Is There Such a Thing as a Three Question Survey?

It isn’t unusual for a client to contact us and say that they want a quick and dirty survey with just three questions – or at least a small number of questions. We know what they mean. Typically the questions will be:

  1. “How likely would you be to recommend company X?”,
  2. “Why did you say that?”,
  3. “In what way do you think company X could improve its products or services to a company like you?”.

This is fair enough. However, there are a whole bunch of questions that still need to be asked. These are the classification questions – the ones that give power to a survey.

So what are the classification questions we have in mind? They can be grouped into questions about the respondent, questions about the company, and questions about its behaviour and attitudes.

Questions about the respondent are really important. If the survey is carried out online we will need to ask if the respondent is male or female. We really do want to know their age (the age of the person is such an important indicator of the behaviour and attitudes). We would like to know their roles and responsibilities within the company.

Questions about the company are equally critical. Of course, we may know a good deal about the company if they are a customer. We can tag data on what they buy and how much they buy to the survey responses. By one means or another we need to know the industry classification of the company, its size (number of employees is a great measure to use), its location and possibly whether it is a head office or a subsidiary of a larger group. These firmographics answers help us see variations in responses by segment.

If time and budget allow, we would like to add a few questions about behaviour and attitudes. How many suppliers does the company use? Does the company regularly switch suppliers? What are the factors that are really important to the company when they look for a supplier? This data allows us to see what is driving the answers to those three critical questions.

It is not the researcher’s intention to deliberately turn a 3 question survey into a 30 question survey. It is the need to recognise that the answers to the three questions alone would be like being dropped in a wood with a blindfold. You would know that you are in a wood, you would be able to smell and feel the trees but you would be missing the important clues that tell you how to find your way out.

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