How to write a questionnaire and get really useful answers

As a Business Analyst, you will almost inevitably be asked to write a questionnaire at some time to get insight into what a group of stakeholders think on a topic. A good questionnaire is an efficient way to get information from a group of people when you don’t have the opportunity to interview them all.

 

People do like to have their opinions sought and a many of the people you send it to are likely to reply

 

How NOT to create a questionnaire

Do you know what usually happens when someone decides to write a questionnaire?

 

They sit down, start typing out interesting sounding questions into a survey tool and  send it out to their chosen list of people.

 

And then they wait.

 

A few answers come trickling in. They send out a reminder. A few more answers come in. They decide they have waited long enough and start to analyse the results. And then realise that they can’t do anything with the answers they have received and the whole exercise was a waste of time.

 

How do you avoid this happening to you?

 

6 easy steps to a good questionnaire

 

1 Really know what it is you want to know

What are you trying to work out – do you have a clear vision of that?  Write yourself a purpose statement for it.

For example:

“The questionnaire will investigate the level of interest of people aged between 20 & 25 living in Cheshire in strawberry jam so that we can offer them new ways of buying it.”

Too often people do this but stop after “strawberry jam” People have all sorts of reasons for being interested in something, but your questions need to focus on getting to the  “Why” that matters to you.

 

2 Understand people are busy

Let them know, on the front page, roughly how long it will take to complete the questionnaire. Then they know if they can fit it in before the next meeting or if they need to put some time aside for it.

 

You can also overdo it with questionnaires. While the first one is an interesting novelty to the recipients, The second one is a bit of an imposition and a third one looks like laziness.

 

3 Let people know what is in it for them

Questionnaires are quite impersonal, so to increase your chances of getting a response let people know why they are being asked to complete it. Why is their opinion so valuable to you? What differentiates it from anyone else (remember – a little flattery never goes amiss)?  Let them know what will happen with the information they give you, how it will be used and offer them a copy of the final report. By offering them something they are more likely to give you something.

 

4 Keep it Short

  • Use checklists where possible (the answers are easier to analyse too).
  • Don’t fill it up with ‘nice to have’ questions – keep it focussed and, well, short!
  • Keep the number of free text boxes to a minimum. People get bored and give up if they have to keep typing.

5 Know what you will get out of every question

For every question you ask do you know what you will do with the answer?  How will it help you decide what to do next? What is your next step? If you don’t know then get rid of it. The answer may be interesting, but if it isn’t useful then it goes.

 

6 Fit the questions to the purpose

As soon as you tell colleagues you are writing a questionnaire then I guarantee someone will ask you to slide in one question on their pet subject (or maybe two questions……..). Don’t. Just don’t. These get you no nearer to your goal, make the questionnaire too long and confuse the people filling it in with the change of focus (they can tell you know!)

 

Use them well

When well used, questionnaires are an exceedingly useful tool. Do put the thinking time in and create clear, insightful questions that give you a window onto what your stakeholders think and want.  Good Luck!


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