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How to Interpret Your Survey Results to Find Actionable Insights

by Renee Goble
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Survey Strategies

You’ve gone through the process of carefully crafting a survey that will get you great feedback. The polls have closed, and you log into your account to view your plethora of responses only to find yourself quickly drowning in a slew of data.

It’s easy to see feedback results and feel like they’re a buried treasure chest you’ve uncovered that you don’t have the key to. The meaning of the data may seem just out of reach right now, but don’t worry -- we’re here with 7 steps to help you interpret your survey results and turn them into insights you can use.

 

Go Broad, then Narrow

We’ve talked about baseline surveys before and how they are great ways to establish the playing field that all future metrics compare to. You’ll see the truth in this when you’re analyzing future survey results.

That NPS score you received that showed you how loyal your customers were? That “boring” question you asked about how willing your guests would be to pay more for a particular service? All of those questions will provide you with needed statistics that you can compare your future survey questions to. Typically, baseline surveys are a bit broad, but it’s better to start with a wide angle and then zoom in on specific pain points.

Once you’ve determined the big picture, you can then hone in on any problems that pop out. As you analyze your survey results, ask yourself -- “what questions have I asked in the past? How do these answers compare to previous ones?” This will help you gauge if something popping up in your current survey is a growing problem that needs to be immediately addressed.

 

Categorize your responses

Once you’ve decided upon your questions (which should be worded in an easily comprehensible way), try to keep the response choices as uniform as possible -- this will make it easier to organize the data once your survey has closed. Separate open comment questions, multiple choice, and rating scale questions into their own categories.

Once you’ve organized the data, move it into an Excel spreadsheet where you can easily convert the data into percentages and bar graphs. Categorizing your responses will help you figure out if there are any customer trends you should pay attention to. We suggest starting with positive trends to figure out what you’re doing well and then moving to negative response trends to see how you can improve. After you’ve taken a look at the extremes, review your neutral responses and see if there is anything that blatantly stands out. Doing this could help you change neutral customers into positive, recurring ones.

 

Filter questions by age and gender

Now that you’ve categorized your responses by type of question, go back through the data and filter by age and gender. This will help you determine if there are any themes popping up among a particular demographic.

For example, if I look at survey data on an Excel spreadsheet, I might filter responses by 18-24 year-old Females and see what common themes appear in every other question category. Once I’ve made some casual observations, I’ll go back through and calculate percentages to see if my observations hold up. After I’ve calculated percentages, I’ll move on to another demographic until I’ve come up with some in-depth observations from each group.

 

Compare results by demographic

After gathering insights for each demographic, it’s time to compare the results and see if there are any broad or recurring trends. We suggest creating graphs to help you easily cross-tabulate and display your findings. If you have a baseline survey, this is the perfect time to cross-reference your discoveries with previous survey results.

Since you’ve sifted through the data, you’re in a prime spot to discover if there are any pain points that need to be addressed immediately, any recurring ideas that guests are talking about, or anything great guests are saying that you can capitalize on. Make sure you save your demographic comparison since knowing what demographics you want to focus on, and what their current thoughts are, will be useful for future survey analysis.

 

Compare your sample size to the total population

You know what they say about people who assume. In spite of this, assuming can be easy to do when you analyze your survey results: Oh, 10% of my survey-takers said THIS? This must be true for 10% of EVERYONE EVER!

That’s a great way to quickly lose your credibility. You can’t just make assumptions about the general population based off of one small survey sample. Do your best to make sure each demographic is fairly represented and then keep the total population in mind as you draw conclusions from the data. If you’re unsure about the conclusion(s) you’ve come to, conduct a follow up survey and ask the question(s) again.

 

Consider your survey bias

Before you draw firm conclusions, you need to take into consideration (1) who your target audience is (2) where you can reach them and (3) if you’ve reached them effectively.

For example, say you send out a survey in an email campaign and you are particularly interested in what millennials have to say, but the majority of people on your email list are over the age of 50. While you may get a smattering of millennial responses, this sample might not be enough to make actionable changes or draw statistically verifiable conclusions. Furthermore, your data will be unevenly skewed towards the desires and wishes of those over 50.

To combat this, make sure you advertise your survey on multiple channels and know where your target audience goes to leave feedback. Otherwise, you might find yourself in a situation where the data you receive is not the data you want or need, which ultimately results in unaffordable lost time.

 

Make your survey results visually engaging

Research shows that brains process visuals 60,000 times faster than text. So, when you’re interpreting and sharing the data you’ve uncovered, take into consideration how you are presenting that data. You might have mind-blowing information, but if it isn’t clearly presented and visually engaging, than the data won’t leave a lasting impression. In addition to this, make sure that when you display your survey results you use concise, easily understood language. The quickest way to lose someone’s interest is to use language they don’t understand. So, make sure your results are user-friendly, not just “you” friendly.

A good rule of thumb is to try and write for a 6th or 7th grader -- this is typically considered to be where your maximum readability is. This is actually harder than it may seem, so to help you craft comprehensible reports, use tools like the Hemingway App or the Readability Test Tool to test your sentences before you include them in your presentation.

As you analyze your survey, look out for: significant differences between responses, if the responses change over time and if there are any common threads between question answers.

Once you’ve finished analyzing and interpreting your survey results, make sure you use those new findings to influence the baseline on your next round of feedback gathering. After all, surveying your guests isn’t a one-time process -- it’s a recurring one that continuously helps you make better business decisions. Interpreting survey results may seem time-consuming, but it is worth it. Also, thanks to SurveyMe’s SM@RT Insights™ dashboard, filtering, analyzing, interpreting and displaying survey results is as easy as pressing a button.

 

If you want help getting started on a survey, or more information about our analytics dashboard, contact our Client Experience Experts for tips and tricks. We don’t call them “experts” for no reason!

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