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The Types of Questions to Avoid in a Survey

The Types of Questions to Avoid in a Survey

The Types of Questions to Avoid in a Survey

October 1, 2021

The Types of Questions to Avoid in a Survey

October 1, 2021Surveys are essential tools to enrich your CRM and measure customer satisfaction. But to collect actionable answers, it is really important to avoid biased questions. Here are a few examples of biased questions to never use in a customer survey.

Why Biased Questions Undermine your Customer Knowledge

Asking your customers questions helps you get to know them better: who they are, what they think of you, their expectations, etc. Satisfaction surveys enable you to collect very useful information and to improve your offer and customer service.

But this is only true if your questions are well phrased! If not, the result will be poorly qualified answers that are difficult to act on and interpret. You should therefore take all the time you need to build your survey and carefully phrase your questions.

In this article, we would like to draw your attention to so-called biased questions. A biased question is a question that steers the respondent’s answer in a certain direction, sometimes deliberately but more often than not, unconsciously.
For some, any question that doesn’t provide satisfactory results is biased. In which case, lots of questions fall into the biased category.

Biased questions are a problem in the sense that they undermine your answers. It’s really important to avoid them. Your questions should remain as neutral as possible, so as to not influence your customers’ choices.

The best way to avoid biased questions is to look at a few examples.

1. Biased Questions that Explicitly Lead To an Answer

A rather crude example of a biased question, which fortunately is quite rare, is one that explicitly and deliberately leads the respondent to answer a certain way. For example:
Do you plan on buying a diesel car in the near future, bearing in mind that this type of vehicle pollutes more and that the price of diesel isn’t that different to the price of ordinary petrol?”The second part of the question clearly influences the respondent. In this example, the respondent is encouraged to say no. Sometimes, the question can lead to a yes, such as:

“Do you plan on buying an electric car in the near future, bearing in mind that this type of vehicle emits half the amount of CO2 and reduces your energy costs?”

2. Biased Questions that Value a Brand

Do you want to know what your customers think of your customer service? Then it would be a mistake to ask this type of question:

“Our customer service has been received several awards. Were you satisfied with our service and did we help you solve your problem?”

This type of question encourages respondents to reply affirmatively. The person who wrote this question is clearly trying to get as many positive answers as possible, even if it means undermining the truthfulness of the answers. If you want to know what your customers really think, then avoid biased and embellished questions.
Generally speaking, it is best to avoid superlatives and meliorative adjectives. Don’t ask: “What do you think of our friendly customer service?”, but simply, “what do you think of our customer service?”.

To learn more, read our article 4 Simple Ideas to Quickly Satisfy your CustomersEven better, ask a targeted and precise question, such as: “Did you receive a quick answer?”. The more precise the question, the more useful the answers.

3. Closed Questions that Should be Open

Closed questions, as their name suggest, limit the respondent to a pre-determined choice of answers.

In most cases, it makes sense to use closed questions. But sometimes, when the choice of answers could be very wide, using a closed question is a problem.
Even if you suggest 5 or 6 options, some customers might not relate to any of them.

For example:
What is your favourite brand?
1. Audi 2. Renault 3. Fiat 4. Mercedes 5. Toyota
What if the respondent wanted to answer BMW? Either they won’t answer at all or they will provide a wrong answer.A closed question is particularly problematic when it excludes real alternatives. When using a closed question, it is important to ensure that the answer options cover as many answers as possible.

  • With regards to the example above, it would be better to:
  • Ask an open-ended question.
  • Rephrase the question: Which of these 5 brands do you prefer?
  • Include a sixth answer choice, such as “Other”.

4. Questions Biased by the Halo Effect

To fully understand the halo effect, let’s take a look at the following example:
Do you agree with the reference magazine, PassionAuto, that our new car model is the best of the year?

A halo effect occurs when an authoritative person or group is used to influence a question. This is also known as the contamination effect or the notoriety effect. The halo effect makes the answer less neutral. Respondents won’t answer according to their own opinion, but according to that of the authoritative person.

5. Biased Questions that Ask Two Different Questions

How efficient and responsive did you find our customer service?
This sort of split question makes it very difficult to interpret the results. Which part of the question does the client’s answer refer to?

6. Questions that are Biased by a Lack of Clarity

This applies to any questions that use jargon and that are not easy to understand for all respondents.
E.g.: What do you think of our new TSFI30D engine compared to the V6 BiTDI?This question might make sense to a select few, but not necessarily to the general public. Make sure to adapt your vocabulary to your target audience.

7. Questions that are Biased by a Lack of Precision

Questions are considered vague when their answers are subject to interpretation.
E.g.: Do you drive a lot?
How many kilometres is “a lot”? It would be better to ask, “Do you use your car every day?” or “Do you drive more than 30,000 km per year?”.

As you can see, there are lots of ways to make questions biased, which is why it is so important to carefully phrase your questions. Feel free to download our guide to writing the perfect customer survey. The quality of your answers and the quality of your customer knowledge depends on your questions’ impartiality.