The world is full of well-intentioned people who believe that anyone with a facile pen and common sense can draw up a survey. Though this may often be the case, very thorough preparation is needed in order to draw up a good survey.
The utility and reliability of the results is highly dependent upon the tool used.
Where personal or telephone interviews or even surveys sent by post are still standard practice, the Internet has these last five years increasingly emerged as a very fast and cost-effective medium for conducting (satisfaction) surveys.
A survey sent by e-mail is much less expensive than the traditional methods such as the personal interview, telephone interview, or a survey sent by post. The processing required for such traditional methods is very time-consuming compared with our on-line surveys, where the results can be analysed rapidly and efficiently. Furthermore, the influence of the interviewer (response bias) is virtually non-existent in online surveys, in particular thanks to the randomising of the response options.
Online surveys are normally used when direct contact with the respondents is not necessary or not possible, and are probably the most widely used data collection method worldwide. Experts estimate that some half of the research studies conducted use a survey as part of the data collection process.
People who wish to use a survey as a scientific instrument to collect valid and reliable data, should proceed in a well thought out and phased manner.
In-house or outsourcing?
Conducting what is known as an online satisfaction survey leads to the unavoidable question of whether to conduct the survey in house or to outsource.
If your firm does not assess honestly its internal limitations in terms of IT infrastructure, manpower and research expertise, such an initiative could prove costly.
It is often better to entrust the task to an independent service provider, whose core competence is to create, disseminate and analyse such on-line satisfaction surveys.
The extensive offer of on-line survey providers who boast to have the requisite experience and technology in house, can make choosing a reliable tool rather difficult and confusing. A few tips are given below to facilitate your search for a suitable partner.
Make sure that the on-line survey tool that you choose offers extensive functions and possibilities that have already been tried and tested on the market.
Look up the list of references (or clients) contained on every good website. If necessary, ask for references that you can contact by telephone.
The application must be powerful and capable of sending several thousand e-mails within a short period of time, and yet simple enough to be used for small projects. The system must also be modular and sufficiently flexible to meet your specific wishes and budget.
It is best for the survey system chosen to deal with bounced mails and unsubscribe automatically by means of a sophisticated application which simplifies this generally very labour-intensive process.
This will also prevent your ‘Inbox” from being flooded with bounced e-mail messages.
Check how simple it is to draw up surveys with the look and feel of your company and to be able to use this layout again later.
Use the information that you already have: Make sure that the on-line survey tool has a dynamic import function that you can use to enter data already known about your respondents (name, sex, address, etc.) in surveys that are sent via e-mail invitations. This will enable you to draw up on-line reports that meet your goals and expectations to the full. You can identify isolated consumer groups, analyse trends and feedback from (dis)satisfied consumers and customers about several products/services or locations, etc.
Working in group (e.g. by aliases on your log-in) is an important feature that enables you to access your surveys and to share results with colleagues.
It’s about the results
Make sure that the data that you collect can be analysed in different ways, and that various reports can be drawn up and segmented in accordance with the data that you have imported in the system, e.g. per region, country, business unit, sector, sex, etc.
The system must also be capable of disseminating reports and sharing results with a group of interested parties, such as through an online reporting portal with personal log-in.
It is also important for the tool to have the flexibility needed to create the reports that you need – not only those imposed by the provider’s own favourite methodology – and that the results are directly available for further analysis in time-saving file organisation, such as SPSS (.sav) and Microsoft Excel (.xls).
Panel management & multilingual
Make sure that the technology you select has a panel management system to prevent it from being overwhelmed by your consumers/clients. Ask your provider beforehand which frequency he recommends for clearing surveys.
For a standard customer satisfaction survey, a typical questionnaire is sent to the entire list of customers every four or every two years.
The globalisation of commerce nowadays requires a capacity to generate feedback from all overseas entities. If applicable, make sure that the survey tool you select makes it possible to draw up surveys in both European and non-European countries, so that your (customer) satisfaction survey can get a factual reflection and worldwide feedback.
Online survey software providers – separate the wheat from the chaff! Make sure that the on-line survey, in particular the satisfaction survey is the core activity of your survey provider. Ask for how long the firm has already existed, what sort of clients it has, in which sectors it is active, how many surveys/respondents it can handle, how many responses have already been generated through the years, etc.
Try to estimate the degree to which the service that the provider offers meets your expectations. Are you getting sufficient advice? Is there sufficient support for you as a client, but also for the respondents? Is this support free of charge, rapid, multi-lingual?
Ascertain that the firm has a rapid response team, and that it provides both on-site and telephone help, as well as on-line and telephone technical support. An on-line tour of the site is very practical and will save you a great deal of search and puzzle work.
Make sure that people have a sufficient grasp of the objectives for this project. Let them give the necessary instructions of how you can best draw up / perform your customer satisfaction surveys in order to get the best possible results. Ask also for tips on how to enhance the response.
If a professional market survey methodology and a correct procedure are followed, people should be able to advise you about every aspect of your survey project, the frequency, design and programming to measure, sampling, planning and implementing, reporting and analysis.
Try before you buy
And last but not least, assess the degree of difficulty – and thus of flexibility – of the tool that you wish to use, by means of a free test survey, if available as a standard. If not, ask the provider for free test. If necessary, also ask about the possibilities for customised work (question types, creation, design, analysis to measure, etc.).
Finally, you can ask for a demonstration of the tool, so as to be able to assess better the power and user-friendliness of the system, as well as the flexibility and the support that the firm offers.
If you are convinced that you can work together with the partner you have chosen in a pleasant and effective manner, you can gauge the satisfaction of your customers (consumers) with peace of mind. Because the numbers tell the tale! And keeping a customer satisfied is often as profitable as making a new customer.