The importance of empathy in online surveys

There is an important element that is often overlooked when writing survey questions. That element is empathy. The importance of empathy in online surveys is vital to getting the honest and reliable responses that provide you with the information you need.

What do your customers actually think?

You must be able to relate if you want to find out what your customers, or potential customers, actually think.  What does relate mean?  It means getting into the reality that your respondents deal with on a daily basis.  It may seem strange, but knowing how people approach their lives, and what they think is important, can help you a great deal in formulating survey questions.  So, visit some blogs and forums where your target customers hang out. Knowing how your target audience thinks ahead of time can make writing survey questions much easier.

The importance of empathy in online surveysRespect!

Respect is another important element of empathy.  Don’t overload the respondents and create the impression that you are trying to milk people for information. Stick to one idea at a time, even if it takes a couple of questions to get the information you want. Trying to cover a number of different ideas in the same question can be confusing and annoying.  

You can keep from accidentally loading too many ideas into a question by looking at your use of verbs and adjectives.  If you’re using more than one verb or adjective in a question, then you’re probably cramming together two ideas that ought to be separate or, at the very least, trying for more detail than one question can cover.

The importance of empathy in online surveys

Avoid bias

Never try to bias respondents to get the response you want. You’d be surprised at how often surveys are unintentionally biased, simply because the writer knows the answer he or she would like to hear.  Don’t push for a favourable response, or an unfavourable one, for that matter.  In fact, you shouldn’t push at all.  Look over your questions to determine if any are biased.  It’s also a good idea to have your questions evaluated by an impartial third party, who can more easily spot questions that are skewed toward a particular result. It’s very easy to make the mistake of trying to steer responses. This sort of thing happens often in political surveys and is the reason why results of such surveys often don’t match actual voting patterns.  

Perhaps the best thing to remember when writing online survey questions is don’t rush. You have a much better chance of getting the information you need if you take your time and formulate your questions carefully. A carefully worded question is itself a form of respect and will be something that respondents appreciate.