Survey Best Practices, Part 2: Question Intent and Types

July 15, 2014

by Elizabeth Snyder

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Asking easily understood questions will increase your chances of gathering meaningful survey results.

Developing client surveys that are reliable and unbiased can be an intimidating task for financial advisors. Last month’s article, Survey Best Practices, Part 1, discussed best practices for survey format and design. This month, the focus shifts to best practices for crafting survey questions.

The goal is to develop easily understood, simply written questions that will increase your chances of collecting accurate and valid responses from survey participants.

Asking the right questions

In order to increase the relevancy and accuracy of your survey questions, it is important to ask questions that are clear and easily understood. In order to accomplish this, the first step is to determine your goal or objective for the survey (i.e., the data you are trying to collect by posing each question in your survey). While going through this process, be prepared to assess your questions to determine whether participants will be able to understand and answer them. To accomplish this goal, focus on developing questions that address the three factors below to gather useful responses from those taking your survey.

  • Suitable: Your questions should be applicable to the survey purpose and all participants. For example, if you are looking to collect clients’ feedback on the frequency of your firm’s marketing communication, such as a weekly or monthly blog or newsletter, you would not also include questions asking for feedback on a specific client event you hosted. Chances are that not all people taking the survey would have attended the event.
  • Understandable: Survey questions should be easy to read, understand and answer. This will increase the chances that someone will read the question all the way through before selecting their answer. When possible, keep your questions and answers concise and direct.
  • Effortless: Nearly everyone feels crunched for time, including your clients. Your questions should require very little effort to answer. Most people prefer to answer and complete surveys rather quickly, without spending time agonizing over their response. The more difficult you make it for them, the more likely they are to adopt strategies to get through the survey as quickly as possible. That will decrease the accuracy of responses you receive. As always, avoid questions that are double-barreled or leading or that include a double negative. Examples of these types of questions can be found here.

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