Are We Asking Too Many Questions From The Respondents?

time is preciousI have tried for long to come up with a fool proof method to decide as to how many questions I should keep in the questionnaire. Well the search is still on – I have been advised various methods to go about it but the bottom line is – that in most cases at the end you go with your gut feeling. I have drafted few questionnaires which were 45 minutes long – I pray for the poor soul who for few dollars incentives participated in it.Every Saturday religiously I take my wife and kid out for dinner and invariably we end up at the same restaurant. So when this Saturday I ordered Chinese food the manager of the restaurant remarked – “what happened sir you are not ordering the regulars?” My first reaction was – Surprise – I never knew I am so important that the staff will be noticing the items I regularly order (in fact even I haven’t observed that there isn’t much variety in much food choice).

Probably noticing my awkward reaction the manager said “Sir observing customers is the lifeline of our business. If we cannot sniff the preferences of our patrons we are doomed”

Now it was more surprising for me that this restaurant manager has not engaged a market research company to realize what needs to be done.

I know your first reaction will be “Come on! Give us a break!! It is a small restaurant with few patrons – the manager can observe patterns – it is just common sense”

I humbly agree with you here – the motive of sharing this story is that observational tactics and mapping them into sensible patterns is a much better alternative to filling boring questionnaires (of course such observations are part and parcel of any standard market research projects) but what really intrigues me is the necessity of putting so many questions that after sometime the respondents just feels like rushing through this ordeal.

Will it not be better if in 6-7 questions you can gauze the respondent’s perspective?

I agree that certain topics do require in depth probing but not all research surveys.

An example – when survey asks demographic questions in an online survey – now these online panel companies have already profiled these respondents – why can’t they just provide demographic profiles of respondents who complete the survey? At least it will spare respondents few agonizing moments of punching keypad.

Can we extract the real opinions with minimum possible questions?

The response rates are dipping as we speak – in future if we expect to reach respondents primarily via smart phones – I am sure no one will be willing to punch those small buttons for 30-40 minutes.

Today we live in a Twitter world where 140 characters are all we get to express ourselves – are market researchers prepared for such a precise generation?

To compensate low response rates we inadvertently send larger samples to complete surveys. Are we not antagonizing potential respondents with bombardments of surveys?

Are you as a market researcher really sure that respondents have an answer to what you ask for?

For example if you ask “Whether you will recommend this product to your friends?” it may be that I have never ever thought about it – now to complete the survey you are forcing me to come up with an answer – many a times in a hurry to just get over with survey I may be tempted to punch a response which is not true had I thought about it over a sufficient period of time.

Are we forcing respondents to ‘come up’ with an answer?

At the end of it all – your respondent’s time is precious – so better treat it that way – think thoroughly about every question you put in the survey – do I really need to ask this question?

Akshay Kanyal

Akshay Kanyal

Akshay Kanyal writes survey research reviews on his popular blog Online MR. He’s an avid blogger, brand consultant and a content marketing expert, helping business owners to craft content that sells.

He provides content marketing advice to start-ups and innovation driven companies. He can be contacted at

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