How To Choose an Online Survey Provider
Whether you’re a student or micro business, an SME or a much larger sized organisation. There’s lots of reasons why you might want to conduct a survey, whether it’s for market research or to better understand and connect with your customers, employees or some other stakeholder group.
However, whoever you’re looking to target and whatever you want to achieve, you’ll need the right provider and online survey tools, if you’re to make the most of the survey feedback you collect.
Yet, with a wide range of providers out there, each with their own particular strengths and many issues and survey features to think about, it can be difficult to identify what’s best for you needs. This process is even harder if you’re new to online survey software.
Fortunately, with our many years’ experience in the survey software industry, we can help guide you on the most important things you need to be considering before coming to your decision.
Essential considerations for choosing an online survey platform
From performance and functionality, and the tools to create, distribute, analyse and report on your survey and its findings, to integrations, support and payment terms. There’s lots to think about when considering what’s right for you. So, let’s get started.
Performance and functionality
You should already have a reasonable idea of your ongoing survey and user needs, and where that might take you in the future. But you need to be confident that the platform you’re considering will meet your requirements in terms of performance and functionality.
From initial sign up and installation to ongoing usability. When you’re reviewing a survey platform, you need to be thinking about how easy it is to set up, use and manage, and be asking yourself questions such as:
- How easy is the software to install and get myself up and running with my first survey?
- Is the user interface simple to use and what options are there for customisation?
- Does it offer all the features I’ll need?
Whether you’re a growing organisation or you expect your survey requirements to increase. You’ll also need to ensure it will meet your future performance needs. This means you’ll need to think about:
- Will it provide the system availability and performance to handle a large and sudden surge in data volumes?
- Is there enough capacity and scalability if we need to support a rapid growth in user numbers?
Security and data storage
Next, you’ll want to look at issues around security, data protection and data storage.
Many providers may claim to provide the highest levels of data security and data protection, but you need to delve deeper to see how well they actually support this.
Compliance with GDPR and the Data Protection Act are minimum requirements, as well as other standard security provisions such as firewalls, anti-virus and encryption in transit and at REST. However, what higher level data and security assurances can your preferred provider offer you?
Think here about what processes they have in place to secure your data and any accreditations or certification they hold, which can demonstrate that they’re able to consistently provide high-quality security and data protection.
In terms of the security, we offer for our own customers as an ISO27001 and Cyber Security Essentials Plus certified business, it’s an area that we excel in. In addition, for added piece of mind we offer UK-based safe and secure data storage, which thanks to UK legislation, means that providers hosting data on UK based servers are required to provide adequate protection for all the customer data they collect and store. This includes not transferring data outside of the UK without adequate protection.
Having examined some initial top-level considerations, you’ll want to know as much as possible about what your provider can offer to help you create, distribute, manage, analyse and report on your survey and its data findings.
From what range of templates and question types are available to any smart logic and custom theme branding options that are available. There’s lots to think about if you’re to get the tools you need to create smart, professional looking surveys that engage respondents and help maximise your response rates.
To do this you’ll want access to a wide selection of question types. From closed questions featuring a range of multiple choice, Likert scale, ranking, rating, matrix style questions and more, to open free text style questions when you need more detailed insight from respondents in their own words. The wider your choice of questions, the better you’ll be able to meet a wide range of objectives and survey requirements. In addition, if you have access to healthy number of fully customisable survey templates pre-populated with sample questions, it can help you get your surveys up and running quickly.
While it will depend on what survey plan, you’re looking at, see what advanced logic features a provider can offer with their survey software, to make your survey’s more intelligent and responsive to respondent needs.
Some of the most popular logic features include skip logic, page logic and piping. These features can help to take respondents through a specific pathway within your survey based on their answers. They’re useful as they make it easier and smoother for respondents to progress through your survey and reduce the risk of survey fatigue.
Engagement with respondents can be further enhanced with the availability of custom theme branding options that enable you to incorporate your brand’s look and feel into your surveys.
Distribution and ongoing management
With a range of survey types to choose from, the tools you have available to distribute and manage your surveys are also critical to their success, both in terms of engaging respondents and keeping track of response rates and your survey’s overall performance.
Looking at distribution first. If you’re to maximise your survey’s engagement with recipients and get as many of them as you can to complete it, you’ll want as many survey distribution options as possible.
From email, SMS, a website popup, a survey link, or form embedded onto your website, to QR codes, distribution via social media channels or even a capability within the software for collecting your responses offline. There’s lots of ways to issue online surveys today that can best meet a wide range of audience needs. So, when you’re examining a survey platform you need to ensure it can meet these needs and be confident that it will be able to incorporate any future innovations as they arise.
Similarly, you’ll want the tools to effectively manage your surveys and keep track of how well they’re performing. So, you need to think about:
- What tools are available to help you track multiple surveys?
- Is it possible to send reminders to those who are yet to respond?
If you’re running a sizeable survey operation, or are growing quickly, you’ll also need the tools to easily organise and manage your surveys and locate them quickly when you need to review something.
From libraries and digital folders that enable you to store and reference individual surveys, to search features that make it easy to locate your documents and user permission levels, to control and set different levels of staff access to surveys. You need to know what features a prospective survey provider offers to help you manage your surveys.
Reporting and analysis
Having created your survey and reached out to your respondents to complete it, you’ll want to extract as much information from your data as you can.
From the convenience of viewing, sharing and reviewing your responses in a wide number of different ways, to the ability to export, manipulate and analyse data across a range of different formats. Depending on your business needs, you’ll need a level of flexibility and performance from your survey analysis and reporting tools that allows you to meet a wide variety of scenarios and objectives.
So, when you’re considering how any prospective survey provider can help you with this, you need to be asking yourself questions such as:
- What features do they offer that can allow me to view and act on survey responses as soon as they come in?
- What tools do they offer to enable me to isolate and review groups of responses, or search for any correlations in their feedback?
- How simple do they make it for you to share your results easily with others?
- Do they offer any features that allow you to set permissions that control what different people can and can’t see?
Think too about what options you have for exporting and analysing data in a range of formats.
Best in class survey tools will make it simple to view, manipulate and analyse your data. This can include data export options catering for Excel, CSV, PDF and Word to customised filter options and the ability to view reports in a range of formats from graphs and charts to cross tabulation.
When it comes to your surveys and feedback from customer surveys especially, this data can be extremely valuable in improving your understanding of customer wants and needs. Yet if you’re to get the greatest value from your survey feedback, you’ll need to be able to combine it with information you already hold about your customers in other essential systems you use to interact with them.
Subsequently, you’ll want to know what integration tools your preferred survey provider offers, to review how simple it is to integrate your survey software with your favourite apps that could include anything from Salesforce, Google Sheets and Google Analytics to HubSpot and MailChimp and more.
No matter what survey platform you’re using, there will always be times when you will need a degree of support. So, it’s always good to know upfront what level of support you would be likely to receive from any prospective provider.
Obviously, the level of support you’ll be entitled to will depend on what survey plan you’ve signed up to. But with thorough research and asking your prospective provider some direct questions, you should get a better idea of what’s available across the plans.
To help with this you need to be asking yourself:
- How responsive is their service?
- How helpful and friendly are their staff?
- How knowledgeable and effective are they in handling solving support issues?
The final area you’ll need to investigate is cost and payment terms.
In many cases the degree of flexibility you have concerning payment and survey plans is even more important than the overall cost. This is especially true if you’re new to surveys and want greater flexibility with your survey plan, as you’re getting to grips with your software and what features you feel are best suited to supporting your survey activities.
So, when it comes to comparing survey providers and the various paid survey plans that they have to offer you need to be asking yourself the following sorts of questions:
- What is the minimum length of contract I’m likely to be tied into?
- Is there any flexibility to pay monthly, rather than annually?
- What is their cancellation policy terms?
- Are there any discounts for businesses operating in a particular industry?
It’s exactly the kinds of questions we asked ourselves when we were devising our survey plans and pricing, to ensure we had options to meet every need.
Trying to identify your ideal survey partner and software is not an easy task. And with such a lot to think about it can be difficult to know where to begin.
However, as we’ve just outlined, once you’ve broken your thoughts down in specific areas of interest and asked the right questions, you should feel a lot clearer about who can offer you the best survey platform and approach to meet your needs.