Monday, April 29, 2013

Making Surveys Work

When in our work with colleges and universities to improve their retention and customer service we suggest a survey of student attitudes and opinions, the response is almost universally negative. “We tried to survey recently but students (employees) just didn't respond.” This is a common sort of statement that that we get. People have found that surveys are becoming less and less effective in getting them the information that they need or want.

People are becoming tired of taking surveys and opinion studies. It seems that everywhere they go someone is asking them to give their opinion on one thing or another. It’s not that people don’t like giving their opinions; they certainly do. But they are tired of filling in survey forms that don’t seem to have any effect or direct value for them.

Even though stores offer to put people into a raffle for a cash prize or merchandise people do not go online to complete the surveys. They simply feel that their opinion doesn’t count or matter for much because they cannot see any results. And the odds of wining a gift appear to large for them to spend their time on it. People don’t care to take surveys anymore and they feel as if they are being surveyed to death.

At one university which we’re working with students are surveyed on one thing or another it seems almost every single week. Response rate on the surveys is extremely low. Even on one survey in which we offered an iPad Mini for a raffle for those who completed the survey, the results were minimal.

It used to be that a 10% return from a survey was considered quite good. Now it is considered phenomenal. A 3% return is even good nowadays. Students and others simply are tired of being surveyed with no apparent results coming from the surveys.

It is extremely important that if you use a survey for any purpose students be apprised of the results and these results should lead to something tangible. Otherwise they will get turned off spending that time and at that when it seems to go nowhere. This is also true of the rest of the campus community as well. They don’t mind giving their thoughts and ideas when they believe it is going to lead to substantial change or improvement.

An example. When working with a client college I set up a quality of work life committee. (This is something I recommend at every campus by the way. We have so many committees that look into most everything but what is it like to work at the school and what can be done to make this most important part of a person’s life better.) The first thing the committee did was decide they needed to survey the community to see what the people working on campus felt the quality of work life was. We sent out the survey and got a quite good return actually, about an 21% completion rate on the survey.

We learned a couple of things from the survey as well. We found out that generally people were happy with the way things are going but there were some particular issues that they wanted to have taken care of. In the open response area we learned from the survey that female employees were feeling as if their needs were being ignored. One of the areas that we found people were concerned about was that the door to the female employees bathroom did not close all the way.

I immediately had the maintenance people work on the bathroom door to make sure it would close all of the way. This was accomplished quite quickly and quite easily. We took the next step of repainting the women employees’ bathroom as well as putting in a small couch so that they could sit and relax if they wished. This all worked amazingly well.

How do we know it worked well? Well within a day of fixing the bathroom door we had an influx of additional surveys of returned to us from every segment of the campus. People saw that the survey was actually going to lead to some results and they completed it. We also had a survey out to students on customer service on campus it had a jump in response rate too. Fixing the door got around to the campus saying that we would actually do somethi8ng with the results of surveys.

So the end message here, if you take a survey do something with it. Show that it will lead to a result that has benefit to the people who were taking the survey. If you do, you’ll get a much higher return on your survey response than you might otherwise have received.

If this article has value for you, you'll want to get a copy of the best-selling book The Power of Retention by clicking here.

N.Raisman & Associates has been providing customer service, retention, enrollment and research training and solutions to colleges, universities and career colleges in the US, Canada, and Europe as well as to businesses that seek to work with them since 1999. Clients range from small rural schools to major urban universities and corporations. Its services range from campus customer service audits, workshops, training, presentations, institutional studies and surveys to research on customer service and retention. N.Raisman & Associates prides itself on its record of success for its clients and students who are aided through the firm’s services. 

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