Group Speak

By: Troy Nottingham
January 30, 2015

When SurveyMonkey Works

There are a host of automated survey tools on the market.  And, they have come a long way since the first iteration of the tool we know today as SurveyMonkey.

As with every tool in the research arsenal, the SurveyMonkeys of the world definitely have a purpose and play a role.  However, they are not the panacea for every researchable topic.  In fact, trouble awaits when an automated survey tool is used out of context.

When it comes to an automated survey, here’s when it works best:

    1. This type of tool is perfect when you want to get input from your customers or employees – or from any other group for which you have email addresses and permission to reach out to them via email.
    2. It is also perfect if you only have 5-10 quick, simple questions to ask OR if you have someone in-house who can set aside the time to program a longer survey – one with skip patterns or ‘if / then’ propositions.

When you conduct a survey using an automated tool, there are some things you will need to take into consideration:

    1. If you don’t have email addresses for the audience you want to survey, then you will need to purchase them.
    2. If you want to apply the learning from the survey to a larger audience (e.g., your customer base), then you need to make sure you use a random sample that is reflective of the entire universe to which you are projecting.  Fairly easy to do if you are surveying employees or customers.  Not so much, when it comes to purchasing a sample from an online panel supplier.       Without a random and representative sampling, you may end up making changes to marketing, product development or training, etc., that work – but only for a fraction of those you serve.
    3.  If you want to slice and dice the data (e.g., to see how women differ from men or how 18-24 year-olds differ from 25-34 year-olds), you’ll need to “run the data” or process the numbers yourself.  Which will require the capability in-house or a vendor to whom you can outsource.

Used in the right situation, automated survey tools work great, are simple, can be timely and are very affordable.   But, be prepared, they require more time and effort than you think.