Last week, we spoke about the value of surveys for injecting human stories back into your social value reporting. But here at Impact, we think this is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to surveys.
Surveys are an excellent way to gather a wide range of data for many businesses and industries, both in terms of social value and beyond. They help businesses – outside of their CSR departments – to better deliver their services, tailor their offering to customers, and encourage greater engagement from their audiences.
And they work wonders for market research, putting you in touch with your end-users directly, allowing you to collect their thoughts, opinions, and views of your business and services.
For example, over the years at Impact, while we’ve been able to help many third-sector organisations gather important data and insights to aid their social value generation, we’ve also helped everyday businesses gather the data they need to inform decision-making and improve their services.
With this in mind, we’ve put together our top ‘dos and don’ts’ when it comes to using surveys as a method of data collection in your business.
Do use a variety of input types
We always recommend using a range of different question types in your surveys. This way, you collect a wider range of data and can pull out more valuable, varied insight from the results.
Your organisation’s human-level impact is just as important as stats and numbers. In fact, in some ways, it’s even more important. With this in mind, the surveys you produce should gather both qualitative and quantitative data. A pie chart or line graph can be informative, but they lack any real-world insight. By striking a balance between statistical and open-ended questions, you can build a bigger picture.
The average response rate to surveys is around 26%. Not very high. The input types you choose will influence your survey’s completion rate. Its length, purpose, questions, design, and optimisation will all play a part in how motivated your audience is to complete it. You want it to be an interesting journey, not a monotonous chore.
At Impact, we use conditional logic to take this one step further and produce bespoke surveys. With conditional logic, the questions shown to each participant will vary and change depending on their previous answers. It ensures you don’t waste your audience’s time on irrelevant questions and promotes greater engagement.
Do note where it’s worth investing
There are a range of handy tools available online for generating and carrying out surveys. But just because there are cheap – or even free – options available, it doesn’t mean they’ll work as well as you’d like them to.
Free alternatives tend to be free for a reason: they offer less. The analytics will likely be sub-par, and they can stop short of helping you understand the true meaning behind your figures. You end up missing out on vital data; this is especially problematic when monitoring social impact which is so heavily about human stories.
For more purpose-led research, it can be extremely beneficial to invest in a tool that will take your surveys one step further. Something that will link your data to specific activities, KPIs, beneficiaries, or business goals.
Do automate for easy distribution
To make the most of your surveys, it’s essential to focus on quick, easy, and efficient deployment.
You want to reach more people in less time. And you also want to reach the right people. If you or your respondents are already time-poor, you can see how this won’t always add up.
But there are plenty of options out there when it comes to personalised survey automation. For example, you can make it so a survey will only be pushed out once a respondent has completed a certain action – such as signing up for a newsletter or inputting their email. You can also automate follow-up emails to be sent if a survey hasn’t been completed within a certain amount of days of being sent.
Automation like this ensures you keep reaching out to relevant people and can maximise your engagement and the data collected.
Do allow all data collected to inform your future decisions
Surveys provide the insight needed to understand which of your systems are working, which need improvement, and areas where your organisation could do even better.
In terms of social value, surveys allow you to hear directly from those your initiatives have helped. It sheds light on how you can make even more of a positive impact and go further to generate social value and improve people’s lived experience.
It’s up to you as a business to take the insight your surveys provide on board and use it to shape future goals, initiatives, and adapt existing systems.
During the current recovery phase of COVID-19, it’s important for all businesses to be people- and community-focused. In terms of wider businesses that might use surveys, using the data you collect to pivot and adapt your business will highlight that you’re putting people at the centre of your business and are committed to doing your best in terms of your end-users.
Don’t forget your objectives
Whenever you’re creating, releasing, or reporting on a survey, remember why you created it in the first place. Clearly defined objectives and goals should shape the creation of the survey in the first place and influence what conclusions you draw and how you use them to inform and shape future strategies.
Who you’re reaching out to will influence the questions you ask, how you deploy the survey, and how you ensure it’s accessible and relevant to your respondents.
And when it comes to reporting, who are you reporting to? This will help you determine the data you present, the conclusions you draw, and any actions you need to take as a result. Here is a handy resource we’ve put together that’s worth reading through before creating a new survey.
Take this as an example. As a business, your staff have been volunteering their time to provide educational support to local families. They’ve been helping to make up for lost school time with those who struggled with the kids at home during the pandemic. This aligns perfectly with UN SDG number four: quality education, a goal that’s proven material for your organisation during a materiality matrix. You want to use a survey to better understand the impact your staff’s time has had on these local families.
With this in mind, you can better approach the design and deployment of your survey to reach the right people and encourage greater engagement. Your respondents are busy spinning a lot of plates. Where possible, keep things short, sweet, and to the point. Something that’s sent straight to their inbox will probably be preferable. Then maybe a follow-up message a few days later to nudge them to fill it out.
Don’t ignore the role of response bias
Response bias is the idea that people won’t always answer the questions you give them truthfully or honestly. Respondents can feel pressure to give socially acceptable answers, portraying themselves in the best light. Or perhaps the questions may influence the way they answer.
Response bias will always be a factor, no matter how careful you are with wording when creating your survey. It’s something to consider when analysing your results and drawing your conclusions.
Don’t think you need to be restricted by an internet connection
It’s easy to assume an online survey system requires you to be online all the time. But there are plenty of options out there that enable you to carry out the actual surveying process offline.
This gives you the freedom to collect data out on the field – whether in a city centre or a field in the middle of nowhere. And when you’re back online, results can then be uploaded and analysed. This affords you greater flexibility and freedom when collecting your data.
Don’t let your data sit around unused
After you’ve gone through the motions of creating a survey and gathering insights, you don’t want your data to just sit there for months on end. To make the most of it, time is of the essence. The more up-to-date and reliable your data, the stronger decision-making you can benefit from. In short, the quicker you act, the better the results. It’s a small, simple tip, but could well be the most essential.
And there you have our advice for using surveys as an efficient, effective, and valuable method of data collection. Whether you’re using surveys for social value or wider business operations, with the right tools behind you, you can maximise your impact, results, and decision-making.
At Impact, our survey functionality can elevate your business’s data collection, analysis, and reporting. We boast 18 different input types, offline capabilities, conditional logic, and an overarching powerful reporting platform to ensure you’re always acting effectively and efficiently. We make your data work harder, not you. Get in touch today on 0161 532 4752 to find out more.