Aim for Fair When You Create a Survey

When you create a survey, focus on getting unbiased results. If you don’t you may end up with bad information, like my hosts at a Caribbean resort.

As our week began to wind down, we received a very nice invitation to attend a party at which we would meet the managers; at the end of that party they asked us to fill in a satisfaction survey. So far, so good.


The people running the resort put on quite a party before handing out the survey forms. They ushered us into their most comfortable and attractive facility and served exotic drinks. Next, the loud and cheerful music started, followed by dance contests, and their profuse thanks for visiting the resort.

A really big build-up came next, and then as we waited, breathless with excitement (the staff hoped), the master of ceremonies introduced the general manager?). He, in turn, and with much hyperbole, introduced the department managers. As each came triumphantly up to the manager’s side, the staff encouraged us to cheer loudly.

Then, after still more build-up, they gave us the survey. As for the manager and department heads, they vanished before we could meet them. Too bad. I didn’t get to complain about the pillows that felt as comfortable as speed bumps on a busy street.

Too bad, too, for the resort, which lost an opportunity to respond to a customer complaint. But, then, all the feedback they garnered that day meant little.

Yes, you might say the resort”˜s management team got themselves some positive satisfaction results with which to impress the shareholders or owners. But, they didn’t have good data about how their guests really felt – in fact they had bad data – which could mean a trip to the unemployment office one day.

Surveys can be influenced, or biased, very easily. The goal, when you create and administer a survey, is to influence the opinions of the respondents as little as you can.

When writing the questions, you must make them as neutral as possible, and what’s more, make the scoring as neutral as possible. As noted, be sure to administer the survey as neutrally as possible; don’t follow the lead of the folks at the resort.

You’ll find lots of resources on the Internet that help you create a survey, with information on how to write good questions, how to score the answers, and how to select people to interview. If this sounds like a lot of work, it certainly can be. But, there’s a good reason to invest your time and effort.

And it comes down to this: a flawed survey is worse than no survey at all. If you base your decisions on data from a bad survey, you will, by definition, make bad decisions. And, you know what? The cost of those bad decisions will very likely cost you more time and money than you saved. The computer programmers grasped the essence of when they said, “Garbage in, garbage out.”

In summary, when you create a survey, focus on creating one that is as unbiased as possible, recognizing that the fairer the survey, the better the data, and the better the data, the better the decisions you’ll make.