Avoiding Survey Bias Questions

Organizations benefit when “avoiding survey bias questions” is given a priority.  Biased survey questions can lead to a distorted image of the wants, needs, and desires of customers.

Customers’ opinions often change over time. A survey that has biased questions can lead to deception and lost customers because the provider of the service may not be in alignment with addressing current customer desires.   However, the initiator of the survey needs to be aware that un-biased survey questions can lead to responses that are not ″what they want to hear″.

A survey written to avoid biased questions may lead to uncomfortable responses for the reviewer because an organization′s belief system (or its policies) can be challenged.  However, this form of input can be very health when the organization is willing to accept and react to voice of the customer (VOC) inputs that suggest change is needed to their processes or paradigms.

Most of us have encountered biased survey questionnaires where it is obvious that the organization who is conducting the survey is not really receptive to our opinion but instead wants us to support their policies, beliefs, or ideologies.  For this situation, it appears that the organization only desires feedback that either makes their service/product ″look good″ or supports the way they currently are doing business. Not sure how you feel, but I am annoyed when an organization wants me to respond to this type customer survey.

Example: Republican Party Survey Census

To illustrate my above position, consider the following two page Republican Party survey census.

I am taking no political position with the following Republican Party survey illustration. A Democratic Party and other surveys often have many of the same characteristics relative to question bias.  The following survey is just an illustration.

avoiding survey bias questions, Republican Party Congressional District Census, Page 1

avoiding survey bias questions, Republican Party Congressional District Census, page 2

Avoiding Survey Bias Questions for the Republican Party Consensus Survey Illustration

Alternative targeted questions to the above survey can lead to a better understanding of what might be done to address customer needs and any product or service issues.

One area for improvement consideration is the survey question response. Rather than solicit a yes, no, or no opinion response, questions that ask for a one to five Likert scale reply can provide more insight.  With this form of reporting, a five is in high agreement with the statement, while a one response is highly disagreeing with the statement. Other numbers between one and five provide additional levels of agreement or disagreement.

If a true solution or understanding is desired, then all aspects of issues needs to be address.  It is best to create specific survey questions for the solicitation of inputs from a diverse audience, including people who do not share the same opinions as the originator of the survey.

The following questions will examine example alternative questions that might result from a brainstorming session for the above survey′s questions. The current survey question will be stated followed by alternative inquiry considerations.

Section II – General Issues from Example Congressional District Survey

  1. Do you think things in our country are going in the wrong direction or do you feel things are going in the right direction? Wrong Direction __, Right Direction __, Unsure ___
  • Alternative question for consideration: Elected officials are effectively collaborating to resolve federal and state issues. (1 to 5 response)

Section III – Domestic Issues from Example GOP Congressional District Census

  1. Do you think Republicans should push to reduce federal tax rates and replace the current tax code with a fairer, more equitable system? Yes __, No__, No opinion __
  • Alternative question to consider: A simpler tax system should be created, which is more equitable and has no tax loop holes. (1 to 5 response)
  1. Do you support Republican efforts to enact a market-based health care system and Health Savings Accounts that would allow Americans to control their own medical care? Yes__, No__, No opinion__
  • Alternative question to consider: A non-participant USA governmental task force should be created to determine what other countries are doing relative to providing health care. This task force is to report specific change recommendations so that the USA provides a better overall health care system at lower overall costs.  (1 to 5 response)
  1. Do you support canceling all federal funding to sanctuary cities that fail to enforce U.S. immigration laws? Yes__, No__, No opinion__
  • Alternative question to consider: An unbiased committee should evaluate what countries on a global basis are doing to address illegal entry and then adjust U.S. policies to address lessons learned. (1 to 5 response)
  1. The Democrat′s fixation on ′climate change′ has led to costly regulations that are negatively impacting our nation′s economy. Do you think climate change is a major threat to our nation? Yes__, No__, No opinion__
  • Alternative question to consider: The USA should work with other countries throughout the world in support of a common-sense approach to protect our global environment. (1 to 5 response)
  1. Are race relations in America getting better or worse? Yes__, No__, No opinion__
  • Alternative question to consider: Equal rights that are independent of gender and/or race need to be highlighted. (1 to 5 response)
  1. Are race relations in America getting better or worse? Yes__, No__, No opinion__
  • Alternative question to consider: A woman has the right to choose, with a physician and/or other counseling, whether they will have an abortion or not. (1 to 5 response)
  1. Are race relations in America getting better or worse? Yes__, No__, No opinion__
  • Alternative question to consider: Gay rights should be protected. (1 to 5 response)

Section IV – National Defense

  1. Do you support rebuilding our nation′s military by eliminating the defense sequester and expanding our military investment? Yes __, No__, No opinion __
  • Alternative question to consider: The USA should support containment of global terrorism with policy inputs and financial aid from its allies. (1 to 5 response)
  1. Do you support rebuilding our nation′s military by eliminating the defense sequester and expanding our military investment? Yes __, No__, No opinion __
  • Alternative question to consider: Relations with Cuba and other countries should be strengthened so there becomes a win-win relationship that is dependent upon the other country′s culture. (1 to 5 response)

Conclusions

The Republican Party Consensus survey above was referenced only for illustration.  One needs to remember that any statistical analyses of the survey results only is an attempt to summarize the results from the population sampled.  For example, if only Republicans are given the survey, no opinions from Democrats and Independents are gained; e.g., statements about residences of United States of American population as a whole should not be made.

An Integrated Enterprise Excellence (IEE) Operational Excellence system can use unbiased customer survey question inputs to determine what key process performance metrics need improvement so that the enterprise as a whole benefits.

Your comments relative to alternative questions for this and other surveys are appreciated.

2 Comments

    Bob_Ash

    Forrest,

    Good points in how to do an effective survey that truly hears the voice of the customer.

    As you’ve noted above, the Republican and Democratic surveys are less interested in people’s true views, and more into getting their core constituency committed to the respective party.

    One example I like about tainted surveys are automobile service surveys. After service at a BMW dealership, they send a survey with a Likert Scale. It seems that it is to help BMW ascertain customer satisfaction with service. But its effect is entirely different. The result of an individual’s survey is sent immediately to the service adviser. He or she sees the results, identifying the person who had service. Since these results are held over the heads of the advisers, they get dinged for anything less than a “5” on any question. Once I had less than perfect service from a usually excellent adviser. I gave him less than a 5 on a few questions, and hit submit. Within minutes I received a call from him telling me that my rating really hurt his standing at the dealership.

    So as a customer, I have to decide if I want to maintain a constructive relationship with my service adviser, or help BMW corporate. Since I care more about having a good service experience for me, “surveys” from BMW are now a place for 5s.

    I imagine BMW might defend this by saying immediate feedback to the service adviser and his manager is the best way to effect change. But since there is a one-to-one personal relationship between customer and adviser, often with repeat interactions, customers are motivated to appease the person they’ll see face-to-face again, rather than help BMW corporate.

    How would BMW (and many other marques that do the same thing) do an effective survey that lets them really improve their processes?

      Forrest Breyfogle

      Bob, thanks for sharing your experience. Your BMW story reminds me of when Becki and I were buying a new car. I was having fun with the salesman haggling over price. When we reached an agreed pricing, the salesman stated that we will be getting a survey and he always get 5’s. He then pointed to Becki saying that he wanted her, not me, to complete the survey.

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