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Paper Surveys and How You Can Make Your Survey User-Friendly

Updated: Aug 11, 2022



As a customer, let’s face it, when you see a survey solicitor with a stack of papers, you want to run for the hills. Typically, customers will avoid paper surveys, as participating in the survey may take away from the time needed to complete an errand.

Time is not the only factor that may prevent a customer from participating in a survey; survey fatigue is another factor. Survey fatigue can happen when the survey participant becomes overwhelmed while taking the survey.

Although paper surveys may not seem ideal, there are ways to make the process easier. When it becomes necessary to use a paper survey, consider making the survey user-friendly by making it short and easy to complete.

Here are some tips on how you can improve the survey experience for customers taking your paper survey.

Tips on How to Make Your Paper Survey User-Friendly

Here are a few tips on how you can make the best of your paper surveys.

· Make the Survey Short and Sweet

· Use Scaled Questions

· Use Multiple Choice and Yes and No Questions

· Provide an electronic alternative

Short Surveys

Short surveys can prevent your survey participant from getting overwhelmed and also prevent them from watching the clock. Keeping the survey short also allows you to keep the responder's attention so that you can get real information. What is real information? In this case, real information means the customer has taken the time to read and respond consciously without selecting an answer lacking thought to quickly finish the survey.

What is a short survey? A short survey should have five to ten questions. Since the survey is in paper form, consider printing your survey on a notecard sized paper to make it visibly short. Having a notecard sized paper will immediately create a perception that the survey will take little time to complete.

Scaled Questions Are Your Friend

Most survey designers use the Likert Scale question format. The Likert Scale is a favorite because it is easy to understand. When the survey taker sees the scaled questions, they interpret that the survey is easy and quick to complete; therefore, allowing you to have more willing survey participants. Not only are scaled questions easy and useful for data collection, but it is also easier to analyze.

Multiple Choice and Yes and No Questions for Easy Response

The use of multiple choice and yes and no questions allows the survey participant to respond to the survey efficiently, easily, and quickly. At this point, you may have noticed that one particular question has been removed, the open-ended question.

Although the open-ended question has its value in covering additional thoughts, it is best suited for an electronic survey. In an electronic survey, the participant has time and is not asked to complete the survey on the spot.

Provide an Electronic Alternative

Although paper surveys are in-person, you can provide survey takers the option to scan a QR code to access a link to the survey electronically. The respondent can take the survey on a mobile device without being held hostage to complete a paper survey in person by providing a link.

The use of a scannable alternative may be more popular with specific demographics. Consider having a scannable option for those who may prefer to use a phone.

My Experience With Paper Surveys

Market research has been my passion since graduate school. My first research was an electronically delivered survey. My teammates and I conducted focus groups, built our survey, plugged the survey into SurveyMonkey, and deployed the survey to customers on our mailing list. The results came in; we analyzed the data using SPSS and complete the write-up.

Since the first survey had been administered and analyzed quickly and with valuable insights gathered, I couldn't wait for another round of market research and data analysis. When my second research came around, my professor said, “oh, by the way, these are going to be paper surveys.” I thought, okay, no problem. Oh, how incredibly hilarious it is when your older self can look back and laugh at how inexperienced and overly confident you were back in the day.

It turns out; we had over a thousand paper surveys completed. I am sure you have an idea of what happened next. Yes, to my horror, we spent many days and nights entering paper surveys into SPSS to clean the data and conduct our analysis. The images of the stacks of surveys will forever be etched in my mind.

It took us days to enter all these surveys; however, the end product did not disappoint. The information we gathered was the most interesting I had ever seen. It seemed we had ventured where no one had gone before to get vital information. You may think that paper surveys are obsolete, and while they may not be the first choice for collecting data, sometimes, paper surveys are necessary.

When are Paper Surveys Necessary?

Although paper surveys can be painful to administer and enter, they still have a role to play in market research. Here are some cases in which you may find yourself using a paper survey.

· The target population is not reachable via electronic means.

· Lack of an email database. Some small businesses that need to conduct customer surveys may not have an email database.

· Some customers may not have access to an email or may not wish to access email or technology.

Final Thoughts

While the need for paper surveys may have dwindled, there may be times when you may still need to rely on good old fashioned manual data gathering techniques. When privacy concerns are significant, some of your customers may not be willing to provide an email for contact. Depending on the business, collecting contact information such as an email may not be necessary or practical.

When you encounter a paper survey, do not be dismayed; although not popular, the paper survey can still allow you to gather information to provide the insight you need. Remember to keep your paper survey short and easy to encourage survey participation.

Do you need assistance with your customer survey? Contact us for your survey design, distribution, and data analysis needs.

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