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How to Write Better Survey Questions: 10 Tips

Consumers want solutions and you want to be their solution. But how do you merge those two desires? A well-scripted survey is a great place to start. Surveys seek to understand what customers like about your products or services, as well as what they don’t like. However, the most effective surveys also glean what consumers think is missing. Surveys take time to construct. They also require an investment in distribution. Then, there’s the challenge of getting your surveys to the right people. A survey is only useful when you ask the right questions. So, take a look at these best practices for creating surveys and 10 tips to ask better survey questions. Don’t hesitate to contact the team at Precision Opinion to design your optimal survey.

Best Practices for Creating Surveys

  • Establish Your Purpose – This might seem obvious, but many surveys take an unwittingly windy road that doesn’t reach the desired destination. It’s best to work with a survey professional who knows how to plot the course to the answers you seek.
  • Work in Stages – While you may want answers immediately, it’s important to conduct surveys in stages. Start with a pilot survey or trial launch before you do mass-distribution. Why? This is the best way to determine if your questions are hitting the mark. Based on feedback, you’ll be able to tweak your questions to target your specific audience.
  • Research Competitors Before You Research – In other words, before you ask questions, learn what your competitors are asking. Are they looking to fill a gap you want to close too? Have they missed an opportunity to connect with consumers that you can capitalize on? If your competitors are making your customers feel heard, make sure you listen even better.

10 Tips to Write Better Survey Questions

1. Get to the Point

Vague, wordy questions are not only confusing, they’re also prone to yielding the wrong response. Determine the specific agenda of your question and make it clear. Rather than, “If you were going to buy a phone, when would you buy one, and what things are you looking for in a phone?” Ask things like, “What phones have you considered buying this month?”, or, “What is the top feature you look for in a phone?”.

2. Don’t “Lead the Witness”

It’s tempting to steer customers toward the answers you want to hear. Sometimes we even do it subconsciously. After all, you believe in your product/service, and you want your customers to also. But design your surveys without manipulation to receive the most accurate data. If you phrase questions like, “Would you rather stay at our beach resort or sit in traffic?”, you could boast that, “100% of people chose our resort.” But that doesn’t lead to actual bookings. If you want real results, keep your questions unbiased and ask things like, “What factors drive you to choose a resort?”.

3. Avoid “Yes and No” Questions

An occasional polar question is helpful. For example: “Do you prefer text over email correspondence?” But, for the most part, open-ended, or multiple-choice questions help you learn more about each customer. Rather than, “Do you like your service provider?”, ask, “What made you choose your service provider?”, or, “What do you wish your service provider did differently?”.

4. Provide Places to Elaborate

While multiple-choice questions lend more options than yes/no questions, they still put survey participants in a box. Maybe their favorite car isn’t a Mercedes, BMW, or Audi… maybe it’s a VW bus! You don’t just want to learn how you’re missing the mark, you want to learn where the mark is. So, use free response questions, interspersed with multiple-choice questions where one option is something like “other- please specify.”

5. Advertise Within Your Questions

How to Write Better Survey Questions: 10 Tips

While surveys are an opportunity to understand your clients, they’re also an opportunity to secure them. You don’t want to manipulate the questions, but you do want to put yourself in the best light. Use phrasing within your questions that highlights your best assets and introduces customers to services they may not be aware of. “Have you tried our online help desk?”, or “Would you recommend our 24-hour concierge service?” are ways to promote yourself within the survey. In some cases, you can even provide links to such services. Avoid a tone that suggests your survey seeks to repair a failing business.

6. Don’t Ask Compound Questions

Remember coming home from school and being bombarded with, “How was your day? Did you pass your test? Did you remember to bring home your lunchbox? Are you hungry? Do you have a lot of homework?” Most kids muttered, “okay” and headed to their rooms. While survey participants want to be heard, if you ask too much in one breath, they won’t know how to answer. Instead of asking, “Who is your provider and are you happy with the cost, quality, and service they provide?”, ask, “What are the top 3 things you like about your service provider?”.

7. Invite Them to Ask Questions

Have you ever finished a survey or interview and thought, “I wish they would have asked (fill in the blank).”? Many survey participants feel that their most pressing questions weren’t asked. Provide an opportunity for customers to suggest questions they wish they’d been asked. This is not only great insight on those clients, but it also informs your surveys going forward.

8. Make It Personal

Purchases are personal. Whether customers are hiring a consultant, choosing software, or buying an app, it’s an investment of their time and money. They want it to work. If it doesn’t, the reviews are also personal. They might target your salesperson, your website, or even your brand. Surveys that are too impersonal don’t convey that your customers matter to you. Structure your questions to show a vested interest in each buyer, rather than making them feel like a number. Ask them things like, “What is your preferred method of reading the news?”, or, “What is the biggest hurdle to your productivity?”, or, “What would make your job easier?”.

9. Find Out Who’s Beating You

You don’t have to beat around the bush here. Ask participants, “Who is your preferred telecom company?”, or, “Who do you trust for cybersecurity?”. You can include an option for them to opt-out of the question, but direct is always best. Take it one step further and ask why they prefer that company for even more insight.

10. Bring Them Onboard

Surveys should end on a positive note, showing customers that you care. Your final questions should address how you can meet their needs and provide their desired solutions. Include an invitation to learn more and come onboard with questions like, “Have you registered for our charitable 5K in May?”, or, “Would you like to learn more about our spring promotions?”. A survey is a great opportunity to bring customers off the fence and onto your team, so extend a friendly invitation.


To learn more about writing winning survey questions, contact the pros at Precision Opinion. With over 20 years of experience as “the most trusted name in market research,” we know how to craft productive surveys. We are leaders in new data collection technologies, harnessing information to empower your brand.