Six Tips to Shorten Your Survey

Verint Team July 15, 2013

We all hate taking long and tedious surveys. But when creating them for our own organizations we sometimes struggle to keep them short and to the point. Everybody has questions they want included!  The secret to making surveys shorter is looking at them from the respondent’s perspective.  Hiding questions, showing random subsets of questions, and asking questions in a later survey are all ways to shorten a survey from an individual’s perspective.

Here are six top tips to shorten your survey:

1)      Answer the Questions Yourself 

For customer and prospect surveys, take a hard look at the questionnaire to see which questions can be answered by looking up the data from an appropriate system at your organization.  If this is a questionnaire following up  on a customer service call for instance, since your call-center software tracks how long the call was and stores a code indicating the type of inquiry, you don’t need to ask the respondent for that information.

For the demographic section of your survey, your CRM system should have many basic facts about the respondent, such as their age, gender and address.  Taking the time to integrate your community feedback system with your other systems can easily cut 10% of the questions you ask. From a respondent’s perspective, those are often the most tedious and annoying questions to answer as well!

2)      Don’t Ask All the Questions

Use skip patterns and randomization to show respondents different subsets of the questionnaire.  One example of this is a hotel handing out a short paper survey to luncheon attendees at a conference.  While some key questions were the same, the list of attributes to be rated varied from survey to survey. This way the hotel was able to gather detailed information across many aspects of its services without overwhelming any one individual respondent.

3)      Ask Only the Most Important Questions

A common research tactic is to address a key issue with three or more questions, all with very similar wording.  This is important only for benchmarks. For instance, here’s one organization’s three questions related  to corporate image – asking the respondent to rate a corporation’s image, asking them to think of how their friends’ would rate the corporate image, and then asking them to rerate the corporate image when thinking of how well the company does compared to the competition.  If you’re not benchmarking a particular measure – reduce it to ONE question.

4)      Don’t Ask Questions the Respondent Wouldn’t Understand

Sometimes surveys go into excruciating detail about very minor aspects of a product or service.  This is understandable from the perspective of the corporation, which is responsible for every tiny detail. However, many of these distinctions are too subtle for the respondents.  The questionnaire might use industry and technical terms that respondents don’t know or misunderstand.

For cases like this, conduct some qualitative interviews by phone, focus group – or most efficiently – by using your online community. This research can make sure that you are using language the respondent understands and making distinctions that are important to the respondent.  Where you are not – get rid of those questions.

5)      Don’t Ask for the Sake of Asking

Look hard at the questionnaire to see if the answer to a question will help you with your current decision making.  Sometimes, when writing a questionnaire, you begin to think “It would be nice to know…”.  How would knowing this particular answer help you?  If it wouldn’t, then get rid of the question. Or, if you really can’t stomach that, show it only to a random subset of respondents.  For instance, often pricing questions are inserted into surveys that aren’t about pricing. These are good candidates to postpone to some later study.

6)      Survey More Frequently 

Finally, if you have many questions on a different topic, then consider running a separate survey on that topic later.  The less frequently your organization conducts surveys, the greater the desire to squeeze everything into one survey.  By doing surveys more often, you alleviate this—by using random sampling and enterprise feedback management, you can make sure that you are not over-surveying.