As a marketer, one of the best ways to get inside the minds of customers is to gather their feedback through surveys.
Designing a survey may look easy. But do you know that the order in which you ask questions can make a huge difference in your data?
It is called question order bias and can happen when the response from an earlier question impacts the following answers. Let's take a customer satisfaction survey, for example.
If you ask your clients regarding the features your product can improve on before asking about their overall satisfaction, they may be tempted to give lower scores since they were just thinking about how your product was lacking.
This can seriously affect the data quality and insight, which will impact any marketing decisions you make. That's why here are 5 important tips to help you minimize question order bias in your next survey.
1. Randomize question and answer orders
The order of both questions and answer options in your survey matters, especially if you want to remove any discrepancies in your data.
In surveys, people can be subconsciously influenced to respond or behave in a certain way. Bias may happen when they are looking to provide answers that are consistent with their initial responses.
By presenting questions differently to each respondent, the bias is spread randomly across your survey, giving a more accurate result.
The same applies when it comes to your answer options. In a study by Survey Monkey, the team found results were significantly different between surveys with and without answer option randomization.
When answers were not randomized, respondents were more likely to pick the first option presented to them. While randomized answers gave each option an equal chance of being selected.
Then again, randomizing everything can get messy, especially if you are dealing with a lengthy survey. To create a better survey experience, we recommend having survey blocks to group related questions and mixing up these blocks and pages instead.
We know this might sound like a lot of work, but various survey builders out there can help you do this easily!
2. Start broad and go specific
Your survey should start with general questions and go into more specifics as it progresses.
Because not only does this warm up your respondent to get them more engaged in the survey, it also reduces the chances of question framing.
To illustrate why here's an example of the opposite scenario.
In this survey, you will notice that the first few questions are more specific. Depending on their experience with the branding and software, it will influence their decision to rate the product’s overall satisfaction.
That's why you should always structure your questions to flow from broad to specific. The key is to put more personal questions at the end of the survey instead of the start.
3. Avoid leading question
One of the common errors marketers make in surveys is to ask leading or rhetorical questions that put off objectivity. This is easy to spot when you look at the context of the question.
For example, asking "How awesome is the product?" pre-indicates to clients that the product is fantastic and is just asking them to rate how great it is.
Carefully consider the best way to ask a question. Think about the type of responses and avoid dichotomous (yes/no) questions to get answers with more depth.
Rather than leading questions like "Are you satisfied with our product?", we recommend rephrasing it to statements like:
- This product or service meets my needs
- This product or service is below my expectations
- I will recommend this service or product to my friends and family
You can also choose to ask open-ended questions or include a free response option after your inquiries to give respondents the freedom to answer beyond the available options.
4. Adding branching in surveys
Another helpful technique to make question orders irrelevant is by creating a branching survey.
It lets your respondents skip specific questions that are not relevant to them and allows you to create different sections throughout your survey to avoid priming.
For example, if you want to identify a prospect's pain points in more detail, you can ask them to choose the top 3 factors affecting their purchasing decision.
Then, based on their factors, you can then direct them to the sections or pages that display only the relevant questions about those factors.
This adds a helpful opt-out option for respondents to filter out irrelevant questions or those they do not wish to answer.
Plus, it will add logic and structure to your survey that is helpful to boost response rates and provide more accurate data.
5. Pre-test your surveys
Always test your surveys before sending them out to customers.
Pre-testing your questionnaire can help you avoid the costly and time-consuming process of using a flawed survey and starting all over again.
You can experiment with a small sampling group or ask a group of friends or colleagues to take the survey and provide feedback.
Check if the questions are practical and if there is any confusion or hesitation when answering the questions. Despite randomization, some questions may still need to be asked in a particular order to make sense. You can also use custom QR code generators for easier survey dissemination.
Most importantly, analyze the answers of your survey to see if any particular patterns are showing that there is question order bias.
Question order matters when you are creating a survey. Based on the flow of the questions, a respondent might be led to think in a particular direction.
Though we cannot expect the respondents to answer questions with absolute accuracy, it's our responsibility to avoid any existing bias as the survey creator.
To build a perfect survey that elicits helpful responses to make insightful marketing decisions, make sure you implement these 5 tips to avoid question order bias in your survey.