A survey is only as good as its respondents. If you’re running a survey, whether for your business, a project, or even an academic experiment, biased answers can skew the results and distort whatever conclusions you might draw from them. In marketing surveys, for example, one bias that can trip up researchers is that of “social desirability”. People often answer questions in the way they think others want them to answer. Even if you ask people the right questions the right way, there’s no guarantee that you’ll get meaningful answers. A better approach is to ensure that your respondents are reliable before they even take your survey. The easiest way to do this is through vetted survey respondents.
How can you have a representative sample of your population?
A survey is only as good as its respondents. If you’re running a global B2B survey, whether for your business, a project, or even an academic experiment, biased answers can skew the results and distort whatever conclusions you might draw from them. But how do you make sure that your sample is representative of the larger population?
To get reliable responses from your sample (and not just provide fodder for confirmation bias), follow these four steps:
- Quantify everything about your survey process, from who designed the questions to where people take them, to identify potential weak points in your methodology.
- Leverage existing sources of quality data on customers’ needs and wants (e.g., customer surveys) before launching a new study so that you have less work to do when it comes time to analyze results.
You can also consider other available resources such as competitor information or insights from industry analysts’ reports on consumer behavior.
How can you remove biases in your survey results?
One bias that can trip up researchers is that of “social desirability”–people often answer questions in the way they think others want them to answer. For instance, you might find that respondents report having greater satisfaction with a product than they really do.
This is because people are more likely to answer questions in a way that makes them look good or makes them appear like good people. If you were conducting a survey about whether or not your company’s products were helpful for people with disabilities and someone asked if it was easy for those with disabilities to use your products, then it’s possible that many respondents would say yes even if there was no disabled person on staff who could properly test this out.
The reason why social desirability bias occurs seems pretty self-explanatory. It’s easier than telling the truth. After all, we’re all trying our best not only to make ourselves look good but also our friends and family members (and sometimes even complete strangers).
How to ensure that your respondents are reliable?
Vetting is the process of ensuring that your respondents are reliable before they even take your survey. Even if you ask people the right questions the right way, there’s no guarantee that you’ll get meaningful answers. A better approach is to ensure that your respondents are reliable before they even take your survey.
The most common vetting methods include:
- Emailing a link to a confirmation page where respondents enter their email address and then confirm it by clicking on another link in an email sent to them.
- Asking people who don’t have access to a numerical computer device (for example, mobile phone or tablet) to enter their telephone number at some point during registration so we can call them back later when all other devices are unavailable.
- Giving participants access only after they enter a unique code into an entry field.
The easiest way to do this is to create some kind of vetting system that allows you to select who will respond to your survey and who won’t.
A vetting system can be as simple as an email address or phone number, but it could also require more information from potential respondents (like their name, job title, and company).
Final Thoughts on vetted survey respondents
Referrals are the most effective way to find vetted survey respondents because the source of these referrals is generally the people you know best: your customers and employees. They are usually more likely than other sources to have a clear picture of your business, products, services, and industry trends. You can use this insider knowledge as an advantage when crafting your survey questions.
You can also ask your customers to refer you to their friends, family, and coworkers. In fact, many survey companies will allow you to set up a referral program that rewards people for each person they refer who fills out your survey.
The most important thing to remember when starting a survey is that you need respondents who are reliable, and therefore willing to share their opinions. If you don’t have this criterion in mind as you create your survey, then it can be difficult or even impossible for you to draw conclusions from the data collected.