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14 Ways to Improve Your Surveys & Get Those Questions Answered

When preparing a survey, you can use this checklist to improve your response rates.

1. Start with easy questions. Allow respondents to warm to the task. Once they start to open up, they're more likely to share information.

2. Divide the survey (and the questionnaires) into sections to make it less intimidating. One dense, eight-page survey will turn off even the most willing participant.

3. Use appropriate graphics and a pleasant layout to encourage the participant to take the survey.


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4. Ask questions that prompt useful responses. Ask questions such as: "what if", "would you agree that", "isn't it true that" and so forth.

For example, "How many PCs do you have in your home?" seems straightforward -- but what if the family that has two old PC’s that they never use.

What you want to determine is "How many PCs are used regularly in your home?"

And what about Macintosh computers? Are they PCs?

5. Provide space for comments throughout the questionnaire.

6. Use a familiar rating scale, such as 1 to 10. State whether the high or low number is the "best" answer.

As this type of scale can be open to misinterpretation, you may want to avoid numerical ratings and use "High-Medium-Low" instead.

If you need to quantify your analysis, convert "Poor" to 1 and "Excellent" to 5.

7. Don't change the rating method within the questionnaire.

8. Don't ask for personal details, such as email addresses, unless you really need it. Even then, explain why you need it and how it will be used.

9. Encourage participant to take the survey by offers a prize or access to the final results.

10. When planning the survey, prioritize the information you're after. Structure your questions so that the participant is 'prompted' to discuss these subjects.

11. If you’re looking for hard facts, prepare your checklist with Yes/No questions.

12. Consider visiting the individual in person to interview them. You'll probably get a better idea of what they really think, especially if you ask open-ended questions.

13. Test a draft questionnaire on a small group to judge the effectiveness of the questions.

14. Offer different options for returning the questionnaire (fax, email, mail).


15. Always follow up with a thank-you phone call or letter. This is especially important if the responder is a customer or client.

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