The Problem with Surveys and How to Solve It

The problem with surveys is they are like peaches; either they are really good or they aren’t worth eating (doing).

The problem starts with the fact that the only reason you do a survey is to get information on which you can rely on for your decision-making. If you cut corners or put forth less than a full effort then questions will always remain. Can we rely on the data? Should we use the survey data or go with our expert opinion? Why didn’t we ask . . .? We should have asked . . .? That brings you right back to the point that led you to consider a survey in the first place.

At the start of any survey you have a question or hypothesis about which you want information. The survey data and subsequent analysis helps you make a solid decision driving specific actions. For example, “We have 150 customers telling us what their preference is. This is where we will focus first.”

If you compromise the survey effort you compromise your ability to rely on the data obtained.

Be careful if you find yourself saying any of these common refrains:

    1. “With online survey software, anyone can do a survey.”

    2. “My survey project is straightforward. I only have a few questions.”

    3. “I don’t have the budget to do a professional survey.”

Survey software has come a long way, but there is much more required to produce usable information from a survey. Also, remember no survey is straightforward. Even a poll that might ask only one question (“For” or “Against”) requires clear objectives, knowledge and experience to avoid bias that may lead to the wrong conclusion.

When you run across one of these red flags take a step back before you waste your time and money on data that is likely to create more questions than it answers.

The only dissatisfied client I’ve ever had was when I offered to help them with their survey project for a bare minimum, just to be nice! I should have known better and haven’t repeated that mistake since, although even I get tempted when I think, “this survey is really straightforward.” . . . It never is.

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