By Joe Dysart
Sophisticated, Free Intelligence Gatherers
You may want to reach out to Millennials who use mobile devices with specific questions about a particular product category or service you offer.
Nearly as old as the web itself, web survey packages have grown ever more sophisticated over the years—to the point where you can use them to essentially run your own, never-ending focus group online. Moreover, given that there’s a crowded market of web survey providers, many businesses find that they can satisfy all of their surveying needs with the free versions of these solutions—and never upgrade to premium offerings.
Such entry-level surveys are great for getting quick feedback on how customers like your new website, what their experience was like with a new staffer, or how they might respond to a new product or service you’re thinking of rolling out. And with the premium offerings, you can drill down for very specific insights.
“Traditional forms of collecting website experience feedback have included static comment cards that are presented at the same time to every visitor with the same set of required form questions,” said Tog Bagnull, content writer for online survey provider Qualtrics. “While still useful, this approach focuses on only one segment of the visitor population—those who are still on the site at the time the survey launches and are willing to finish the whole survey. Furthermore, these survey forms ask each site visitor the same questions, whether they are relevant to them or not. In contrast, behavioral and profile-based targeting allows you to engage prospective customers exactly when it is best to engage that particular segment with the questions and experiences that are most relevant.”
For example, you may want to reach out to Millennials who use mobile devices with specific questions about a particular product category or service you offer. And with the same survey, you may want to reach out to Baby Boomers with an entirely different set of questions, Bagnull said.
“In addition, you may want to intercept any visitor who is idle on a page for more than 30 seconds and ask if they need help finding a product or service,” he explained. “This level of flexibility is essential for site owners to capture segment-specific insights and meet the needs of each customer segment.”
Web surveys are also great for creating an entire community around your website, continually feeding you new insights on how you’re doing as a company and where you should be going—at least as far as your customers’ perspectives are concerned.
“An insights community will be an extension of your brand and will serve as an engagement piece for your customers,” said Dan Fleetwood, president of QuestionPro Communities, another web survey provider. “Here, they will be empowered to not only share feedback but also, through engagement tools, they will feel a real sense of community.”
Yet another major service that web surveys can provide is to give you deep insights into what’s going on inside company walls in terms of employee satisfaction, employee perception of the company’s vision and goals, employees’ take on how your company stacks up against competitors they can work for and the like.
Vivek Bhaskran, CEO of QuestionPro, offers one of the most popular web surveying services available.
For example, chances are that the extensive overhaul of the IT system at your business might be praised to the rafters at official business meetings, but you may get an entirely different perspective on how the implementation of that system is going if you offer a web survey that employees can participate in anonymously to unload everything they think and feel about the new system.
“You don’t need a lengthy list of questions to get the information you need,” said Rachel Barker, content strategist for Qualtrics. “You just need the right questions.”
Currently, you can choose from more than 200 web survey providers, according to Capterra (www.capterra.com), which specializes in advising businesses looking to make software purchases. But you’ll be able to get a great overview in terms of what the market is offering by simply looking at the five most popular web software tools on the market. According to a 2015 study by Capterra, those packages are Survey Monkey, QuestionPro, SurveyGizmo, Fluid Surveys and Qualtrics.
With even the basic version of the top five products—as well as those offered by other service providers—you’ll be able to design a web survey online, launch it via your website, e-mail and social media, and then collect data and report on the results.
Many of the packages also provide more than one way to ask questions. You may want people to respond on a scale of one to five on one question, choose from A, B or C on another question, and input free-form sentences in response to a third question.
Higher-end packages also give you the option to get more creative with your survey, such as giving you the ability to ask a set of pre-qualifying questions that steer people down roads to different questionnaires, as highlighted by Bagnull.
Another premium feature includes the ability to view a spreadsheet of all survey participants to see who’s already responded and who needs to be prodded to return the survey.
Still others include a wider selection of graphic themes that you can use to design eye-catching surveys, guard against people looking to spam your survey, and the ability to automatically shut down your survey after you’ve received a certain number of responses.
For a complete look at the market—including user reviews of individual packages—you can check out Capterra’s directory of more than 200 offerings (www.capterra.com/survey-software). In the meantime, here’s a closer look at the top five most popular packages, according to Capterra.
SurveyMonkey (www.surveymonkey.com), free version or $19-$25/month: A pioneer in the industry, SurveyMonkey offers graphic templates, supports different question formats, allows segmentation of participants depending on how they answer questions, and comes equipped with questions for typical surveys. It also keeps you updated via e-mail on the number of responses your survey gets each day and gives you the ability to filter results to a survey based on a data point of your choosing, such as “male responses only.”
QuestionPro (www.questionpro.com), free version or $12 and up: QuestionPro’s free version offers basic surveying tools, a library of the most common survey questions, real-time reports and optimization for web and mobile. Premium versions add themes, data export, dozens more types of typical questions and the ability to manage e-mail lists of a half million or more.
SurveyGizmo (www.surveygizmo.com), free version or $22/month and up: A mobile-friendly package, SurveyGizmo enables you to design and implement as many surveys as you’d like with the free version, ask as many questions as you’d like and take in as many responses as you’d like. Premium features include multiple graphic theme choices, survey logic, a library of typical questions, custom tools and analytics.
Fluid Surveys (www.fluidsurveys.com), $100/month: An enterprise-level package and “big brother” of SurveyMonkey, Fluid Surveys offers a wide variety of survey templates, supports dozens of different question formats, and can be rendered in 64 languages. Fluid Surveys can also be programmed to pop up when someone visits your homepage, and it can be integrated with Dropbox for Business, FreshBooks, Salesforce.com, Mailchimp, Olark and other online business services.
Qualtrics (www.qualtrics.com), free version or call for premium pricing: Qualtrics allows for a lot of customization, offers a bank of typical questions and enables you to prod people who still need to respond to your survey via e-mail. It also offers Salesforce.com integration, A/B testing and company call center integration.