How Do I Effectively Survey Someone?

It doesn’t matter if you’re gathering customer feedback, conducting employee evaluations,How do I effectively survey someone? or planning an event. The first step to creating an effective survey is to learn the basics of survey science. You have the option of asking open-ended questions, which asks people to add personal remarks. Or closed-ended questions, that give people a fixed number of answers to choose from.

These closed-ended answers can include yes/no, multiple-choice, or the Likert rating scales.

Once you’re able to write great survey questions, you will be on your way to getting the accurate responses that you need to achieve your goals.

9 Best Practices to Create Effective Surveys

1. Have a clear goal in mind            2. Start with short and simple questions

3. Don’t make it too long                  4. Use check box or multiple-choice questions

5. Give a gift incentive                      6. Be specific, not prejudiced in your questions

7. Leave absolutes out                      8. Don’t use double-barreled questions

9. Preview your Survey before sending

These are my top 9 tips and techniques to help you keep your survey on track.

1. Your survey should have a clear goal that is achievable

What is a clear, achievable goal? Let’s look at an example. Imagine that you are trying to figure out why customers are leaving your business at an alarming rate. Rather than focusing on getting more customer satisfaction, you should focus on understanding the key factors leading customers to leave your business – whether these are internal or external forces.

Once you have established your goal, you can refer to it to prioritize the questions you need to be answered.

2. Start with short and simple questions

You should keep your first set of questions short and simple and gradually move to more personal topics (often in the form of demographic, gender, and age questions).

Treat your survey like a conversation. You would engage in small talk, start gently, and then gradually move to more personal topics.

3. Your survey should not be too long

Your respondents will most likely be doing you a favor by answering your survey. It’s a great way to respect your respondents’ time. You’ll get a higher completion percentage and more thoughtful answers to any questions asked.

4. Concentrate on closed-ended questions

What is meant by closed-ended? These are questions that provide pre-populated answers for the respondent, such as checkboxes or multiple-choice questions. These questions are simpler for respondents to answer, providing you with quantitative data that you can use in your analysis.

Open-ended or free-response questions ask for the respondent’s feedback in their own words. Because such questions are more difficult to answer, limit your survey to only 1 or 2 of these. Make sure in your own mind that it is necessary to ask that open-ended question, will it give you the answers that you are looking for?

5. You might consider including a survey incentive

An incentive can help you get more responses if you are keen to do so. There are many options for incentives, from inviting respondents to a sweepstake drawing or gift cards if they answer all the questions. Or some valuable information.

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6. Ask specific questions that aren’t prejudiced

This means that you should not add your own opinions to the prompt. This can affect respondents’ experiences if they do not respond to the question prompt.

Instead of asking, “How helpful or unhelpful was our friendly customer service representative?” ask: “How helpful or unhelpful was our customer service representative?”

7. Absolutes can hurt your response quality

Absolutes include words like “every,” “always,” or “all” within the prompt. We use these words to make respondents agree or disagree with a question prompt that is strong without allowing for more nuanced opinions.

Consider the following example:

“Do you eat breakfast every day?”

  1. a. Yes
  2. b. No

The responses can’t show that respondents eat breakfast all the time, sometimes only occasionally, or even most of the day. However, you won’t be able to tell the difference because of the way you structured your question.

It would be better to ask:

“How often do you eat breakfast?”

  1. a. Every day
  2. b. Most days
  3. c. Rarely

8. Avoid asking questions that are too complicated

A double-barreled question refers to asking for feedback on multiple subjects in one question.

Here’s a good example:

“How would you rate this product and our support?”

How could your respondents answer this question? Perhaps they would skip the question, or worse still, leave your survey.

You can fix such questions by selecting one subject only or splitting it into two questions.

a. “How would you rate this product?”

Good, Bad, Average

b. “How would you rate our customer service?”

Good, Bad, Average

9. Preview your survey before sending it out

Imagine that you sent out your survey, only to find that you didn’t add a question. Perhaps you forgot to add a question that was crucial or you didn’t provide enough answer choices for one of the questions. Either way, you will be very frustrated and not end up with the results you wanted.

Preparing your survey in advance will help you to avoid making mistakes. Better yet, share it with other people to help you spot any potential mistakes. Check the spelling and grammar too.

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How to Get Survey Responses

After you’ve created your survey in a clear, concise format, it’s now time to get people to complete it. But where should you begin? How do you find the right person to fill in your survey?

Before you can ensure statistically significant data, you must first determine the number of people who should participate in your survey. And, also, what you can do so that you get a representative sample.

To reach the right people, it is important to decide the survey mode you want to use.

  • Phone poll
  • Paper questionnaire
  • Online forum survey
  • Email survey
  • Or an in-person interview

Once you have, check that the questions are simple and that there is no question randomization you are ready to go! To be absolutely sure, you can send the survey to a helpful friend. You want all this work to count and give you the answers you need.

How to Analyze a Poll

You’ve achieved success! You’ve got survey results. Now what?

Dissecting the answers.

Are all respondents actually completing the survey? Did they skip too many questions which ruined your results? Did they really attempt to answer or were they satisfied with picking simple but incorrect answers?

Check for irregularities in your results to ensure that they are correct.

Collate the answers for the goal that you set when you started the survey. You can use text analysis to draw conclusions about open-ended questions that people answered by writing.

You can filter your results and cross-tabulate them to see how different segments (like men and women) responded to your survey. Make sure that you ask for gender if you plan to collect this data.

After you’ve found the data that you want, you should find an effective way of presenting it. This may be in chart form. Your report should be accurate and well-informed so that it can be used as a tool for the strategy of your company’s marketing plan and growth.


Avoid making assumptions about the data or misrepresenting it. The analysis is the key to reaping the benefits of a well-written and actioned survey.

Finally, keep track of the entire process from start to end so that others can copy your survey outline for the future. To perform longitudinal analysis (or benchmarking), repeat the survey and track changes in respondents over time.

Surveys are an excellent tool for finding out exactly what your customers and clients think. Used wisely it will help you to grow your business strategically over time.

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If this has helped you in your research, I would love you to leave a comment, or a like and share. Don’t be shy, tell me what you think!

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8 thoughts on “How Do I Effectively Survey Someone?”

  1. Hi Lily,

    You have covered the idea very well with lots of ideas for everyone.

    There is a definite art in doing surveys to get the correct responses not the ones 
    you want.
    It is recommended with results you delete the top 10% and bottom 10% because they often don’t reflect true values.
    Friends and family and those wanting to annoy you.

    Surveys do work and thanks for highlighting all the parts so well.

    Kind regards

    Peter H

  2. I appreciate the information you have to offer on surveying someone the proper way. I now know why surveying someone in the past for me was not as successful as I thought it would be as there were several things I was leaving out or was not even aware of. I am grateful for the information you are teaching us as I am hopeful now that my next survey experience will be a success! 

    • That is such good news to hear Page. It’s quite an art getting the answers to the questions you want to ask. Wishing you more success in the future.

  3. This is some good advice on putting together an effective survey. I especially like the idea of making survey questions non-prejudicial. I don’t know how many times I’ve received political surveys where the answers are written with so much confirmation bias it’s ridiculous. They don’t really want an opinion. They simply want you to provide the answer THEY want and expect you to already have. When I get a survey like that on a company website, I simply skip it and often re-evaluate whether I will visit that site again.

    • Thanks for your nice comment William. I agree with you that some surveys are geared to get the answers that they want not necessarily what you really think. I would pass these by too.

  4. 9 Best Practices to Create Effective Surveys

    you should focus on understanding the key factors leading customers to leave your business – whether these are internal or external forces.

    1. Your survey should have a clear goal that is achievable.

    2. Start with short and simple questions 

    9. Preview your survey before sending it out.


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