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Ten Tips to Getting Valuable Feedback Online



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Selling Your Business

It’s never been faster or less expensive to learn who your clients are. It’s also easier now to know what they think about your products and services; understand the concerns, needs and performance of your partners and employees; and get feedback from the people who matter to your business. Many online survey tools are available that simplify the creation, distribution, collection and analysis of data. Here are 10 ways to ensure that your survey gets the results you want.


Determine the Purpose of Your Survey: Identify the information needed and from whom it will be collected. Typical objectives include compare awareness of your product to your competitors’ conducted among your prospects; quantify attitudes and preferences about your products among your customers; and measure employee satisfaction.

2. Use Plain English: When writing the survey and invitation, use language that anyone can understand, such as "a survey" or "a few questions" instead of "research study." Avoid industry buzzwords and MBA- and tech-speak. They're useful as shorthand, but they exclude people who don’t happen to know the terms.
3. Entice Participation: When sending an email inviting participation, make your subject line short (30 - 40 characters including spaces, or 5-8 words), and include a specific benefit that accurately reflects the nature of the survey. For example, “Your Opinion Matters to (Your Company Name).”

In addition, strive to personalize the invitation. When a recipient’s name is not available, substitute a term such as colleague, subscriber or some other appropriate word. Make the invitation brief but be sure to explain why you’re doing the survey, how the recipient was selected and how long it will take to complete. Assure confidentiality and include a deadline.

4. Determine Your Sample and Size: Online surveys can be conducted by self-selection (advertising on Web site pages, newsgroups or traditional media to find participants) or randomly (in which the sample is emailed a survey because it’s representative of the population being surveyed). For random surveys, you can use your own internal lists or buy them from a broker. When you use the self-selecting technique, it’s very important that your questionnaire screen for the type of person you need information from.

The larger the sample, the more reliable the data. For example, a sample size of 100 has a 10% chance of error; a sample size of 1,000 reduces that margin to 3%. In addition, if you plan on segmenting data, you’ll need a larger sample.

5. Should I identify the Sponsor of the Survey or Not?: This is a very basic question. Your answer will be determined by whether the respondents’ knowing the sponsor will bias the results or improve the response rate.
6. Write a Questionnaire That Gets Answered: Make sure questions are clear and unambiguous. Requiring respondents to answer a question can be a real turn off -- require answers only on rare occasions. Open-ended questions take more thought and time to answer, so limit their number. A survey of no more than 20 questions works best.
7. Organize the Questionnaire: Ask general, easier-to-answer questions first. This will prepare respondents for more detailed questions that follow. Hold personal, more sensitive questions (such as age and income) until the end. Organize questions into sections that flow logically.

Increase Response Rates: Response depends on many variables, including the sample, sponsor and questionnaire design. But other factors can also come into play. Use an incentive – offer to include the respondent in drawing for $100 or a Palm. For each survey completed, you can also make a contribution to a charity. Offer to share results with the respondent. When sending by email, send Tuesday through Thursday between 10 AM and 3 PM. Send follow-ups to non-respondents.

9. Take Advantage of What Technology Has to Offer: Provide some indication of survey progress. With a mail survey, you can easily skip to the end of the survey to know how much you’ve completed. Not so with an online survey, which can seem like an endless stream of questions. So, give your respondents some indication of how much they’ve completed and how much more they have to go. In addition, allow them to interrupt and re-enter the survey. By having access to results while it’s in progress, you’ll be able to know if respondents are having trouble answering any of the questions.
10. Attend to the Details: Before you send, be sure to check the logic and skip patterns to ensure that the respondent can complete the survey easily and successfully. For example, make sure respondents are not asked about a product or feature when they had indicated no interest. Most commonly encountered errors in logic and skip pattern can easily be avoided.
Prepared by:

Geri Stengel, president of Stengel Solutions, a business strategist.  She can be reached at 212-362-3088 or E-mail

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Contact Geri Stengel at
  212.362.3088 or E-mail

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