How to Do an Online Survey
I don’t have enough information about my customers or my employees. How satisfied are they? How do they perceive my company? What is really important to them? Are they likely to switch to competitors? How likely are they to recommend my company? I feel that this lack of information may be preventing me from making the right strategic decision. Is there a web “remedy”?
Ivan: Sounds like you have a mild case of Blurred Business Vision. More than 90% of companies now resort to various forms of marketing research projects in order to treat or prevent this condition. There are many different research methods that can help you improve your vision: some of them have already been described in our previous columns in Business in Vancouver (check out www.bizpharmacy.com). We we will focus today on one particularly powerful tool: online surveys.
Cyri: Online surveys can save you money! A business associate told me they used to literally pay tens of thousands of dollars for various marketing or HR research projects, until they realized they can do a lot of the research by using various free or low cost web tools. I use online surveys almost daily to collect data from students and also for business interventions. My three favorites are Quia (www.quia.com/web), Google Forms (www.google.com/google-d-s/forms/), and a powerful WordPress plug-in, Gravity Forms (www.gravityforms.com)
Ivan: Online surveys are an important part of my medicine cabinet too! I find they are especially good for managing marketing and human resources. In fact, SurveyMonkey.com, one of the leading online providers of survey tools, offers many ready-to-use questionnaire templates such as “360-degree Employee Evaluation”, “Employee Satisfaction”, “Product Feedback”, “Customer Feedback”, “Management Performance”, “Team Performance”, “Product Research”, “Market Research”, “Hotel Feedback”, “Media Usage”, “Demographics Research”, etc.
Cyri: To help us get some direction on our own BizPharmacy column in “Business in Vancouver”, we have actually just created a feedback survey! In order to show differences among different survey tools, we have put the same questionnaire on four platforms. Here is the link: bizpharmacy.com/survey/.
Creating a questionnaire is simple. You can decide to use any of the existing survey templates, or you can start from scratch by creating your own questions. You don’t need a training course, the tools have great user interfaces so you can learn as you go. With most tools, you can export your collected survey data to a “CSV file” that you can open in MS Excel, familiar territory for many business people.
Future Management of Condition
Ivan: Through SurveyMonkey.com you can decide to collect data via web link, email, Twitter, Facebook, or by embedding it on your site or blog. You can send the surveys to your own database, or decide to have SurveyMonkey send your survey to your target audience ($3 per completed questionnaire).
Generic Name & Alternative Medicine
Cyri: The generic name is “survey” or “online survey” or even just “form”. Some are designed specifically for surveys; others are more generic forms that can be used to collect data in any context.
Ivan: The basic plan offered by SurveyMonkey.com is free, and it includes questionnaires consisting of up to ten questions and a sample size of maximum one hundred respondents. For business use, you will probably need the Select Plan ($19.00 per month), Gold ($29.00 per month) or Platinum Plan ($69 per month). The Select Plan gives you unlimited number of questions and responses, plus very important features of data download, filtering and cross tabulation.
Cyri: I know the paid-tools have their place but I find for many survey tasks, the free tools like Google Forms work just fine! I also don’t like the idea how some paid online survey tools charge by how many respondents you have. I want free medication for the masses! Nevertheless, sometimes it’s worth paying a bit more to get a premium pill. Gravity Forms is $39 for individual use and $99 for business use and you can create an unlimited number of forms. Quia is $49 US per year.
Precautions / Warnings
Ivan: Online surveys can be successfully used as an exploratory type of research – whenever we need to shed more light on certain issue, better understand a problem, generate new creative ideas, or decide on direction for future research. However, if we want to make our online survey more conclusive (and our business vision better!), it is important to ensure that your sample is representative, random, and large enough to provide acceptable confidence interval / margin of error. One way to determine your needed sample size is by using the survey sample calculator tools, such as the one offered by Survey System (www.surveysystem.com/sscalc.htm). This way you can make inferences about the entire population or your target group, not just the respondents you surveyed.
Cyri & Ivan’s Medication Rating:
Cyri Jones teaches entrepreneurship, project management and IT at BCIT and Capilano University and is the founder of ZENPortfolios.ca, an e-portfolio and group collaboration tool. He blogs at 24posts.com. Ivan Surjanovic is in Capilano University’s Marketing Faculty and CEO of iPower Lab. He blogs about new business and technology trends at whereispuck.com. All Cyri and Ivan’s previous columns published in Business in Vancouver can also be found on bizpharmacy.com.