Communication isn’t a carefully crafted questionnaire

By Jason Zweig

         How much do you like this product? 2 out of 5

         How likely are you to recommend this product? 5 out of 5

         How satisfied were you with the service you received yesterday? 4 out of 5

As long as you can read at a 11h grade level, standardized questions like these allow nearly everyone to share standardized, quantitative opinions about a wide variety of topics. Most researchers try to create questionnaires that are fairly easy to read given that Canada is a nation of English speakers, French speakers, and immigrants who’ve arrived from more than 100 nations around the world 50 years, 10 years, or even just 6 months ago (Welcome! We’re glad to have you!).

Questionnaires are the great equalizer.

But quantitative questionnaires won’t always be the complete solution to a problem. And that’s where two other important features come into play.

First, when writing questionnaires, always be sure to include at least one open-ended question. This serves many purposes, one of which is giving people a place to share opinions about questions you did not ask. But a second reason, an extremely important reason, is that written open-ends allow people who think through their fingers to give you an idea of who they really are.

Let the novelists type!

typing questionnaire Canadian ViewpointOpen-ended questions allow you to formulate ideas about who your consumers, or potential consumers, are. Do they prefer to use short or long words? Casual or formal words? Acronyms, slang, or fully defined words? You can also get a sense for the type of grammar they prefer. Again, is it formal, professional grammar or casual, street grammar?

The important thing to recognize when analyzing grammar and spelling is not its supposed ‘correctness’ but, rather, how it reflects on the types of people you hope to engage with. For instance, if people write with extreme formality, then you might be best served by using more formal copy in your marketing and advertising strategies. And, if their grammar and spelling is more casual, you might want to consider using an incomplete sentence or emoji once in a while. The point is to understand who your consumers are and to meet them half-way.

Let the speakers speak!

Secondly, for some people, putting even one word on a page is akin to torture. Some people are wired to think with their mouths instead of their fingers and it’s just as important to give those people the opportunity to share their opinions in a format which best suits them. Invite them to turn on their web camera and simply tell you their thoughts, feelings, and opinions. Web camera open-ends can be easily inserted into a questionnaire without the respondent having to open new tabs, download software, or get distracted by extraneous technical issues (our EyeHome™ tool does exactly this).

As with written open-ends, verbal open-ends via a web camera give you so much more than simply content. You can physically see the people who choose to share their opinions. Their personal style, whether it be themselves or their surroundings, will help you better understand and meet the needs of people who use your products.

The next time you prepare a survey for fielding, consider whether you’ve respected everyone’s preferred communication method whether by offering them opportunities to check boxes, write a novel, or shout from the mountaintop.

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