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minimise survey bias

Minimise survey bias in your on-site survey with these tweaks

Some time ago, we brought a guide to designing a better survey structure and how to avoid making various survey mistakes. In this blog, I want to address the fact that no matter how much you try, your survey will almost always contain bias in one way or the other. However, there are some things you can focus on to minimise survey bias. But first let’s look at the bias pitfalls. In the following, we are solely considering surveys in the physical space, like a survey station or exit interviews/surveys.

How do you present your survey?

If you are running a kiosk-based survey, maybe fixed in a tablet case or a kiosk stand which is placed conveniently somewhere, then solely because of the technology that you choose, you are creating a certain bias, often related to either age or gender.

In the same way, if people complete your survey via exit interviews, then it’s pretty much the same deal. In any survey where you approach the respondent to learn about their experience or get their feedback, there’s bias. And it’s two-fold: The interviewer will consciously or subconsciously select her respondents from certain criteria (other than the ones defined in pre-segmentation). This could either be the personal appearance, personality type or something completely different. But the respondent’s answer also depends on the interviewer. For example, if the interviewer is a young extrovert with a lot of energy as opposed to a person who is less engaging, then responses may vary.

So, no matter if you are doing your on-site surveys via interviews or survey stations, there’s bias!

Where do you place your survey?

An entirely different issue is where people complete your survey. Assume that you are bringing your car in for service. Do you think that your answers would differ, if you took the survey while in the waiting area, drinking coffee or if you were on your way out of the dealership? Chances are that you would make more of an effort to give a more accurate and descriptive answer, if you were sitting in the waiting area, right? I mean, if you’re heading out the door, you’re not going to invest as much time in answering because mentally you are already leaving the establishment.

Most organisations are interested in the service experience and hence they want to ask their customers when the experience is complete, but there’s always a trade-off between how much data you will get vs. how full a response you get.

survey tips

Survey design is important in order to minimise survey bias

The survey design itself is important. How you ask your questions, what conditional clauses are built into the questions etc. – i.e. is the respondent even able to answer the question properly?

Firstly, simply putting the survey questions in an order which is logical for the respondent is important. For instance, if the survey is about a service experience, then it’s important to ensure that the respondent has had an experience of some kind, meaning have they browsed, purchased, or been in contact with service staff. Therefore, it will always be key to ensure that the respondent has the fundamental ability to answer a given question. You can solve this problem easily by filtering the respondents so that they only see with relevant questions. In tabsurvey, we ensure this by introducing a simple flow in the survey.

Question phrasing

Another typical pitfall in a survey is the question phrasing. Phrasing a question with bias, is unfortunately quite common. Consider an employee survey, that examines employee satisfaction and maybe the level of stress in the organisation. Now consider the question: “On a scale from 1 to 5, how stressed do you currently feel?”. Well, the employee who doesn’t feel stressed at all, has no way of answering this question accurately. Even a 1-score, will indicate that she feels a little stressed out. So, the lesson is to be attentive to the phrasing of the question, as it otherwise won’t minimise survey bias.

The right predefined choices

Along the same lines, creating a question with predefined choices (single or multiple choice questions) can create bias. It could be as simple as “Where did you hear about us?” followed by a list of choices. But if the respondent’s preferred choice is not among them, then there’s bias. The solution is to always have an “Other” field, where the respondent can fill in a text-based answer. It may seem trivial, but nonetheless the “Other” choice is often not included in the list of choices. As a result, the respondent is unable to express her true opinion.

So, there it is. Use these simple guidelines when you conduct your surveys and you’re sure to minimise survey bias to the extent possible.






How to increase response rate for surveys on the go

In this blog post I want to shed light on factors that can influence the response rate if you are performing Surveys On The Go in general.

What are Surveys On The Go?

By Surveys On The Go I mean the type of survey which are available in the physical space and captures responses quickly and here and now. Obviously, the survey itself matters: the questions you ask and how your engage with your visiting audience. If you are interested in survey design in general and which survey strategy to adapt, you can read about it here and here. However, there are some other, external factors that can affect your response rate. One of these elements are the respondent turnover rate.

What is your respondent turnover rate?

The respondent turnover rate is defined by how quickly the population of respondents (surveyees) changes over time in the physical location you are surveying. For instance, if you are a retailer, and you are surveying your visiting customers, then your respondent turnover rate would be the number of new visitors your store gets divided by the number of total visitors. Imagine that your store receives 1,000 monthly visitors. Of these 300 visited your store the month before, and so they are repeat visitors. Your respondent turnover rate would be (300/1,000) x 100 = 30 percent.

surveys on the go


A place where the turnover rate is even higher would be in a Tourism Information Center or Welcoming Center. Naturally, the turnover rate would be high here because very few tourists would visit a welcoming center more than once. Therefore, the turnover rate would be close to 100 percent, as almost every visitor is new and unique.

At the other end of the scale, consider the cafeteria of a company. The employees here are asked about the satisfaction with the warm meal – every day. The respondent turnover rate here is close to zero.

In the examples given above, the overall motivation for answering a survey is, among other factors, dependent on the respondent turnover rate. I.e. the more times the respondent sees the same survey, the less motivated she would be to answer it. This is why you cannot apply the same kind of logic when performing, say, an employee engagement survey and a visitor center survey. Apart from the fact that there is a big difference in the composition of the respondents, there are some other factors that could affect your response rates.

Asking someone raises their expectations

Consider your company was surveying you in your cafeteria every day and that they asked the same question everyday: ”How did you like the warm dish today?”. The first time they ask, you rate it mediocre and comment that the chicken was dry. The following week, you get chicken again, and guess what: It’s still dry. When experiencing the dry chicken once again the third week, you simply don’t answer anymore, because what’s the point, right?

The lesson to be learned is that the lower the turnover rate of the respondents is, the more important it is for you as survey creator to ensure that the surveys you present are variated. Please see the below graph depicting a simplified correlation between survey variation and respondent turnover rate.


increase response rate


Ways to increase the response rate if respondent turnover rate is low

Areas where the respondent turnover rate is typically low includes: Internal employee engagement surveys, facility management services (like printing, cleaning, cafeteria etc.), educational institutions, and food businesses that have a very frequent, regular customer base.

For these and related segments, we recommend some of the following ways to increase the response rate for your surveys.

  • Stop-go approach. One solution is not to monitor continuously, but instead apply a stop-go approach. For instance, to survey for 1-2 weeks and then stop the survey for another 1-2 weeks.
  • Acknowledge and visualise results. In itself or in conjunction with the stop-go approach, a good way to spend the weeks of not surveying would be to acknowledge the feedback received, for instance by sharing the feedback with the respondents (customers, visitors, employees). This would create a common understanding of what feedback was given and identify what, if anything, needs to be changed.
  • Act. Acting on the results from any survey ensures high motivation from the respondents and raises the chances of higher completion rates in the future.
  • Change some questions. Keep some overall base questions but vary others to keep the survey from being too boring.

Dry chicken example revisited

So if you are asking about the warm meal of the day. Then follow up in the coming weeks with a different question, like: ”Is the chicken still dry?” or “If we were to change the menu away from chicken, what would you prefer, we changed it to?” (with alternatives). That way, you are signaling that you are actually listening and want to improve the services you provide.

Anyway, would love to hear your thoughts on this subject. Have you or are you performing surveys on the go in areas where the same people are passing through? How do you engage your respondents?

Best questions for a patient satisfaction survey


I remember when tabsurvey first started out as a Software as a Service (SaaS) company. For a few years we had been selling our service to customers that we approached directly. Either through cold canvassing or our network. But one day back in February 2012, we launched our service online for anyone to sign up for and try. It was quite existing for us, and I clearly remember our first signup. It was an Australian hospital, and their patient satisfaction survey was titled: Patient Centered Care. Since then other hospitals and medical institutions have started using our service for conducting patient satisfaction surveys of different kinds.

In this blog post I will deal with some issues related to patient satisfaction surveys. Firstly, the importance of conducting patient satisfaction surveys in the first place. Secondly, how a patient satisfaction survey differs from other satisfaction surveys in nature. Finally, I will address which key issues to focus on, what questions to ask, and lastly, how to ask them.


Why perform a patient satisfaction survey?

I have lived most of my life in Denmark, where we have a free and fairly well-functioning healthcare system. Therefore, you may ask yourself why it’s important to survey patients. You could argue that since there’s a public system in place, there really isn’t much of an alternative.

However, under different governments, the public healthcare system has been subject to large cost-saving initiatives. At the same time, we expect the same services for less money. Cutbacks, restructuring of work processes and new IT-systems are all part of the new reality for doctors, nurses and all other employees. As a consequence, and for various reasons, the public healthcare system needs to prove a point. It needs to prove to patients, politicians and society in general that it cares about the services it provides and patient satisfaction.

patient satisfaction survey


The private healthcare sector hasn’t not been subject to the same political pressure, but still it finds itself in an increasingly competitive market. Over the past 15-20 years, the use of private healthcare has been become popular in Denmark. So, not only is personal health a very important matter to most people, making related KPIs important to track. The sector is also subject to increased competition, which means that patient satisfaction becomes a business critical KPI. Both in the private and public healthcare sector.

Most countries in the world don’t have public healthcare, and for that reason running patient satisfaction surveys is even more relevant. There are some pitfalls, however, which I will address below.

Focus areas for patient satisfaction surveys

You know the term “the customer is always right”, right? In retail surveys we assume that making the customer happy and satisfied will yield positive ratings and more business. If the customer purchases an item for a competitive price and receives good service, then we expect the feedback to be positive. However, when dealing with healthcare, there’s a distinction between what a patient needs and what a patient wants.

Let me give you an example: A patient is receiving treatment for her back injuries. Between her and a medical specialist in charge there’s a discussion regarding the course for the treatment. The patient wants an operation, but the specialist advocates back exercises and pain-killers – a more moderate approach. Consequently, the patient may rate her treatment poorly even though the suggestions from the medical specialist were the best approach. In such a case, high overall satisfaction may not necessarily be the end gold in itself, but a range of benchmark criteria could be.

According to the Hospital Consumer Assessment of Healthcare Providers and Systems (HCAHPS) the following nine areas are key to a patient satisfaction survey:

  • Communication with doctors
  • Communication with nurses
  • Responsiveness of hospital staff
  • Pain management
  • Communication about medicines
  • Discharge information
  • Cleanliness of the hospital environment
  • Quietness of the hospital environment
  • Transition of care

These key areas would be accompanied by various questions about demographics. As you can probably tell from the above, a lot of focus revolves around communication and information, and this plays well into the strategy of Patient Centered Care.


Patient Centered Care as a guiding principle

Simply put, patient centered care is a strategy or philosophy where all activities in a hospital or other medical facility is mapped to the patient’s needs. According to NEJM Catalyst Patient Centered Care means that: “…the healthcare system’s mission, vision, values, leadership, and quality-improvement drivers are aligned to patient-centered goals.” They list six other criteria, e.g. the delivery of care, physical comfort, patient preferences, the role of patient families and how information is shared.

patient centered care

NEJM goes on to say that one of the benefits of Patient Centered Care is “improved satisfaction scores among patients and their families”. That means that some of the elements of patient centered care can be surveyed and hence become important KPIs for further scrutiny. This is why patient satisfaction surveys support patient centered care so well. It simply ensures that there’s an constant focus on the patient’s goals.

Take for instance the element of communication and information. From a patient point of view, it can be fairly easy to recall how she feels informed and communicated to, but for the responsible doctor or nurse, who sees maybe 25 patients in one day, it can be difficult to recall the dialogue, or the process around the handover of patient information etc. Hence, it’s difficult to reflect on a single patient’s feedback especially if its presented in a monthly or quarterly satisfaction report.


Best questions for a patient satisfaction survey

Using a tablet-based survey service like tabsurvey can serve as an enabler for dialogue, feedback, understanding and eventually better patient retention. We propose a two-tier strategy where you survey satisfaction on the day-to-day interactions with quick surveys.


patient satisfaction surveys


Bearing in mind the focus areas mentioned earlier in this post, some of the best questions for patient satisfaction surveys include:

  1. How would you rate the communication with medical staff today?
  2. Did the care provider listen to your questions or concerns?
  3. How well did the staff work together in their care for you?
  4. Do you have confidence in your current care provider?
  5. How well were you informed about the procedure you are undergoing today?
  6. Based on your most recent experience, would you recommend our clinic to a family member or friend?
  7. Were our staff friendly and forthcoming today?

The purpose of these questions is to ensure that all personnel strive towards the underlying KPIs. These KPIs are, in turn, often linked to vision, mission, values and culture. In other words when people know what KPIs they are measured on, then their behaviour will automatically follow.

The long term KPIs, which would focus on the long term goals of a treatment (i.e. being cured), would not be art of the survey, as respondents would not be able to answer properly until a certain period of time had passed. The medical staff could present such questions on a follow-up consultation or as a survey link via an email.

Hope you enjoyed today’s post and hope that you might start using tabsurvey for your patient satisfaction survey.

Best Alternatives to Mystery Shopping

4 reasons mystery shopping is dead and best alternatives to mystery shopping

In today’s blog post I’ll discuss why I believe that mystery shopping is becoming increasingly irrelevant in today’s retail world. I’ll also touch upon what the best alternatives to mystery shopping are.


What is mystery shopping?

I used to work for a company that was in the business of mystery shopping. For those of you who don’t know want mystery shopping is let me explain.  It’s a way to investigate if a physical store is living up to certain KPIs or standards. The KPIs could be service levels, store interior or if certain procedures were followed. Questions like “How well did the sales representative ask open-ended questions” or “How did the sales representative present alternatives for the customer that fit customer needs” would be quite typical questions.

Often well-renowned companies would pay mystery shoppers to appear unannounced (it’s a mystery shopper, remember?) to make a purchase or at least pretend they would.

mystery shopping kpi

After the visit, the shopper would write down his or her report based on the predefined KPIs and questions. Once these were noted down on paper outside the store, she would find a computer and enter the data in a web form. The end result would be a report to be presented to service executives and store managers.

I remember the hassle of working with the network of shoppers. Sometimes I would have to ask distant family members for favors, because a shopper had made a last minute cancellation. Sometimes I would even have to make the long drive to a location myself just to make the fake purchase. However, the service was quite popular for retail companies in particular.


Mystery Shopping as a performance tool

Many companies would use the reports to set up balanced score card reports. These would in turn be used for employee incentive programs and bonus payments.

mystery shopping quality management

Quite unfair, in some instances, as the store personnel often knew what the mystery shopper looked like, because it often would be the same shoppers for specific retail chains, or because the shopper always appeared at the exact same period of the month, or in the same vehicle and presented themselves in non-credible way.

An example could be a mystery shopper paying a BMW dealership a surprise visit on a bike. He would even into the store with his bicycle helmet still on! Of course he could have just won the lottery, and then decided to upgrade his means of transportation, but then again those odds are pretty slim at best. Sometimes the store would complain internally, arguing (rightfully) that the customer wasn’t credible enough.


Selling mystery shopping back in the day

However, there was no alternative back then, so the mystery shopping reports sold quite well. They could also be used as a door opener for new business. The telephone conversation would go something like this: “Good morning, sir/madam. I’m calling from xx. I wanted to let you know that we recently visited three of your stores in X area. Our mystery shoppers discovered some interesting patterns in the service experience in these stores, which we would like to share with you in a meeting. For free – no strings attached”.

If the potential client accepted (and they often did), then we would need to go and make those mystery visits happen (because obviously we didn’t make that investment, before it was necessary), and prepare a report. And quite often we would land the client for more mystery shopping business or, even better, some consulting work.


The future for mystery shopping

So what does the future look like for mystery shopping? Well, here at tabsurvey we believe its part of a dying breed for four reasons:

1. Fake customers

Firstly, there’s the issue of asking real vs. fake customers. Most retailers would surely like the opinion of real customers rather than that of a fake customer. Bearing in mind that there are questions you couldn’t possibly ask a real customer – like:

  • “Were all lights in the store lit?”
  • “Did the sales person wear a visible nametag?” or
  • “Did the sales person try to up-sell?”

questions for mystery shopper– all questions that, although relevant for an audit, most real world customers either would not want to or would not feel comfortable answering. So I guess if the questions that a company wants to have answered are mostly concerned with store audit or internal standards and procedures (that no real customers care about), then they should definitely continue using mystery shopping.

mystery shopping survey questions

2. High cost

Secondly, there’s the cost involved. In a mystery shopping context, there’s human effort and billable hours involved. Ten years ago in Denmark, an average, fairly uncomplicated mystery shopping visit would cost anything between €100-€150 per visit (roughly $120-$175), which, compared to the investment for an iPad Survey Kiosk App system, would pay a software license for 8 months (assuming €19 per month). Then you also need some hardware, but still it, by far, outweighs the cost of mystery shopping.

3. Low feedback volume

Thirdly, there’s the sheer volume of responses. Based on our data, it’s reasonable to assume a hit rate of between 1-3 percent in high volume traffic retail outlets. Assuming traffic in a store is 1,000 visits per month, wouldn’t you rather be getting between 10 and 30 responses than just a single?

4. Feedback lag

Finally, there’s the timing issue. Having worked with establishing sound feedback cultures in organizations in my prior work life, I know that getting feedback on your behavior, that stretches more than a few weeks back, simply doesn’t have any impact in terms of changing behavior. So what’s the point if, as an employee, you’re receiving feedback on your ability to ask relevant open-ended questions, if that experience lies back one month. It doesn’t make much sense.

For all these reasons it’s therefore important to identify the best alternatives to mystery shopping. We’ll address that briefly below.


Best Alternatives to Mystery Shopping

So it’s good news that since the 90s and 00s, great alternatives have become available. Today, one of the best alternatives to mystery shopping for retail is in-store surveys. They have become quite popular, as they offer real customer feedback in real-time, and in a much more cost-effective way.

best alternatives to mystery shopping

Systems that engage with the customer via their phone, or through tablet-based or kiosk-based platforms are also becoming increasingly popular. Proprietary systems with mechanical buttons are also getting market share, offering a more simple (and less demanding) input from respondents, but simultaneously also giving less degrees of freedom in the type of survey your want to give your customers. Finally, there’s the transactional or post-purchase-surveys that are effective, but only focus solely on the purchaser and not the non-purchasers.





We hope you found this month’s post interesting. Please post a comment below if you have something on your mind.


The learning curve of curious organisations


I have worked with retail organizations over the past 10 years. In that time I have come to learn a few things about the dynamics within them. In this blog post, I want to shed light on what happens when curious organisations start new customer experience projects. Initial high focus from C-level management and well-meaning intentions from many places in the organisation can often lead to misguided attempts to acquire information about your customers. The consequence being fewer answers harvested, too complex data sets and – more importantly, annoyed customers. The objective of this blog entry is to share some of our experiences. Hopefully it will also inspire curious organisations to reflect on the findings below and maybe stay clear of the pitfalls.

New project, new interest

Many of you have probably tried this: Your organisation is on the verge of implementing new technology. Many people involve themselves in order to have impact on the implementation because it’s new and it has management’s attention. This new technology could be a physical, in-store feedback system like tabsurvey.

curious organisations

All of the necessary hardware, software and services are in place in order to roll out the system. Now it’s time to decide what to ask your customers. People from HR are involved. They want to know how customers feel about the store employees’ ability to assist the customers. The sales department are keen to find out if the customers were offered any complementary products and accessories. Store operations want to learn if the customers like the new store merchandising and marketing thinks it’s pivotal to understand if the customers came by because of the latest Facebook campaign.

In this setup curious organisations that are large and consensus-driven struggle to keep a specific focus for the survey. The result is – unfortunately – a compromise. Everybody gets a chance to influence the questionnaire, and the influences are many. In our time working with retail clients, we have seen surveys with 30 questions – all pointing in different directions. Not exactly the kind of survey that a visiting customer would answer quickly while shopping.

The customers suffer

“Feedback is a gift” as they say. So why make it so difficult to give it? Customers that genuinely want to give some feedback on the experience they’ve had are often facing lengthy surveys that focus on everything from their socio-economic status to whether or not they were able to locate the new organic products.


listen to the customer

The result is both low completion rates and the risk of annoying the hell out of your customer. You may even risk impacting your cNPS (Customer Net Promoter Score) negatively, which seems futile, considering the entire point of the project in the first place.

We have heard of examples where companies – in addition to asking their customers more than 20 questions, also demanded that each and every respondent give up their full name, email address and telephone number. But why? Would the customer’s experience be less valid because they were anonymous? In today’s IOT reality with transactional surveys popping up everywhere and surveys embedded on most websites, the competition for the respondent’s time is fierce. Therefore, each moment of time that you ask from your customer, should be well worth their time. That means that they should have a valid opinion about the topic and feel that they are really making a difference to the surveyor (you).

Less action, more talk

Less action and more talk may not be the ideal outcome of a customer experience management project, but none the less this could be the end result. Long surveys produce even longer datasets. Due to the many focus areas, too many people are involved in interpreting the results, creating a sense of shared responsibility. And as we all know if everybody shares the responsibility then eventually nobody owns up to it.

Take-aways for curious organisations

Conducting surveys should never become an objective in itself. They should merely serve as a necessary means to reach an objective. “Well obviously”, many will say, but in large organisations things have away of getting complex very fast, due to inherent nature of the organisation itself.

The assertive project leader should be asking herself and her group:

  • “What’s the purpose of this project?”
  • “What do we want to accomplish or avoid with the information this survey will give us?”
  • “How do we act on it, in order to make the necessary changes?”

Well, although these are valid questions, project leaders often don’t ask them because they are hard to answer and could in turn lead to even more comprehensive projects. In order to try to counter some if these driving forces, we have gathered some recommendations for curious organisations in the following.

  • Keep your survey short and focused. Read more about this topic in this blog
  • When changing focus of a survey, be sure to keep one or two baseline questions that you always ask. This will ensure continuity in your surveys over time. The questions should be key to your operational goals and support your overall business strategy (e.g. for a fast food restaurant: “Was your meal warm when you received it?” or “Did our staff meet you with a smile today?”)
  • Place your survey in convenient places for the respondent (customer)
  • Be sure that customer surveys stay top-of-mind in your organisation by involving key stakeholders and distributing relevant, easy-to-translate reporting to management and the customer-facing colleagues.


Be sure to tune back in again soon!


Survey methods for better strategic fit

The two sides to business feedback (Part 2)

Last article gave an account of the two main approaches to surveys; namely, push and pull. Today’ blog will focus on getting the mix right for you and your organisation. We give you four essential questions that, when answered, will give you a clearer view of your best fit in terms of survey methods.

Getting to the right mix is not a one solution fix for all companies and will change along with context. Rather, it is a roadmap to understanding important factors of influence. What is a best fit for your organisation will likely fail for others. So, factor in the difference, take what you can use from the questions below and find your ideal fit!


Continue reading →

push pull survey strategy

Survey strategy for cost-efficiency, culture and needs

The two sides to business feedback (Part 1)

Setting a good approach for your survey is an important step to getting the good results that you want! Today’s article will focus on which survey strategy to use to collect data. Namely push and pull. These two approaches are similar to marketing efforts. Continue reading →

improving workplace

The added benefits of improving the workplace for your employees

Enjoy higher customer loyalty and recommendation

Tabsurvey has over a three month period collaborated with Hotel Manager, Mattias Thorsteinsson at Cabinn City Hotel by providing software and help for his research. In order to enhance the quality of the customer experience the research objective was clear: The objective was to research the correlation between improving the workplace satisfaction and value of services provided (customer loyalty and satisfaction).

The backbone of the hypothesis was grounded in the Service-profit chain framework developed by researchers at Harvard university (Heskett, Jones, Loveman, Sasser & Schlesinger).

Continue reading →

improved communication roskilde festival

Improved communication at the second largest festival in Europe

Despite intense workload and more than 130.000 people in attendance, Roskilde Festival improved communication throughout the entire week.

improved communication roskilde festival

This year, tabsurvey attended Roskilde Festival and had a blast. We got a close look at how the machine behind the great festival operates and were purview to the new structure at Roskilde Festival that is developing. Roskilde Festival used tabsurvey to look at the internal relations amongst the different stakeholders. This was done to focus on improved communication and teamwork amongst the different groups operating within Roskilde Festival.

Continue reading →

better survey structure

Stronger brand image through better survey structure

Collect more data and ensure a positive experience for your responders

A how-to-guide on designing a better survey structure

There are many important aspects to consider when you are designing a survey. Each is good for it’s own purpose and depend in large by the nature of your survey. You might look solely on the forming of the questions and deal with bias and validity. You could also view the survey as an in-depth overview of several areas and create a large generic survey. Here at tabsurvey, we go for the simple, small survey that is easy on the eye and get a lot of answers. In similar vain as previous posts on placement and appeal, todays blog looks to designing a better survey structure that is easy to respond to and reflects well on you or your organization.

improve survey structure

Often when a company or a person decide to work with surveys, it stems from a need for more information. This could be information about a specific subject i.e. customers, employees, happiness, brand perception etc. This need can come as an epiphany of suddenly realizing that there are areas of knowledge deficit (four stage competence building) or simply from new industry dynamic indicators. We believe that acknowledging areas of knowledge deficit is a major step for improvement (hey, we live from this need). However, there are often issues with the first few surveys that are designed. Today’s blog will go through some of the major issues that we see in surveys.

One concern when working with typical surveys is the abandonment rate – the percentage of which responders discontinue the survey. Research show, as a survey reaches 30 questions or more, the percentage of respondents who fulfil the entire survey decreases drastically – 10 percent dropout for every 20 questions asked (Research paper & SubscriptionInsider). This research is for the standard online survey taken at the respondents’ own leisure. This percentage sees a higher escalation with a physical location as you are ‘interrupting’ responders in their daily lives. Your customers will most likely not appreciate having to stand next to the cash register plotting in answers for more than a minute.

Why asking 30 questions is plain old rude

As we discussed in placement and appeal, the attraction rate is crucial to generate a lot of data. In essence, the attraction rate is the percentage of customers you can attract to your physical survey. If you wish to attract higher numbers of responders to your survey, you need consider a few things. A good idea is to state how many questions you are asking or how long the survey will take. If you downplay the time it will take, abandonment rate increases as customers become frustrated. This frustration might create an unfavorable attitude towards your survey or your brand. On the other hand, if you are transparent about your 35+-question survey, attracting responders becomes increasingly difficult with higher number of questions in your survey. In a sense a survey with Tabsurvey that has a lot of questions balances on a tradeoff between attraction-rate or abandonment-rate.

So how do you avoid the trade-off? The solution is simple.

Ask fewer questions

ask fewer questions

We see the best results when surveys are designed with less than 10 questions – ideally a maximum of 7 questions. This number of questions takes around 30 to 40 seconds to answer for the respondent. At the same time it yields enough data to compute correlations or delve into deeper insights.

You might now be thinking that 7 questions are not nearly enough to cover your need of information. Your need from the epiphany is more encompassing and 7 questions is not enough to cover your need. But 7 questions is actually a lot if you keep a clear focus on the purpose of your survey. There are several ways to gain the more specific knowledge with tabsurvey. For instance, if you are looking for causes, a multiple select question can cover what several questions can accomplish, in one. If you want specific knowledge on a target group then you can incorporate flows into your survey. So while the survey contains i.e. 13 questions, each responder will only be faced with 7 questions as the flow is created from previous answers.

Unfocused survey

One of the major pitfalls we see in surveys is managers’ that try to generate a numerous streams of data from the customers, jumping from one area of focus to another. These surveys are often characterized as large surveys, which cover a broad range of very different questions. These questions go from; factual information → purchase behaviour → brand perception → customer experience → employee performance → NPS all in one survey (not necessarily in that order).

Talk about question overload.

We recommend that you stay on topic (remember the focus of your survey). It is better to go in-depth with a physical survey than grasp at everything. If there are several areas you need information, then why not split the survey into part and conduct them through different channels or locations. Remember, it is free information given to you from the customers, so don’t transgress on their willingness to help.

If you are sitting at the end of this blog and still wondering why designing your survey is important then reflect back on the previous post. We, as in people, consume ideas and information. How this information is designed, impacts our attitude towards the sender. For a company who is using tabsurvey, remember that the way you communicate reflects back on your brand, your professionalism, the identity of the company and the general perception customers have of you.

Consider the effect on the customer if you start the survey with the message “help us improve – answer a few questions” and it actually takes 5 minutes to finish.

How does this reflect back on you?


Any person creating and working with surveys should always hold focus on what is important for the survey. To structure a survey that sends a good image of your company, work with flows so questions build upon previous answered questions. This sends the message that you are in a sense listening to your customers and aware of their previous answers. Next, to ensure a low rate of abandonment, stick to the agreed upon expectations of the survey – stay transparent in your dealings with customers. Lastly, to generate as many answers as possible, limit your questions to a maximum of 7. This is important to not transgress on customer’s willingness to give feedback.

Stay tuned for our next blog on the art of writing questions for optimal responses.

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