We know that many surveys are badly written and yield ambiguous results, but worse yet are surveys that ask 3 types of questions that damage the relationship with respondents.
1. No change is possible
Here are typical questions found on surveys given at trade shows, meetings, or training events:
- Did you like the location for our event?
- Was the classroom sufficient size for interaction?
- Was the hotel location convenient?
In many cases, the location, environment, and logistics cannot be altered. Events held in a certain city or hotel or classroom may well be held there again for the next event, regardless of the feedback received from attendees. When things are not changed, this will be interpreted by some attendees that you are not listening to what they say. You actually are listening, but simply cannot change those things in the way they have asked. Worse yet, many respondents will be aware of this and then wonder why their time is being wasted.
2. No change is intended
These questions are similar but more disastrous in that they give respondents the impression that change is possible based on what they say, but there really is no intention of changing:
- Would you prefer the show to be held 3 days rather than 4 days?
- Who should we invite as the keynote speaker?
These questions sound as if input is being gathered. Yet the reality may be that the show will be 4 days next year regardless of the input and the speakers are already lined up. Respondents may then get annoyed that their feedback was never intended to have been used.
3. Asking questions for which you already know the answers
This is a costly error, often damaging relationships with members, customers, and students. If it is a reasonable assumption that answers to questions are recorded elsewhere or that an organization should already know the answer, then find another way to obtain the answer. If your organization should know the answer but, in fact, do not, then this should be explained to respondents. Examples include:
- Membership surveys: Asking members for information as if they were strangers, such as their address, age, sex, or contact information
- Customer surveys: Asking recent customers for information that they know is already recorded elsewhere, such as their full name, date of most recent purchase, and email address.
- Training/Course surveys: Asking students to fill in any information that could already have been pre-filled on the form, such as today’s date, instructor name, course title, location or session.
Our time is our most precious possession. Yet many survey makers often expect their customers, members and other respondents to spend their limited time repeating known answers or giving feedback on things that will not change anyway. These types of questions will make your people think twice about answering any future surveys.
The solution? Re-read each item on your survey and ask yourself these questions:
- Do we already know the answer? Have we already asked this question? Can the answer be obtained from our records?
- If a majority of respondents agree that a change should be made, CAN it be made? Or WILL we make this change?