Avoiding mistakes with survey projects – and it’s about more than the questions!

Recently my inbox included an email from a PhD candidate.  He was looking for people to take part in an online survey that he’s conducting as part of his doctoral research.

I asked him how he got my email address.  (He should have told me without me having to ask.)  His answer was reasonable – he got it from a group he’s associated with and with which I’ve had dealings in the past – and my email address is in the public domain.

Secondly I noticed that the email invitation wasn’t an ordinary email.  It had been generated by the SurveyMonkey tool.  The tool’s capabilities are powerful – you can import a list of email addresses into the tool and then have the tool email the people on the list – each person then receiving a customised survey link which allows the survey designer to track who has responded.

However, he had screwed up.  SurveyMonkey’s policy includes: “SurveyMonkey has a zero-tolerance spam policy. This means that all email recipients must have opted in to, or otherwise validly consented to, receiving communications from you, the sender. Subscriber accounts may be terminated for sending unsolicited email messages.”

He shouldn’t have imported my email address into the tool without my consent.  This sort of stuff is becoming even more important (in the EU anyway) with the arrival in May 2018 of GDPR.

But anyway I still took a look at the actual survey.  Curiosity typically gets the better of me.  Also, looking into other people’s survey projects often gives me fodder for marketing material like what you’re reading right now :-).

I think it was question 3 where I hit a hurdle.  There was a multiple choice question where none of the options applied to me.  Further, there was no “None” option I could have chosen.  And I was unable to skip past the question because it was one of those obligatory ones.

So there you have it – 3 mistakes – all too common I’m afraid:

  1. Giving people insufficient info on why they’ve been asked to participate
  2. Contravening a survey tool’s SPAM policy
  3. Cornering people into a choice of abandoning a survey or inputting invalid data

But you’re lucky.  I’ll never say “never” but if you use me for your next survey project, the chance of any of those 3 mistakes being made is vanishingly small.

Speaking of your next survey project – click here to directly book a 15-minute slot in my calendar to have an initial conversation about it.  It might be about your customers.  Or your employers.  Or any group of stakeholders.  I’m happy to briefly brainstorm it with you – to hear what you have in mind and to let us see if we’re a good fit.

By the way, I abandoned the survey at that insurmountable hurdle.  I could have chosen an option simply to get past the hurdle – but then I would have been providing invalid data.  The PhD candidate was better off without my subsequent answers – even though he’d have preferred the higher response rate.

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