What Kind of Survey Should You Use?

Customer Surveys are a tricky thing to pull off, mostly because creating the surveys themselves require a certain type of finesse. The challenge lies within its effectiveness¬†depending on balancing slightly conflicting traits on a knife point – for example: a good survey question must be structured in such a way that it will be able to accommodate all possible answers while also limiting what kind of answer the customer will give. This can be done by asking direct, hand-picked questions that will all but ensure the customer’s focus on only one aspect of whatever they are being surveyed about, yet allow them to expand on that one point should they wish to (if the answers are not in multiple choice form).

However good your survey may be, though, it’ll end up being a moot point should it not make it to your target population. That’s where the importance of picking the right survey style comes in – whether it’ll be on the phone, on the web, mailed, done in groups, or done personally, each method has its own set of advantages and disadvantages.

Here are some factors to help you choose what kind of survey you should go for:



This should be the decisive criterion. Ultimately, having a survey without people to answer it would be moot. So first off, find out how many test subjects you have and if they are quantifiable. Suppose your target group is comprised of 20 young adults. Due to their low ¬†amount, personal or phone interviews would be ideal – this would allow the surveyors to get more information by altering their questions according to the answers of the participants. Should the number jump up to the thousands though, then an online survey would be more practical as personal interactions on that big of a scale would be nigh impossible, and a well crafted questionnaire should be enough to do the job. Aside from that, another factor to check is their accessibility – will your participants even be able to answer your survey with ease? Remember that most people aren’t willing to go through a lot of effort to answer your questions, so it falls unto you to make sure that they do.


There are two main types of questions you can employ in your surveys – the open ended and the closed ended. The former is best used on focus groups, personal interviews, or phone interviews, while the latter is for online or checklist type surveys. Neither is better than the other; while open ended questions allow for more details and deeper insight, on the other hand closed ended questions are more direct and easier to gather data from. A general rule of thumb is to not use questions that may have broad, multiple answers – instead ask about each point of interest one by one and employ the use of sub-questions should the initial information be insubstantial.


Sometimes social desirability gets in the way of honest answers. People naturally don’t want to look bad so the chances of them giving falsified answers is high – this is especially true with phone or personal interviews, though it happens with online surveys too. There are also times when the interviewers may accidentally influence the participants with their own biases; this is commonly referred to as the Hawthorne Effect. It dictates that humans tend to change their opinions or answers whenever they are being studied, and it is one of the most difficult innate behaviors to eliminate. A countermeasure to minimize this type of conduct is to assign codes to participants instead – this gives them the anonymity and freedom to express their sincere thoughts without fear of judgement from any other party. Researchers can then use these numbers instead of their names.


Basically, the targets dictate the manner of questioning, not you. Keep these three factors in mind should you ever decide to put up customer surveys of your own.

Sean Si is the CEO and Founder of SEO Hacker and Qeryz. A start-up, data analysis and urgency junkie who spends his time inspiring young entrepreneurs through talks and seminars. Check out his personal blog where he writes about starting up two companies and life in general.

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