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A Primer on Modern Survey Tools

The purpose of modern survey tools is to make doing surveys possible for the average person. As rapid application development (RAD) tools, they take the coding out of survey creation.

Here are some basics on these tools:

What’s a RAD Tool?

Simply put, RAD tools enable you and me to create applications. Using a visual user interface and without writing a single line of code, we can create a piece of software by ourselves.

If you’ve ever worked with Adobe Dreamweaver before, you may find using a RAD tool analogous to using Dreamweaver to create web pages, where we don’t write the HTML code.

Or, it’s like going to Jiffy Lube instead of changing our oil ourselves. There’s a bit of work involved still, but nowhere near as much. And to help further, a tool designed by experts will have a feature set that effectively shows us what’s possible with an application.

The Nuts and Bolts of Modern Surveys

The basic makeup of a modern survey tool is: 1) a survey editor, 2) an audio editor and 3) a style editor.

With the survey editor, we create the survey by adding our questions and answer choices. Although designing a survey that flows logically and makes sense is an art in itself and a topic for another post.

With the audio editor, we record our prompts and messages for phone surveys. It’s important to note that the tone and quality of a voice influences a person’s responses, so we have to take that into account when designing our survey.

Think of how someone with a regional accent might respond to a person with the same accent versus someone with a different one. It’s important to have control over the exact audio we choose, even if that means recording messages ourselves.

With the style editor, we customize the look of online or mobile surveys. Like anything else, the appearance of a survey affects the likelihood that a person will take it and how they respond while they’re taking it.

Catchphrase of the Day: Multimodal

Today’s survey tools are what’s called multimodal, meaning they can go out over a variety of today’s communication mediums (i.e., phone call, text, email or social media). This is important because today’s respondents are multimodal—our surveys have to be multimodal as well.

Think about how we communicate today. My typical breakdown consists of texts, then emails, then phone calls, then social media, then snail mail. It varies by individual, of course, but the most used form of communication these days, at least over mobile phones, is texting.

Analytics, Please

Survey data isn’t much good if we can’t aggregate, filter and analyze it. And it’s nice to know in real time how many people have taken our surveys and how they’re responding.

Any modern survey tool should give us analytics to filter the data we receive and package it into reports for easy digestion. Doing so, we can see the trends in the data—which is the whole point of a survey.

A Legit Support Forum

What do we do when we don’t know how to do something? We Google it. At least that’s what I do, for pretty much everything. That’s the beauty of today’s internet: we can find almost any bit of information we need, very quickly.

Which is why forums are so handy. Why fumble with trial and error when we can avoid the pitfalls and learn the tricks from someone who’s already done it? It’s always good if a product has a large, knowledgeable and active support forum.

And a Few Other Things We Need:

  • Managing surveys. With campaigns, we can manage the parameters of our surveys some. We can choose things like starting and ending dates, number of times we call before giving up and volume of calls we do at any one time.
  • Asking different kinds of questions. The more options, the better. They should include yes or no, scale, multiple choice and comment. They should accommodate currencies, dates, times, addresses, numbers and more.
  • Integrating with the office. In real time, get the survey data into your database for viewing.
  • Using skip logic. By skip, it means jumping from one page/voice menu of a survey to another. By logic, it means doing it based on the choices respondents make.
  • Tracking respondents. If respondents take our survey more than once and we only want them to take it once, that skews our survey. By tracking and logging IP addresses and phone numbers, we can control that.
  • Speaking different languages. If the respondents we want speak Spanish, we obviously need a survey that speaks Spanish. Modern tools should accommodate many languages.
  • Choosing a voice.  Tone, gender, accent…things like this affect how comfortable a respondent is and how they fill out a survey. We may need dozens of voices.
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