person Guy Potter access_time June 7, 2018
Tips on Self-Service Research

Sometimes we just want to get a survey done as quickly as possible without any lengthy set-up or pre-survey analysis or discussion. It could be because your client has a tight budget, you just want to create some headlines or respond to the current news agenda; either way, self-service surveys are ideal for these situations.

As self-service means, well, exactly that, you may not get as much help with the initial set-up as you would from a managed survey, but there are a range of options to help make this process as straightforward as possible.

Here are our tips on going it alone and getting the best out of a self-service survey.

When to use Self-Service and when not

If you’re looking for quick, Yes/No research then this is when a self-service approach is best. However, if you want more detailed insights and analysis, then it’s probably best to look at an assisted survey as this will give you more specific data.

With self-service surveys you can choose your target audience as there is a range of demographic data to work with. However, if you’re looking at more specific, regional data, such as people in the Midlands who like watching soaps, then it’s going to be harder getting this level of detail with self-service research. If you want a sample base of purely men or women between a certain age who watch tv, then this can be achieved more easily.

In summary, if you want to gauge the response of the general population then self-service is ideal, but if you need more data, demographic detail and in-depth interpretation of the results, an assisted approach is the best option.

How to draft the questionnaire

With research, it’s important to always start at the end and work your way backwards. Consider your headline, or key point, and then tailor your questions accordingly. If you’re unsure of your outcomes, then, more often than not, your survey results will reflect this.

Other key points to consider when creating your questionnaire:

  1. Think about what exactly it is you want from the survey – its ultimate purpose – and what you will use it for?
  2. Make sure your questions are clear and to the point and leave no room for misinterpretation
  3. If it’s for consumer feedback or insights, then think about what you want to get from the questions you ask.

When it comes to drafting the questions, be clear and try not to shoehorn in too many points. Respondents get bored and frustrated if there are too many questions. Additionally, if they aren’t clear then you’re at risk of a high abandonment rate, which will lessen the effectiveness of your data, not to mention be a poor use of your budget.

To combat this risk, stick to around 10 questions and make them closed so that they require a straightforward yes or no response. Alternatively, if you’re using a scale or multiple-choice answers, then make sure to randomise answers to avoid bias. This will increase data validity eliminating bias to the first answers.

Creating the sample base

When choosing your target demographic, like the question creating process, always go back to end of the survey and consider the results you want to achieve.

Some self-service survey providers may not give you the chance to create a target sample base at the start. In that case, be aware that it’s a general population survey, which is ideal for some consumer research, but may be tricky if it’s a tech or business angle you need. You can ask for demographic data during the survey, however, but be aware it may not give you the results you want.

For those survey providers that do have the ability to give you a demographic breakdown at the point of creation, consider what and who you want to respond. For example, it is possible to choose a sample based on a respondent’s choice of newspaper or even their preferred supermarket, so you can really drill down to provide some specifics.

Although the press does recognise a ‘quick and dirty’ PR survey and treat it accordingly, research still must adhere to a set of standards. For a journalist, or a marketing director looking for quick insight, there does need to be a methodology with which to frame the survey to make it newsworthy or relevant.

Providing a robust sample gives more weight and credence to research than stating it’s a general section of the UK population, so it’s an important factor to consider when choosing a survey provider.

Self-Service Survey templates

There are always typical surveys that PRs, brands or marketers commission repeatedly, and these are usually focused around major events, brand analysis or the latest news agenda. For example, we see a lot of research on the UK’s favourite chef or the favourite to win Bake Off or Love Island.

For these surveys, there are ready-made questionnaire templates that can be tweaked or amended to fit a specific theme. This not only reduces the time spent creating a questionnaire, but it means you’re working with a tried and tested formula, so you can relax in the knowledge that its success or failure no longer depends solely on the person creating the questionnaire.

As these templates can be saved, it also means quick, easy access whenever required, not to mention the ability to gather results in as fast a timeframe as possible.

Ultimately, it’s important to feel confident and enjoy the experience of creating a self-service survey, but if there are any concerns or questions that need confirming, then a good provider will always be on-hand to help and ensure you get the most effective results.

Good luck and have fun!

Guy Potter is maru / usurv's head of research and clients.