We’ve all been there – you are sitting down at your desk, focusing, trying to write the best survey questions known to mankind… and they’re BORING. Your questions and answers are very stiff and rigid, like these:

To what extent do you agree or disagree with the following statements?

Thus far, how would you rate the communication/information you have received from

[TEAM] regarding your ticket plan?

Whether or not you have attended any of the following events, based on your personal experience, knowledge and perceptions, please rank them in order of importance and meaning in general in the [SPORT] community.

If you are bored writing your survey, imagine what your customers must feel like as they’re taking the survey. Respondent boredom is a real problem: if your instrument gets too dull, a respondent may drop out of the survey early.  Alternatively, the respondent may solider on and finish it, but have no motivation to take another survey from your organization in the future.

Part of being a good questionnaire designer is keeping the respondents engaged. There are numerous ways to do this, including creating the survey as a game, using interesting question types (drag and drop rank order question vs. standard rank order question, slider scales, etc.), or creating more visual tasks.

But what about something as simple as writing surveys that are more humanized and less businesslike/scientific? Respondents do not want to feel like they are working to answer a survey, or that they are being tested. So much of the communication in our daily lives resolves around social media and texts messaging – why not use that ‘language’ for inspiration and ask questions of your fans as if you were friends?

Annie Pettit, the Chief Research Officer at Peanut Labs, sought out to prove that writing surveys in a more humanized way is beneficial all around. To begin her research on research, she took her “traditional” survey questions and re-wrote them to be more “humanized”. Below is a sample of her questions. She then ran two non-branded surveys (a test and a control), keeping the number of respondents and their demographics similar.Survey Q Chart

Based on the analysis of the survey results, Pettit was able to prove that writing a survey in a more humanized way was not detrimental to the process, but actually improved it in some areas.  Specifically:

1)      Data quality did not suffer: straight lining, open-ends, speeding, red herrings, and acquiescing results were similar, if not slightly better, for the humanized survey.

2)      Responder engagement was higher: While there was a marginally higher percent of respondents who did not complete the “fun” survey, respondents were a touch less likely to think the survey was too long or too complex, and more likely to report that it was slightly more fun to answer. Open ended questions garnered slightly longer statements compared to the traditional survey.

3)      Actionable outcomes from both surveys were the same: While the raw data scores between the surveys differed based on the questions/answers, the key takeaways/actionable items were the same.

In today’s world where organizations are fighting hard to get the attention of fans and competing with other brands, social media, and games, why not try writing a survey as if you were having a conversation with your friends? Based on Pettit’s research, it cannot hurt. If you are not convinced, try your own test and control group and see what the data tells you.

Read Annie Pettit’s full article, “Forget gamification, try writing a humanized survey”, here.

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