You’ve decided to reach out to your consumers to get some feedback and are all set to start writing a survey. It can’t be that hard right? Just ask the questions that you want to hear the answers to.

Writing a survey gets much more complex than that though. There are many pitfalls that you can encounter that can lead to biased survey responses. If you are taking the time to get feedback from your consumers, it’s important to take the time to write an unbiased questionnaire – even if that means hearing some ugly truths you don’t want to hear.

1. Leading Questions

A leading question is exactly as it sounds – you are leading your respondent to answer a question the way you want them to. For example “Don’t you agree that the food at X Venue is better than the food at Y Venue?” It’s a valid question, but, by saying ‘Don’t you agree’, you are setting up the respondent to answer the way you want. This may seem like an obvious thing not to do, but it’s important to watch out for subtle instances of this as well. Something such as ‘How would you rate the award winning dining experience at X restaurant?’ While X may in fact be an award winning restaurant, you don’t want to put that in the respondent’s mind before they answer the question.

2. Double-Barreled Questions

It’s also important to make sure you aren’t asking double-barreled questions, which is essentially asking two questions in one. For example: “Are you satisfied with the cost and ease of parking?”. A respondent could be satisfied with the ease of parking but may be dissatisfied with the cost. . In this case, it is better to split this question into two.

3. Biased Response Choices

The responses you provide to a respondent are just as important as the question wording you use. Consider the following question:
Which of the following would you use to describe Sponsor A? (Select all that apply).

A Leader
Good Value
My Favorite

This isn’t a bad question, all of these traits are positive; but, if this is all you ask, you are missing out on some valuable information. While you want your consumers to have only positive perceptions of your sponsors, you have to give your consumers the opportunity to express any negative perceptions they have. One way to ensure you get the whole picture is to include more options in this question, responses that are essentially the opposite of what are included already (follower, poor value, etc.). Another way is to change this question from a ‘select all’ to a scale question: “How much do you agree or disagree that the following describe Sponsor A?”. This allows you to really understand what consumers think.

4. All Inclusive Response Choices

In addition to providing unbiased response, you need to make sure that you provide all possible responses for a question. In some cases, such as demographic questions, this is easy (although it is important to check to make sure you didn’t accidently leave out an option). In other cases, the possibilities you can come up with may be endless. In these cases, you should include as many options as you can think of and also include an ‘Other: Specify’ option to catch any responses you did not come up with.

5. User-Friendly Vocabulary

“What did you think of the new :30 spot that aired during the game last night?”. To you, this question may make perfect sense. To your consumer, it probably sounds like gibberish. It is important when writing a questionnaire to consider who you are talking to. It is important to make sure that there are no questions that the average consumer cannot understand because if they can’t understand the question, you won’t get actionable data.

There are many things to think about while writing a questionnaire; those listed above just scratch the surface. My suggestion is to test your survey really well before you send it out to respondents. As you take the survey, try to imagine yourself as an actual respondent. Can you answer every question? Is there anything that is confusing? If you have an issue, it is almost guaranteed that your respondents will too. Take your time and review the questionnaire carefully and you can easily avoid all these mistakes.