The one way to ensure an email survey is abandoned is to be thoughtless in your choice of language. Your returns from email marketing campaigns will help you to ensure the questions do not patronise or confuse the subject, and a little care will negate the chances of being ambiguous.
To put it another way, you must split your email marketing lists and aim the survey at a precise demographic. As mentioned in a previous article, your survey will be targeted so you can be precise in what you want from it.
Any question that is ambiguous will not return statistics that can be relied on. Indeed, you might well be in a worse off situations after the survey than before and you will be working to false returns.
Remember the, probably apocryphal, story of the airline wanting to know the preferences of their passengers. The question was: ‘Do you prefer the seats to be facing forwards or backwards.’ The most common reply was ‘Yes’.
The simplest way of controlling the replies would have been to have two boxes to tick. In this case the wording of the question would still have irritated those who were looking for an alternative. A simple change to: ‘Would you prefer the seats to remain facing forwards, or would you prefer them to face towards the rear.’ Clearly an either/or type of question.
One way of checking the wording of a specific question you might be concerned about would be to run it past your staff. Ask them to complete it in a hurry. What might seem perfectly clear to you might be less so to those not involved in the creative process.
You should use words that are familiar to the persons you are questioning. Even so, use those with simple, straightforward meaning even if you are asking university professors.
Whilst you should keep the questions short, this should not be at the expense of clarity. The old adage of never using two words where one would do is not so dependable here. ‘Go to’ rather than ‘attend’ makes reading easier.
It is equally important to make the titles of tick boxes short also, but to do that you need to word the question with care. Using the same words helps here. For instance, ‘Which is more important to you: your villa being easy to access or a lovely view?’ For the boxes you should have ‘easy access’ and ‘lovely view’. There can be no mistake.
This highlights another factor. Be positive in what you say: lovely view, high quality food, delicious wines. However, take care to ensure that all boxes are equally enticing. Don’t have ‘reduced difficulty’ against ‘intuitive interface’. It is all too easy to push the response to what you want.
A free text box can be extremely useful although it is an expensive addition to a survey. Responders will tend to run on and answer a question you have not asked. Be precise. Ask: ‘Say in fifteen words or less what you think of the buying process.’ Set the word limit to twenty words. People struggle to be concise.