11/10/2011

By Richard Walker, Director, Ci Research

Surveys often form the cornerstone of research methodology. They are the ‘tried and tested’ method for collecting market research data, including customer satisfaction, perception, awareness and behaviour. However, with a perceived low barrier to entry, the industry is always at risk of poor standards creeping in, making some surveys falter before they get off the ground.

We polled over 500 people to find out what frustrates and deters respondents from taking part in surveys. The results can be found here, in our list of survey frustrations. We take a look at the top 10 frustrations to show would-be researchers how to avoid the mistakes of old and how to deliver a survey experience that will leave respondents satisfied.


1. When surveys are too long and take longer than advertised (64%)
Almost two thirds of respondents say they find lengthy surveys frustrating — a gripe that is way ahead of all other possible responses. The message to market researchers and questionnaire designers is clear — keep it succinct and undertake realistic piloting so you can be confident of survey duration.

2. When the questions feel repetitive (41%)
Not only do surveys have to be short and snappy, respondents don’t want to feel as if they are wading through treacle to get to the end. Think about the wording, the design and the flow to alleviate any perceptions of repetition.

3. When quotas are filled quickly so I can’t take part (41%)
Panelists who sign up, ‘opt in’ because they want to take part in the survey. Strict quotas are sometimes necessary of course, but it’s not surprising to hear of frustrations from would-be respondents who are constantly ‘screened out’. Don’t shut people out unless you really need to.

4. When the list of possible answers is not relevant to me (34%)
One in three say they get frustrated when confronted with answer categories that aren’t relevant. The code frames (list of answers) are just as important — if not more so — than the questions. Respondents should always be given the opportunity to respond ‘don’t know’ or ‘can’t remember’, rather than forcing them to make an ‘irrelevant’ choice in order to proceed to the next question.

5. When there are insufficient rewards / incentives to participate (34%)
While many consumers are happy to give their opinions on products and services ‘free of charge’, for others, time is money and they will want something in exchange for their input. Most panels operate on a points-based system. This insight suggests respondents will certainly disregard one survey invitation over another, depending on how motivating the incentive is.

6. When they ask for too much personal information (33%)
The survey respondent is not concerned by any sub-group demographic analysis — use the panel’s profiling information if it is available. If not, just stick to the key profiling questions that you know you’re going to use.

7. When the subject matter is boring (32%)
Many survey software packages allow us to design surveys that are fun, interactive and enjoyable. Sometimes we do have to research a ‘dry’ subject matter — in these instances, use all of the tools available to keep it engaging and relevant.

8. There are not enough surveys available — I would like to do more (31%)
This counters the suggestion that panel participants feel ‘over researched’ — one in three say they feel frustrated by a lack of opportunity to participate.

9. When the question wording is complicated (27%)
Write it as you would say it.

10. When the list of possible answers is too long (25%)
Think about the user experience. They want to see all the possible answers on the screen in front of them; they do not want to be dragging down the side bar and picking from a long list (with the added risk of key answer categories being hidden if the list is not ‘rotated’).

For more information about the art of good questionnaire design, visit Ci Research’s blog — Market Research Expert, http://bit.ly/nZGNNQ or email Richard.Walker@ci-research.com. Alternatively visit www.ci-research.com.