How to analyze open ended survey questions

How often does your business conduct surveys of your customers, employees, and other parties? What types of questions do you use? Closed questions are those that have a predictable and limited set of answers. For example, any yes or no questions fall under this category. Open ended questions have broader responses and have the potential to give you new insights into your audience.

 

What are Open Ended Survey Questions?

An open ended question allows the respondent to use their own words to go into detail about what they’re thinking or feeling. This type of information is useful because it can give you hard data about assumptions you make on your audience, open up new opportunities, and give you? feedback in a conversational tone.

You end up with a lot of data to sort through and manually processing open ended survey questions requires a lot of resources. However, there are automated solutions available that make this process much easier.

Open ended survey responses can be used in many types of research for your company, such as learning more about your customer experience, gauging why people responded the way that they did to NPS surveys, finding areas of discontent with employees, and countless other use cases.

If you’re using an automated solution for working with this unstructured information, then you’re likely using a text analytics or sentiment analysis tool. These advanced solutions rely on artificial intelligence in the form of Natural Language Processing. The system translates what the respondents are saying into a form that the computer can understand and analyze. It accounts for many nuances of language, such as slang, different languages, grammatical rules, and identifies the underlying themes and emotion in the response.

 

The Benefits of Open Ended Survey Questions

Open ended survey questions may require additional tools to interpret the results, but this data offers a wealth of benefits.

  • Surface new insights in verbatim comments: You never know what your audience might bring to light. Sometimes you have a strong understanding of the topics they’re likely to bring up, but in other cases, they come from left field. If you don’t let your audience have the opportunity to add details to their responses or make comments, then these insights would be lost.
  • Analyze social media comments: Social media is a powerful tool for direct customer feedback. Whether people are responding to your content or sharing their opinions on their own pages, you’ll be able to see what they really think about your business. These posts can spur other conversations which may lead into completely new territory when it comes to your audience.
  • Receive detailed feedback on specific products, services, and other aspects of your business: You can be as broad or specific as you’d like with open ended surveys. Your audience may choose to expand on their comments or start talking about topics outside of the question. You may end up with a whole new line of survey questions following these replies.
  • Read between the lines of verbatim comments: You learn as much from what people don’t say as what they do. Open ended questions give you the opportunity to determine what the person is actually thinking, or what they’re implying in their response.
  • Identify factors driving employee satisfaction: If you knew exactly what was wrong that was driving employee unhappiness, you could fix it. Open ended surveys for employee engagement allow you to find out exactly what’s going on that drives dissatisfaction in the workplace, rather than guessing at the cause.
  • Discover the “whys” behind your audience’s choices: A simple yes or no question doesn’t show you why the person chose that response. They could be making the decision based on factors that you have already predicted, or for a completely different reason. You won’t know until you ask.
  • Allow your audience to speak in their own voice: You get a lot of value from this benefit, even if you don’t do anything with the unstructured data. By allowing your audience to engage with you as though they were having a conversation, they’re free to share their opinions in a form that works best for their needs. You can use this data for more than just sentiment analysis. You can also use it to make your sales and marketing efforts more relatable, by using their own voice and verbiage selection in the materials.

 

Using Text Analytics to Analyze Open Ended Survey Questions

You get a lot more out of your verbatim comments when you have technology helping you process them. Some of the most useful features that are available in this software category include:

  • Grouping your topics: You can combine similar topics, create complex taxonomies, and learn more about the themes that come up in the conversations with customers.
  • Creating your own rulesets: You have unique needs in your industry and using a custom ruleset allows you to better analyze the data.
  • Scrubbing open ended survey data of any personally identifiable information: You don’t want to worry about data breaches getting in the way of your text analysis or extraneous personal data getting in the way of results. You can also use this feature to clean up other parts of the responses that may not be relevant to your analysis, such as curse words.
  • Integrating with many popular tools: Data sources come in many forms, and you’ll need an easy way to get that in and out of your solution. Great text analytics tools allow you to have multiple data sources, as well as APIs that give you a lot of flexibility in how you work with the solution.
  • Custom reporting and dashboards for visualization: Many people who aren’t data scientists need access to text analytics and the results. Powerful reporting and dashboard tools allow them to present the data in the way that works best for their job role, as well as create visualizations that are useful for non-technical users.
  • Comparing your verbatim comments: You can see how your comments relate to one another through comparison tools. This option also allows you to see how comments change over time as you make improvements, introduce new products, and apply what you’ve learned to your operations.
  • Automating the translation process: When you’re working with more than one language, it’s convenient if translation can take place in the text analysis solution. You don’t have to worry about this feature if you’re only operating in areas that have a single dominant language. However, even demographics and regions that have a strong preference for an official language may feel more comfortable responding in another. Make sure that the languages you want to cover are supported by the solution.
  • Creating word clouds: This visualization tool allows you to see how frequently each topic is mentioned in the responses, with larger words denoting a greater number of responses pertaining to that topic.
  • Filtering your unstructured data: You can focus on the unstructured data that is most relevant to your business, and filter out information that doesn’t have value.

 

How Do You Code Open Ended Survey Responses

The coding process varies based on whether you use a manual or automatic process. It does follow the same broad steps, just with a computer handling it and speeding up the process in the automated option.

The first step is to pull your open ended question data into the software that you’re using to process it. For manual coding, you may use a spreadsheet for keeping everything organized. Once this information is in the software, you’re going to want to eliminate the unusable data from it. This type of data includes incomplete responses, those typed in gibberish, and blank replies.

By cleaning the data before you start to go through it, you can focus on the responses that matter. Look at each verbatim comment and identify any predominant themes and topics that stick out to you. Generally, you want to have a focused set of themes so that you can best understand the analysis. If you spread yourself too thin, then it may be difficult to get meaningful data from your responses.

You can see how many people comment on a particular theme, and then determine whether their response is a positive, neutral, or negative one in that area. Using a text analytics software greatly speeds up this process and makes it possible to go through large data sets, which may be challenging for manual practices.

 

Free Text Questions

If you’re wondering what types of questions are commonly used to get open ended survey responses, you can try these ones out.

  • How are we doing? Many customers know exactly the feedback they would like to provide to you. This simple question allows them to quickly provide that feedback, and helps you understand what is really on their mind.
  • What interests you? Learn more about your audience and the things that they enjoy doing with their time. You can find potential new markets with this type of question, as well as being able to identify things that they value the most. See where you align and how you can use this information to create relevant sales and marketing material.
  • What is your first impression of our company? How has this changed over time? You can learn more about your reputation in the marketplace, what customers think when they first encounter your brand, and ways that their impression changes over time. This question works well for your repeat customer base, especially those that have been with the company for months or years. If the shifts are favorable, then you can continue to follow those business goals and strategies.
  • What reasons did you pick us over a competitor? Your unique selling proposition may be completely different from what you expected. Learn exactly why you end up getting picked over other companies in your market segment, and capitalize on that.
  • What problems have we solved for you? You learn about the use cases for your product and how customers are actually using it, compared to the ways that you predicted they would use it. Sometimes you can discover completely new ways to use your products, which can inform research and development.
  • What problems are we not solving for you? You get a better understanding about other pain points in the customer’s life. While you might not be able to solve all of these issues, you can potentially address them in future products and services.
  • How do you use our products? This is another way to find out about the use cases that are in real-world situations. You may find that the use cases are much broader than you expected.
  • What’s your feature wishlist for our products? You may not be able to use all, or even half of these suggestions, but it’s useful to see what your customers are thinking about your current offerings. Some feature requests may make it into an upgraded version of the product or as a completely new release.
  • How did you feel during your last experience with our company? Learn more about recent interactions your audience had with your company. You can use this question to find out whether your customer experience remains strong, or if there are issues cropping up that could impact their overall impression of your company.
  • What would you like to see our company do? This question is another one that will have a range of responses, covering everything from unexpectedly useful to off the wall outrageous. It’s great to have the food for thought. This is another opportunity to find new markets to expand into and better learn how to serve your customers.

Analyzing your open ended survey questions is an excellent course of action to take your business to the next level. If you’re currently handling this process manually, an automated software solution for text analytics and sentiment analysis can boost your productivity significantly and allow you to process much larger data sets.

If you are looking to uncover insights from verbatim comments with ease, check out Ascribe’s fourth generation text analytics offering, CX Inspector. CX Inspector, is a customizable and feature-rich text analytics tool that provides topic and sentiment analysis from verbatim comments automatically.

For a more comprehensive solution add X-Score, a customer measurement approach that provides a customer satisfaction score from open-ended comments.

Again, should we be directing the reader towards our text analytic solutions on our site, such as CX Inspector. Coder is not likely to be the right fit for them…

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