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Collecting Survey Data That Meets Your Objectives

Jul 25, 2008
Creating a survey should be done only after considering your objectives for the data. The data you collect can offer a valuable glimpse into the perspective of your customers, employees, vendors, or any other party to which your organization is exposed. But, if the survey is designed or executed poorly, the data can be useless (or worse, misleading).

Surveys can be a powerful tool that can guide you in making the decisions that can expand your business, bring new clients on board, or take advantage of opportunities. In this article, we'll help you determine why you need the data and the questions you should ask to ensure your surveys elicit the right kind of information. You'll also discover the various survey options available to you.

Define Why You Want The Survey Data

Even if a survey is designed and executed flawlessly, it can be useless if you're unsure of why you want the data. Before launching your survey, consider its purpose. For example, let's assume you're planning to survey your employees. The success of your survey depends upon your objectives. Are you trying to determine if your employees are happy with management? Or, would you like to know if they enjoy their jobs? Each objective requires a different approach.

Dig Underneath The Surface

Determining the overall purpose of your survey is only the first step. You should also dig deeper. What would you like the data to clarify? Continuing with our example above, how will you analyze the data to gain an understanding of your employees? Most importantly, what actions will you take once you've analyzed the data? Considering these questions before you execute your survey can be valuable in designing its structure and content.

You should involve employees during this stage of the survey design. They can provide helpful insight regarding the primary concerns of their peers. This insight can be useful in creating survey questions that elicit critical information.

Determine Your Survey Options

There are several ways to launch a survey. These can include personal interviews, telephone surveys, web-based surveys and those which ask participants to fill out hard copy forms. Each has inherent benefits and drawbacks. Some surveys (such as personal interviews) are more costly to implement but typically yield richer data. Others, such as web-based surveys, are efficient but can yield conflicting information if not designed carefully.

Your objectives for conducting a survey will determine the type (or types) of surveys you should use. Many times, you'll find that using a combination of survey types will produce a rich source of data that would likely be unachievable if only 1 type of survey was implemented. For example, personal interviews (either done in person or over the telephone) can yield information that a hard copy form survey may not.

Analyzing The Data

If your survey has been designed properly, analyzing the information it produces should be simple. In fact, many software-based surveys have an accompanying analysis program that can evaluate answers based upon preset algorithms. That said, a manual review of the information can be invaluable. Quickly review the answers given by participants to determine if they make sense. If half of the employees surveyed are in the warehouse division and the other half are in the marketing department, their responses could (and likely should) reflect a different perspective.

Obtaining useful survey data begins with understanding your objectives. Once you know the purpose for which you want the data, you can design and execute your surveys to stimulate the right kind of information. That's the way to help ensure that your surveys and the data they produce are useful to you and your organization.
About the Author
SurveyGizmo is a leading provider of online survey software, check them out on the web for more great ways to use surveys to enhance your business.
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