Don’t sacrifice insights for a shorter survey

Kelcey Curtis | Sep 8, 2017 Kelcey Curtis 09/08/17

Short surveys are all the rage in today’s customer experience measurement (CX) landscape. Unfortunately, some organizations are cutting survey content at the expense of valuable insights. In an earlier blog, we touched on some of the pros and cons of shorter surveys. Now we would like to give you a guide to help you make the right decisions for your measurement strategy.

If you’re thinking of trimming down your survey, take these considerations into account before you get started.

Look at what you’ve got

First, work with your account management team to audit your survey content. Understanding what survey questions are providing actionable insights is critical to maintaining a survey that collects the data you need. The strategies below are a great starting place to determine what questions could be removed.

  1. Determine the essentials. What is the field using to track progress day-to-day? Avoid cutting critical content that operators rely upon to do their jobs.
  2. Monitor “survey creep.” Are there questions that maybe made sense in the past, but don’t make sense anymore? Remove any questions about former initiatives, promotions, limited time offers, or past events. If you need help deciding what to keep and what to cut, check out our blog on the topic.
  3. Consider smart branching. Questions that aren’t used for survey logic can be on the chopping block, but avoid removing questions that determine a respondent’s flow through the survey. This will minimize unanticipated shifts in scores.
  4. Evaluate your entry code. Piecemeal entry pages take 1-1.5 minutes to complete, which can make respondents jump ship right away. Instead of making your customers manually enter every part of their receipt to get to your survey, consider updating to a smart code that gives you all of their visit information in just a few keystrokes.


Right changes. Right time.
When planning a survey change, timing is key. All survey changes can come with unanticipated shifts in scores or other metrics, and implementing them at the wrong time only makes it worse. If you’re planning to track upcoming changes in your organization, making changes to your survey may affect historical comparisons.

Instead, you should try to make survey changes when:

  1. You can clearly communicate the changes and their potential impact
  2. There are no vital organizational initiatives that require tracking against past performance
  3. You can align them with other changes to your CX program to minimize disruption and generate engagement

Define success

Knowing your goals before editing your survey content is important, and outlining your success criteria can help you get there. But what does a successful survey look like?

Our experience and research has found that these are good indicators that the survey changes are effective:

  1. Lower abandonment rates—shorter surveys increase the likelihood of your respondents finishing them
  2. Increased responses—lower abandonment rates mean a bigger pool of responses
  3. Improved comments—fewer questions reduce fatigue and increase the quality of responses to open-ended questions
  4. Data with purpose—every question plays a distinct role in your CX strategy

Testing your methods

Once you’ve assessed your survey and know what success looks like, it’s time to test! We recommend testing the revised survey side-by-side with your existing survey so you can:

  1. Understand the impact to scores
  2. Determine changes in your open-ended comment quality
  3. Evaluate survey health without influences of seasonality

It’s also important to determine how long to run your test. You want to be sure you’ll have enough sample to compare the existing survey with the new survey to get conclusive results. Your research analyst and account team will be able to help determine how long it will take to collect an adequate sample to be confident about the findings of your test.

Bottom line
Shortening your surveys is a great way to ensure you’re getting the highest sample possible—but going in without a plan can leave you with an ineffective survey. Here’s how to shorten your survey successfully:

  • Determine what’s worth keeping and what you can discard
  • Make your changes at the right time to avoid bigger shifts in data than necessary
  • Define criteria for success
  • Test survey revisions side-by-side with the existing survey

Taking these preliminary steps can help make sure you survey is respondent-friendly while still giving your organization the data and insights it needs to take action.

Want to learn more about how length affects your response rates? Check out our white paper: Increasing response rates by managing survey length.

Kelcey Curtis
Research Manager

Customer Experience Update