Part 2 of 10: Tips to Writing The Perfect Survey

Lessons Learned from Programming 2,000 Surveys Over 20 Years

You can find the start of this series here. As you are going through this article, please 👍 and share if you find things useful. 

Tip 2: Stay on Point & Keep it Short

You may have heard the adage,

“Every dog has to pee on the tree.” 

I’ve personally programmed well over 2,000 surveys and authored at least a quarter of that. The single biggest and most common problem with surveys is scope creep.

Once you finish writing your survey you usually show it to stakeholders who, inevitably, have edits and additions. These additions are hard to push back on because, after all…

adding questions gives you additional data. 

But remember, a human being is on the other end of this survey. Taking a survey takes energy, focus and discipline.

Just think about the last long survey you took. At about 4 minutes, respondents start caring less about giving you correct answers and more about just finishing the survey. I’ve done tests on this with top brands where I take known transactional data like last item purchased and ask respondents,

What was the last item you purchased? 

Comparing stated response to their actual behavior we see respondents’ recall accuracy is over 90% at the start of a survey but falls to nearly 60% after minute 6.

So, how can you ensure your survey doesn’t suffer from question bloat? When writing your survey…

include the objective

 at the top of your survey. 

Below is an example of a survey I created yesterday…

Owner Survey Objective: Identify optimal product price for units and revenue

This creates clarity for you and your stakeholders. Every question asked will be viewed through this lens. If it doesn’t inform the objective then ruthlessly cut it. Remember, “nice to know” will compromise the quality of your findings.


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