On a scale from 1-10, with 1 being “I cried tears of pain and anguish” and 10 being “I cried tears of joy and happiness,” how would you rate your last survey experience? (That includes taking a survey or developing your own.)

In general, how useful do you think surveys really are in accomplishing their objectives (which are normally something along the lines of “measuring attitudes and opinions” or “exploring the relationships between ‘x’ and ‘y’”)? Do you ever see any changes come about based on the results of a survey?

Similar to, well, everything, there’s a right way and a wrong way to approach surveys. A survey steeped in science can be a powerful tool, yielding reliable and valid results. A survey that ignores even the most basic principles that govern statistical analysis and measurement is nothing short of a waste of time—on the part of the survey developer and the survey respondent.

So why would anyone who has a need for a quality survey not take the time to ensure said survey is as effective as possible? There are infinite answers to that question, but for the sake of this discussion, we’ll narrow it down to two.

The first, and probably the most likely answer, is that it seems like a costly venture to employ some highfalutin consulting/measurement/analytics/whatever firm to develop, deliver and report on a fancy-schmancy survey you probably could have done on your own at a fraction of the price.

This transitions us nicely into the second most likely answer: Developing a survey seems like a fairly intuitive, straight-forward process that anyone with half a brain could follow. Figure out what questions you want to ask, ask them and then gather the data … simple!

As it turns out, neither of those answers are entirely true.

First, if you decide to partner with a professional organization, they need not be classified as “highfalutin” nor do they have to charge an arm and a leg for their services. Believe it or not, highly qualified organizations DO exist that will be thrilled to assist with your survey needs without wiping out your entire budget for the year. The bottom line here is the issue of cost can be resolved relatively quickly and painlessly. Carve out a few hours one day to do some homework. Shop around as you would for any service. You may be surprised at the amount of options you have!

But perhaps I’m getting ahead of myself. You still might be considering managing the entire survey process all by your lonesome. If this is your maiden voyage into the world of surveys and measurement, I commend you for your brave, pioneer spirit! You’re like a bold, westward-charging settler bound for glory. MANIFEST DESTINY! But, be warned! Just as many settlers succumbed to rattlesnake bites and dysentery along the Oregon Trail, so too have many first-time survey developers fallen victim to poorly executed surveys. It isn’t as direct and simple a process as it appears on the surface.

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