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Best survey practices: Use Background info to get valuable insights

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ABC of Background Questions

Organizations use background information in a variety of ways in order to make their surveys more accurate. This data can include anything from organizational hierarchy to geographical location. There are 5 main ways that leading organizations use background information:

  1. Including background information with contact information: This is the traditional way of saving respondent's time and ensuring that human error or other factors don't interfere with the data. The survey creator includes additional information along with the contact information (email or phone number) of the respondent. This can be done easily using a free form .xlsx or .csv file.
  2. Asking for background information at the beginning of the survey: This method is used mostly in anonymous surveys, such as Employee satisfaction surveys. The respondent only provides the background information that is asked for. The number of questions asked should be limited in order to preserve anonymity and prevent overburdening the respondent. Remember that respondents might willingly or accidentally give you different background data than you anticipated.
  3. Only including contact information when inviting respondents and adding background data later: This solution is for when you realize that you forgot to include a piece of background information when you sent out invitations (using method 1 above). You can add additional information or edit existing information for respondents that have been invited to survey as identified contacts (a.k.a. non anonymous contacts). This method allows you to enrich earlier background data with new columns and if you wish you can also overwrite earlier datasets by adding new data with the same column names. Contact information (email or phone number) is used as an UID (unique identifier).
  4. Importing background information through an integration: It is easy to integrate a modern survey tool with a CRM or similar system so that your contacts and their background information are always up-to-date. When information in the CRM is changed, the corresponding information in the survey tool is also updated. This can save a lot of time, especially if you are conducting continuous feedback surveys.
  5. Using various share links and or hashtags: In some cases there is a need to collect data using a share link. This does not need to mean that you can not bring any background information together with share method. Firstly, it is possible to create many share links to a single survey. For example you can have 100 different share links, one for each of your outlets or departments. Thus you can easily find different subgroups from a survey report using share link to identify them. Secondly, you can also add a hashtag next to survey link to get even more detailed view on data. This method has various benefits but one possibility is adding another data layer to group share links. For example you could have country tag attached next to share link to have this data on your report without having to ask respondents their location.

What background information is commonly used?

Main question in background data selection are: 1) is there a medium to high probability that this data is relevant to our business and 2) is this a type of data that we can reliably get to this and future surveys that we will conduct. Here are some of the most common types of background information. In your organization other types of data might be relevant so keep an open mind when selecting yours. 

  • Organizational breakdown (in internal surveys): this is a very common background information and even in otherwise anonymous surveys often used; if there are more than 10 classes, we recommend a drop-down menu. Please note that you can bring organization information at many levels, such as business, group and team level, which supports smart reporting.
  • Customer groups (in external surveys): select the classification most relevant to you, e.g. by business, product or sector
  • Geographical divisions: usually widely used in different surveys; if there are more than 10 classes, we recommend a drop-down menu
  • If you use background information import, you can easily bring in a lot of other information as well, such as customer numbers, purchased products, responsible persons and sales contacts. Much of this information is purely related to customer or personnel relationships, in which case there is a reason to use it. However, remember to comply with the restrictions set by privacy legislation.

Using right kind of background information helps you to get even more benefits out of your surveys. We at Zeffi are happy to help, should you have any questions about possibilities of modern survey tools 😀.


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