How to Write Open-Ended Survey Questions

How to Write Open-Ended Survey Questions

Writing open-ended survey questions is part art, part science. A well-written question can open you up to a new world of insights, while a poorly written one will yield useless responses. Here are five tips to consider when writing your questions.

Make sure the question is well-defined

When writing a customer feedback survey, remove any ambiguity from your questions. If there is any chance of the respondent misinterpreting your question, then it’s worth adding clarification. If you want feedback on a specific feature of your product, then make sure to state it clearly because the respondent could instead give their feedback on the product as a whole. Survey questions can be used to collect feedback on a company, a brand, a product, or a particular feature of a product.

Respondents will also be reluctant to continue with your survey if they are confused by the question. Well-defined questions will result in more accurate responses, higher response rates, and more straightforward analysis.

Ask questions that allow respondents to elaborate

A closed-ended question, like “On a scale of 0-10, how satisfied were you with this product?”, can be followed up with an open-ended question, like “What did you like about this product?”

This technique is called “laddering.” The first question broadly addresses a topic, and the following ones drill into the specifics. It is especially useful to follow-up a closed-ended question with an open-ended one, giving you responses in two formats. The closed-ended response is precise and easy to analyze, and the open-ended response is more detailed and informative.

Ask one question at a time

Each question should address one thing and one thing only. A question that discusses multiple topics, like “How do you feel about the quality and cost of this product?“, can overwhelm the respondent and will probably yield confusing results. A better approach is to split the question into two, one addressing “quality” and the other addressing “cost.” Asking one question at a time is easier for everyone. Responding is straightforward for the customer, and it simplifies your analysis process.

Learn how to analyze open-ended survey responses in Displayr

Avoid leading questions

“How did you feel about our amazing customer service?”

Avoid phrasing questions in a way that could influence the response. Your survey should not have any built-in assumptions or biases, and should not make any value judgments. Keep your opinions to yourself when surveying your customers!

End with a wide-open question

It’s often a good idea to end a survey by handing over a blank slate to the respondent. A wide-open question, like “Is there anything else you would like to tell us?” gives your users and customers the chance to address issues you’ve never even thought of. These questions are a great way to gather suggestions, miscellaneous feedback, and “unknown unknowns.”

About Kris Tonthat

Kris is a writer and editor at Displayr. He is also a former sportswriter and a recovering economics graduate. Despite all his writing experience, he still struggles to craft a decent profile bio.