Skip And Branch Logic Create Engaging Online Surveys

A colleague of mine was recently filling out a post event survey online for a tradeshow we attended. She turned and asked me, "why is this trade show survey so long?" There could be lots of answers to this question: they're asking too many non-essential questions or they're not utilizing online survey tools efficiently or they didn't set clear survey goals. In her case, it was the surveyor's lack of utilizing technology to enhance the respondent experience. There was no logic being used. Instead, she had to read every question to find out if she needed to answer it, after answering "No" to a previous question.

What a waste of her time.

Online surveys like the one she took make me wonder time and time again, do organizations even care about the respondent experience? Do they care about the customer's satisfaction with the engagement? I think a lot of organizations think of a survey as a tool for them to find something out and forget that the survey experience is a touch point.

Technology has come a long way. Web survey companies have designed tools to help organizations conduct customer surveys, put lots of time and money into developing these tools to improve the respondent experience, boost response rates and enhance survey reporting. But time and time again, surveyors fail to use one of the most important features: Logic.

I'll admit, for some people, survey logic may sound like a difficult feature to implement. Let me assure you, with a good online survey tool, using survey question logic is just as simple as adding or editing a question. Skip and branch logic are probably the most common types of logic found in an online questionnaire. When used, and used correctly, branch and skip logic keeps the survey relevant and engaging (the more engaging the survey is, the less likely respondents will abandon it).

Need a quick review of skip and branch logic? Consider this example survey for a moment:

Sample Survey Questions
Store Customer Satisfaction Survey Format

Skip logic allows respondents to skip forward in the survey based on their response to a question. In the example above, if someone did purchase something from the store, they would skip the Net Promoter question.

Branch logic allows the surveyor to send respondents down different paths depending on how they respond to a question. In our example survey, branch logic could be employed to separate everyone who had visited the store from those who did not. If they visited the store they would answer the next five questions, if they hadn't they would be rerouted to the last question before the demographic questions. At the end of each branch path, the respondents can be funneled back into the same survey path and have the chance to respond to the demographic questions.

Things to keep in mind when designing a survey with logic:

Always flow downstream. Skip and branch logic don't send respondents backwards in the survey, only forward. I once heard someone describe a survey like a river: it only flows downstream but there are channels that leave the main path, sometimes returning to the main river further down.

Closed questions only. As you can imagine, it would be difficult to create rules for skip and branch logic for an open ended question. If you want to be able to insert logic after a question, make sure it's not an open ended question.

Page breaks are important. Like with anything else, surveyors have preferences about how to group questions and insert page breaks. Skip and branch logic will over ride these preferences.

Consider the progress bar. We've recommended the use of a progress bar in the past as a way to reduce abandonment. However, if you're using logic to reduce the number of question from 100 to 20, a savvy respondent might suddenly notice they're almost done, go back, change an answer and see what happens. This could easily mess up your data. If you're offering an incentive and using screener questions, a progress bar could be a real disadvantage. If you want to use a progress bar, be sure to disable the previous button.

Test, test, test. Like with any other survey, it's important to test it to a sample sub-group. But when using any kind of logic, always make sure to test each possible path to ensure the survey flows the way you intended before sending the survey to any respondents.

Remember, if you ever find yourself writing "If you responded 'XYZ' to the previous question," stop immediately, take a deep breath, think about the tools you have in front of you, then start again. Successfully implementing skip and branch logic can quickly pair down a long online survey to fewer than 30 questions because respondents only see questions relevant to their responses.

Already working on a survey project but need help? Cvent's Professional Services Group would be happy to consult with you to develop an engaging and relevant respondent experience. Contact us to learn more.

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