The Top 7 Ways to Avoid Response Bias in Surveys

Surveys brand awareness survey

NEGOSENTRO.COM | The Top 7 Ways to Avoid Response Bias in Surveys | Sending out surveys to see how people feel about your work or product is a great way to reveal insight into customers’ thoughts and perspectives. Let’s say you have a new product coming out and want to know what aspects of the last one people enjoyed, versus the stuff they didn’t like so much. A survey will help, since you’re asking the people who know your product best to give their opinion on new developments. But, it might not be that simple. 

When it comes to surveys, unfortunately, there are a lot of biases that come through and skew the data. Now, some of those biases are inevitable and can’t be stopped, but there are a few things you can do to ensure a more valid response is coming your way in order to get the best information possible, and therefore make the right decision for your business! Below we explain how you can avoid response bias in your customer feedback surveys.

What exactly is Response Bias? 

Response bias is when a respondent or person answering a survey feels inclined to answer in a way that affects the validity of the survey. This could be due to a variety of reasons: whether they were misled by the person who formatted the survey, or an internal inclination to answer differently than they probably should in order to reflect better on themselves. Regardless, you definitely want your survey to be as accurate as possible, and there are a few ways to help with the precision of the results. 

The 7 Ways to Steer Clear of Response Bias 

There are a few ways to increase the correctness of your survey:  

1. Use Clear Wording 

The more straightforward, the better. If someone stumbles across a question that they don’t understand, the answer that they give is likely to be inaccurate. Let’s say for example you are asking if someone has a favorable perception of cars. What does that mean? What kind of car? Electric, hydrogen-powered, petroleum? All cars? Someone might stumble across this question and exit out of your survey because it’s not clear enough. In fact, 80% of customers have left a survey halfway through.

2. Don’t Lead the Respondent On 

If there is a particular answer that you’d prefer in order to validate and back up the results you want, don’t let that be part of your survey or quiz. For example, asking “do you enjoy eating our juicy, delicious burgers?” leads to people feeling favorable about burgers due to the enticing wording. Instead, try and use the straight-up tone of “what are your thoughts on the latest burger we released?” It might not produce the results you want, but it’ll produce the statistics you may need

3. Know Who Your Audience Is   

Use wording or tone that resonates well with the respondents of your survey. If you want to ask younger children the questions, try and give them real-life examples that they might see in their lives. Overall, the tone in your questionnaire should be personalized and catered to the people that are receiving the survey so that they fully understand the content of the questionnaire.  

4. Add Context to the Questions

If the question you’re asking needs additional information or insight in order for people to fully understand, don’t be afraid to include it. Just make sure you are keeping the questions reasonably short and to-the-point. Research shows that the longer the survey, the less likely someone is to take the full quiz. Still, there is a happy medium between descriptive yet short questions that’ll be appealing to the reader.

5. Have an N/A Option 

When a respondent is taking a survey, they may feel as though none of the options best express their answer. If they have to choose an answer that doesn’t apply to them, this slight inaccuracy might lead to an extreme difference in the results in your study. To prevent this, have a variety of answers instead of the simple yes or no questions. With the array of options, make sure to include an N/A option to capture all viewpoints on a spectrum. For example, if the question asks “what kind of chocolate bars do you eat?” and the respondent doesn’t eat chocolate at all, they are forced into answering falsely. 

6. Cancel Out Outliers 

In statistics, outliers can change the overall results of your survey. Sometimes considering them is important, and shows that people have extremely conflicting beliefs about the concepts covered. However, after analyzing the data, if it becomes obvious that someone consistently chose outlandish answers, it might be necessary to remove them from the data. To further prevent outliers, keep an eye out for respondents that finished the survey in an unrealistic amount of time. 

7. Don’t Reveal Your Research Topic

Giving information on what the survey is for can create bias when a respondent is answering questions. If the respondent knows the purpose of the survey, they may respond in a way that isn’t completely truthful to try to confirm the suspected result. Because of this, try and stay away from giving too much information on the survey or directly to people.

Other Types of Response Bias to Look out for 

1.  Non-Response Bias

Non-response bias highlights the fact that there might be a specific reason why someone is not choosing to answer your survey. Let’s say the topic is about jewelry; if a group of people don’t like to wear jewelry as an addition to an outfit, maybe that specific group isn’t clicking on your survey. Now, you are missing the data of the non-jewelry wearers so will only get responses from people who already like your product. Non-response bias is addressing the fact that there is probably a commonality between the people choosing to not answer the questions in your survey; leading to a missing piece of the overall demographic that you might be looking for.  

2. Voluntary Response Bias

The people that voluntarily decide to answer your survey might have their own bias that they bring to the survey. Since they are clicking the link to the questionnaire, chances are they might feel either extremely favorably or extremely unfavorably toward the subject. People who are more moderate might not gravitate towards clicking on your survey. This bias results in fewer middle-minded people, which leads to less valid results. 

Surveys are a great way to understand your customers and make data-backed decisions that benefit your business. However, the bias that surveys produce is undeniable. But with the right wording and structure, your survey can provide the data needed for your next project by staying as unbiased as possible. Take a look at the guide from Chattermill to learn more: