In the past we have all received surveys asking our opinion about a product, a stay in a hotel, or some such thing. The information collected in these types of surveys is useful as long as the information is actually used. In my experience there are two factors that are key to making surveys useful. 1. make them as ‘user friendly’ and easy to fill out as possible. 2. ensure that information is collected and collated in a way that will enable the outcomes to be used to make positive change(s) in your organization.
All too often surveys ask for a ‘narrative’ on how you feel. In most cases this is ineffectual. Most people prefer to answer multiple choice questions, wanting the choices to be simple, such as a number scale 1 to 10. Last year I
purchased a boat and about six months later I received a survey in the mail. After taking a brief look at the survey, it went straight in the trash, as there were over 10 questions that required me to provide a ‘narrative’. I just did not feel like writing a book. It is hard enough to get me to make posts on my blog! On the other hand, if there would have been 20 multiple choice questions with perhaps an option to write an explanation if I chose to, I probably would have taken the time to fill out the survey.
Once your clients have filled out the surveys and you have taken the time to collect the information, make sure you use it. Too often I have seen businesses collect survey information, take a fast look at it, and never actually use it, or refer to it again. I was working with a one company and they collected surveys from all their clients. When I asked them what they do with the information they collected they said “we file it here in the cabinet”. I then asked them what they do with it then, and they replied “nothing, but if the government asks for it, it is here”.
What a waste of time and energy! Always use the information you collect. Ask yourself “what positive change have I made, or can I make, using this information?” If you can not think of anything then you are not nearly done with the survey information, or you did not ask the right questions. If we know and believe that our clients will almost always have better ideas than us, then we had better use them.
Lastly, thank your clients for taking the time to complete the survey, that is, if it is not confidential. Always send out a thank you and they will remember that you cared enough to do so. If you are using a confidential survey, try to use something like an online survey such as Survey Monkey at www.surveymonkey.com. Make sure you program the confidential survey in a way that will thank them for taking the survey and explain how much you appreciate it.
Remember, information (knowledge) is power, but only if you use it!
Steve Whiteside is a consultant specializing in organizational development, leadership and motivational workshops. You can contact him at, 604-786-5677.