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Turns Out there ARE Stupid Questions: Learn How to Ask the Right Ones

Posted by Michelle Kratzer on Nov 1, 2018 9:30:00 AM
Michelle Kratzer

Stop asking stupid questions...on surveys

There is no such thing as a stupid question. But what about a stupid question choice? That, unfortunately, is problematic.

I understand your quest for customer feedback -- it’s crucial to the life of your company. But surveys must be crafted carefully; every question deliberately considered. Only the right questions bring the kind of data that leads to an analytic treasure trove. 

Here's a breakdown of the two types of questions you might use on your surveys and why they matter.

Open Ended Questions vs. Closed Ended Questions


Open Ended

Open ended or “fill in the blank” questions are your best source of unidentified issues. No restrictions or predetermined answer options are provided, leaving respondents to answer as they like. Open ended questions get to the root of the issue, and in the process build connections.

Some business owners are afraid to hear what their customers would say in an open ended question; but the information you obtain from them is solid gold. Take it from Bill Gates, “Your unhappy customers are your greatest source of learning.”


Open Ended Question Pros Open Ended Question Cons
  • Uncovers insights that never even occurred to you
  • Provides rich, qualitative data
  • Provides better opportunity for respondent to feel heard, encouraging more engagement.
  • Provides a way for customers to say whatever they want, in their own terms, building loyalty.
  • More time consuming for respondent
  • More effort for respondent means more chance of quitting survey
  • More difficult to compile and categorize data for analysis


 Begin open ended questions with “how”, “what,” “when,” “where,” “which,” and “who.”
These questions prompt more insight and reveal more attitudes.


Open Ended Questions work well for preliminary research, pilot studies and smaller survey sample numbers.


Closed Ended Questions

A closed ended question refers to any question for which the participants are provided with options from which to choose a response. The goal of closed ended questions is to elicit clear, quantifiable data; but before you even start to craft your closed ended survey questions, you must take the time to educate yourself on all possible answer choices. Only after you have exhausted all possible answer choices can you begin to craft a well-written closed ended question.


Closed Ended Question Pros Closed Ended Question Cons
  • Less time consuming for respondent
  • Less work for respondent
  • Renders clear data and analytics
  • May not provide the answer respondent would like to choose
  • Too many answer choices may confuse respondent
  • Providing answers may bias respondent
  • As marketing expert and online influencer Neil Patel warns us, when you ask a yes/no question, that’s all you will get.

These questions are well suited for: Demographics, conducting a study to quantify and evaluate data, recurring surveys to track, measuring and comparing data over time, and when there are only a certain number of answers that are possible.

Types of Closed Ended Questions 


Multiple Choice Single Answer 

These questions are simply questions with a list of supplied answers from which you may only choose one. Use multiple choice single answer questions when only one answer choice would be appropriate like demographic questions on age, gender, income and ethnicity.

Multiple Choice Multiple Answer 

These questions are multiple choice questions with a list of supplied answers from which you may choose more than one.

Rating Scale


These questions come in 2 main types:
  • The Likert rating scale is a 5 - 7 point scale method in which each point is assigned the same amount of weight, giving the respondent a spectrum of equal positive and negative choices. This gives a balanced scale in which respondents can answer in a way that reflects their feelings.
  • The Semantic Differential Scale method was designed to identify the connotative meaning of objects, words, and concepts. The technique was created in the 1950s by psychologist Charles E. Osgood. The semantic differential technique measures an individual's unique, perceived meaning of an object, a word, or an individual.The semantic differential can be thought of as a sequence of attitude scales. 


Open ended questions are a priceless cache of insight. Your customers may share things that shock and surprise you, prompting you to make changes you never anticipated. Meanwhile, closed ended questions garner tighter data which can be easily analyzed. Choosing the appropriate question type on each survey topic will help you to obtain the feedback your company needs.

Writing thoughtful, unbiased survey questions is the first step to engaging with your customers -- using the feedback you receive to make appropriate changes creates loyalty and trust.

Keep getting lost along the way to gathering feedback? Call the CX team at SurveyMe. We know the path to the feedback you need. Let us create a custom survey just for you.

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Topics: Business & Marketing, Survey Strategies, Sales

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