This is a guest post by Josh Pigford

Did you know that online surveys don’t have to be boring?

Gathering feedback is a necessary part of running a business, but the process doesn’t necessarily have to be dull. Instead, surveys can be fun, engaging platforms where businesses talk to their respondents on a human level. After all, someone who’s enjoying the process is much more likely to give enthusiastic and thorough responses. If you’d like to create inspiring surveys, here’s some advice on how to get started.

Don’t expect to write great questions right out of the box.

It goes (almost) without saying that putting an engaging survey together is going to take some thought. Set aside some time to look over your previous survey campaigns and assess what worked well, and what didn’t. It can also be really helpful to study successful survey question examples from other organizations. Writing a great question is a skill just like others: it needs to be learned. One “rookie” mistake that many folks make is asking an open-ended question, but that can be a bad idea.

Examples of bad question formats…

“Do you like our new vanilla ice cream or would you suggest it to a friend?” — This is called a “double-barreled” question. Most people don’t know how to answer this as it’s effectively two separate questions. “Would you say that we have the most amazing hamburgers in the city?” — This is called “question-leading” and it implies an answer right within the question, skewing the accuracy of your results.

Make sure your survey fits your brand.

Primarily, online surveys are about gaining customer feedback, but they should also be thought of as a marketing opportunity. Look at it this way: when your survey lands in the inbox of your respondents, you’ve got an opportunity to remind them of what’s so awesome about your company. Make sure the style you use for your survey is consistent with your other business communications, and you’ll be well on your way to doing this. Here’s an example of a survey that reinforces the brand of the company that sent it:

example_surveyDon’t be afraid to add humor.

Your survey questions need to be clear and easy to understand, but this doesn’t mean they have to be stale and colorless. Consider sprinkling a bit of light-hearted, brand appropriate humor over your questions. This will turn an average survey into something with personality, and will help keep your respondents interested.

Example: Say you have a dog-walking business and want to ask pet owners how their dogs have liked getting walked every day, you might ask, “How many tail wags would your dog give us?”

Think of new ways to ask old questions.

We understand that there are questions you’re going to need to ask your customers again and again, but what’s stopping you from jazzing them up a bit? Instead of using the same words and phrases each time, think of new ways to get your questions across. A fresh perspective might make a big difference to the responses you receive.

Example: Old question: “How likely are you to recommend us to a friend? New question: “Has our service been good enough that you’d happily tell you friends about us?”

Make it personal.

We’re not suggesting you ask respondents to share their credit card numbers or their jean size. What we are suggesting is that you ask your respondents to share more of their personal experiences. Ask questions that give them the chance to offer up their own thoughts and opinions, not just those that ask them to agree or disagree with yours.

Examples: “Is there a unique way that you’ve found to use our product?” “Let us know how our service has impacted your life positively.”

Get a writer involved.

If this all sounds a bit daunting, remember that you don’t need to do all this yourself. If you wouldn’t dream of writing copy for your website or your newsletter, why do it for your online survey? Consider calling in help from a staff writer, marketing department or even a freelancer.

They’ll be able to turn your notes into concise, no-nonsense questions. Here’s the deal: when you ask a customer to respond to an online survey, you’re asking them to give up a chunk of their precious time. Though many people are happy to share their thoughts and opinions in this way; you should aim to make the process as enjoyable as possible.

Take the time to study survey question examples, talk to experts and put our advice into practice, and you’ll be building the skills to prove that online surveys can be fun and engaging.