a survey.

Maybe we can step back even more here.  If you start with the intent of trying to persuade your audience, or gaining personal data from them…. don’t use a survey.

Use survey technology perhaps… but that’s not a survey.

A survey should be based on understanding.  Gaining an opinion.  And gaining that opinion with the purpose of taking action.

Don’t ask questions that ask about when someone last purchased from you (you should know that from your finance systems) and don’t ask when they will next buy from you.  That’s just not cricket!

Instead ask opinion.  About how they view your speed, quality, service, personality and knowledge.  Wrap the questions around process and not people.  And give them the chance to have a vent.  If something is badly wrong… you need to hear it and fix it … sharpish!

So if you’ve thought before reading this…. “ooh a survey would be a great sales tool to capture personal information and understand when people will next buy from us”…. sorry to burst the bubble.  You’ll get a rubbish response rate, you’ll damage your perception in the eyes of your contacts and most of all you might feel inclined to do it time and again because of the low costs that a DIY approach provides.

Surveys are for feedback and research.  Please don’t go using them to sell.

Are you happy?

Wednesday, May 12th, 2010 at 9:57 pm

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Are you?  Happy?  Are you happy?  Really?

What does that actually mean?  Happy?  Or strike me down before I say this …..  “satisfied”….*cringe*

We’re talking in a business context here.  Let’s say you are a business owner.  You visit your accountant, say, and they run through your financial accounts with you.  It’s been a hard year.  Your turnover is down, you’ve made a loss and you’ve laid people off in the period being reviewed.

Are you happy at that point?  No… of course not.  You’re downbeat, crestfallen, disappointed.  You’re as far from happy as you’re going to get.  You’re walking through a necessary evil of signing off your annual accounts.

So if your accountant takes the opportunity to get out his silly “are you happy” cards (and yes I’ve seen them in gory technicolour)… you’re not going to be too chuffed are you?

It doesn’t matter how jolly your accountant is, what cup you’re having your coffee in, or how your accounts are modernly bundled together.

So with this in mind…. why do so many feedback attempts follow the focus of asking how “Happy” people are?

And if someone sends you a survey, and you say no… I’m not “Happy”… what happens then?

The point that’s trying to be got over here is the question itself.

If you ask a silly question, you’re going to get a silly answer that at it’s worst could mislead you further into making the wrong decision.

I remember a few months back.  I was chatting with a person from Business Link in South Yorkshire and they were proudly boasting that they had satisfaction levels in excess of 93%.

So… I asked what that actually meant and for what services and what situations and from what sort of businesses and for what period.  Yes ok…. so maybe I knew the chap wouldn’t have a clue, but it was good sport! 

But do you see how pointless a question it is?  If I was one of the 7%… what happens?  They aren’t asking the question in such a way with such a context that they can fix the problem.  If they ask specifically about contact points and services and people involved… they might have a chance of nailing the issue and improving what they do.  But a wide open question… “Are you satisfied?”  It evades the point.

And sorry for echoing this point, but this point is really crucial.  A silly question results in a silly answer.  That makes the feedback process pointless and you alienate the person you’re asking.  It’s a bit like being asked by your banks call centre people if there’s anything else they can help with when you’re asking them to transfer accounts!  It’s pointless, daft and only going to raise the heckles.

So do us a favour.  The next time you receive a survey (online survey or paper) and it has a generic question that asks if you are “Happy” or god forbid even worse “Satisfied”… why not be playful and ask “about what?”  And if the timing is really silly… pick them up on it.

Feedback is a fantastic opportunity to really understand and improve how a business operates and what it could do to improve.  But like estate agents, traffic wardens, MP’s and bankers…. it’s easy to tar online surveys and any feedback process with the brush of annoyance.

Questions that have value, not questions that are vague.

That’s the way forward…. now…. as I’ve got that off my chest, I can step back down from my soapbox… back to watching the Fulham Europa League Final!

Thoughts about online survey design

Monday, January 25th, 2010 at 9:53 am

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We receive or are forwarded around a dozen online survey links a week, so it’s fair to say we see a wide variety of surveys and can make a solid judgement as to how we compare.

One of the main distinctions we see is how they look.  The design, the visual, the brand and identity.

We can’t believe that online survey products can look as bad as they do.  Let me give you an example.

Just last week we picked up an online survey link through Twitter asking us to take part in a survey relating to financial services.  Nothing wrong with that.  We followed the URL link and there in glorious bogey green (sorry but there really is no other way to describe it) was the survey.

For once we’ll ignore the content, instead we’ll focus purely on how it looks.

Firstly.  No brand identity.  None at all.  Just an awful shade of green.  And a darker shade of green on a top menu asking you to exit the online survey if you wish.

Black text.  All in arial.  Fine.  But nothing inspiring.

The text and headers all stretched across the page making it quite hard to follow the options and the questions on the page went on and on and on.  We’ve found people taking part in surveys prefer the questions to fit the length of a page as near as possible and then click to the next page.

And finally a simple microsoft grey “done” box with a mismatched font to the body text.

So why do we think that’s not good enough?

Firstly…. if you were writing to a client…. would you run off a black and white photocopy of your letter head … maybe on tracing paper or something equally random?  Would you be happy for the printer to be skewed so the printout is wonky or smudged?  Would you be happy if the page clipped the margins or ran on through the footer?

We hope not.  We all want our impressions to be good in the eyes of those who see us.  We want our letters to be accurate and professional.  We want e-mails to be spellchecked.  We want our brochures to be glossy and in our brand imagery.  All in all, we don’t want people thinking less of us.

So why….. I mean really, think about this….. why…. is it acceptable to send an online survey communication to hundred’s if not thousands of people that looks as bad as the letter example above?

The simple answer is “it isn’t” and the reason some people do is due to a lack of awareness of alternatives mixed with the fact many people just don’t think about the key issues before pressing the button to send a survey.

This is what we put at the heart of designing a survey template for a client at Clarity.

Firstly…. who’s the survey for?  Is it a young audience, an old audience, do they know you, or is it a new group of people?  All of these things impact on the structure of the survey and how we make it look.  Think about font size alone.

Secondly…. whitelabel (we use this when the client feels their presence would distort true results and opinions) or brand as the client?  If it’s the latter we ensure the survey is as good as (and in some cases better than) their website.  We look at their materials that clients would see and we wash that through the survey.

And we’re not talking a simple logo in a top corner.  We integrate images, logo’s, borders, font types, symbols, buttons, shading, spacing and everything needed to make the design the best it can possibly be.  Our client survey templates take around a day to put together (and once we’ve built the design template for a client, we don’t have to incur that investment again).

Imagine this.  Your biggest client clicks on the link and see’s a bogey green background.  No mention of your company.  The survey design doesn’t fit with your brand identity they are used to.  The survey language doesn’t fit the tone of the discussions they’ve experienced with you face to face.

You could easily forgive them for thinking it was spam or a phishing survey couldn’t you?  So what impact would that have?

Twofold.  A drop in survey response rate.  A drop in perception of your brand image and potentially professionalism.

So the next time you think about running a survey, pause, think it through and consider the following point…..

Would sending this survey create a more negative perception than it would positive?