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Surveys 101 – Part 1

Updated: Jun 20, 2023

Are you looking to do a survey with Tailor Research but don’t know where to start? Here are a few essential questions on how to get started. If you have any further inquiries don’t hesitate to write to us at

What do I actually get when I hire Tailor Research?

You get our dedicated team, which will help you throughout the market study. We will help with the design of the survey. We will help procure the correct phone lists to reach the target respondents. Our surveyors will call on the respondents. You only pay for a complete survey response from each respondent. If your order is large enough, you will also receive a complete research report summarizing the findings (PDF). Also, the raw data, graphs, and charts that summarize the pertinent survey questions (excel).

How much do you charge? Our prices are a fraction of our competitors. We can reach respondents much more efficiently because of our proprietary technology, which helps our surveyors tremendously. It also helps you save money. We have a staff of Quality Control people in the United States that ensure that your project has the quality we expect from all our projects. The fee depends on the project, but if the number of questions is less than 16, and the respondents are not too difficult to reach, then the typical fee is $100 per respondent.

What happens if I’m not satisfied with the results? We will work with you to get the project deliverable to meet your expectations. If we cannot meet your expectations, we will give you a refund for any reasonable request.

How long will it take to get a quote or complete my project? It depends on how complicated the project. The more complicated and the more information we need, the longer it may take. For straight forward projects, we usually get a quote back within a few hours. We can complete most projects within a week or two of getting the complete instructions. We can give you an estimate almost right away, right after the project is submitted.

How do I know the quality meets my standards? We recognize that most projects that we do are difficult ones and may not be easily explained. We’ll work with you throughout the project to not only get a complete understanding of your needs but ensure that we meet your expectations. We have quality control personnel that review the work, so when we deliver your project, you’ll know it meets our high standards. You’ll also be able to iterate with us until we get it right.

What can you guys do? We specialize in phone surveys, where one of our surveyors calls on respondents. They are trained to be respectful and compliant with corporate and regulatory rules. They also get to know your project and try to make sure the respondent understands the intent of your questions. We also make sure the answers to survey questions meet the intent of the respondent. In addition to phone surveys, we also do consumer surveys and have competitive pricing. Customers use us when they want someone to help them set up the survey correctly and to brainstorm ideas.

What is a survey? A survey is a way to gain insights about a population by contacting a small but statistically significant portion, with the goal that this “sample” will represent the whole population. There are several kinds of surveys, which include: Email blast surveys, panel surveys, phone-based surveys, face-to-face surveys, paper surveys, on-line surveys.

How to design a survey? Designing a survey is complex. Things to consider are:

1. How diverse is the population; the more diverse and different the population is from one another, the higher the sample of respondents should be. Usually, this is measured statistically by standard deviation, variance or a similar means.

2. What form does the population take (statistical graph); A population that has a normal statistical distribution needs to be treated differently than a population that is skewed to the left or right. A population that has very fat tails, known as kurtosis, needs to be treated differently than one that does not. A great example of how a survey can be designed incorrectly is the now-infamous story of Long-Term Capital Management. This hedge fund was full of brilliant Nobel laureates and mathematicians, well-funded, but still ended up losing it all because they didn’t carefully consider kurtosis enough!

3. Your budget! What is ideal mathematically may not be ideal financially. Before considering a survey project, you should understand your budget constraints and what is possible. Surveys can be very expensive when done correctly.

4. How many in the population are eligible to participate in the survey, known as Incidence Rate. More importantly, how much of the population you contact will participate in the survey. Take for example a survey that requires 100 B2B respondents. If it takes 15 qualified respondents to get one to participate, and the incidence rate is 1 in 10, then it would take 150 contacts to get one successful survey. At Tailor Research, we call this the classic needle in a haystack exercise, which can be quite expensive. Ideally, the population all qualifies when reaching-out for surveys.

5. Define your goal clearly and realistically. The more time you spend defining what the goal and parameters of the survey are, the better. In other words, a well thought out survey is one that clearly defines the sample of survey respondents. This may take research to understand the questions you want to be answered and who is most likely to answer them well. A good survey will have a clear purpose that surveyors/respondents understand and keep in mind while answering questions. The desired confidence level and margin of error required are crucial in the design of the survey. Once again, it is important to understand what is possible with the given budget and what is realistic. Phone surveys are more expensive than email blasts, and each has its advantages—understanding the benefits and drawbacks is important to designing a survey.

6. The order of the questions in the survey matter. Many times, an incorrectly designed survey will have the most difficult questions first, which causes many problems. For one, the respondent is more likely to give up on the survey, which will increase the cost of the survey because more potential respondents will need to be contacted to get one good response. Also, respondents are human (or at least most of the time), so psychologically, they need time to “warm-up” too difficult questions and a survey in general. Respondents usually don’t like participating in surveys, so doing the survey as easy to digest as possible is important to the overall design of the survey.

7. The number of answers to a question matter. In general, although not always, an even number of answers in a multiple-choice format is better than an odd because people tend to choose the middle answer more frequently than other answers. With no middle answer, less bias is introduced. Also, having too many answers can lead to respondent fatigue, which often leads to the first choice being chosen.

8. The length of the survey is one of the most critical aspects of a survey. Often, surveys are designed to be too long. What is the issue with a lengthy survey? The issue is that respondents get fatigued while conducting a survey. The lengthier the survey, the more fatigue. An ideal survey will take no longer than 10 minutes to complete, before fatigue sets in. The ideal amount of questions is no more than twenty, however that assumes just a few open-ended questions. The more open-ended question, the fewer questions overall.

9. Carefully word your survey questions. When writing questions, try to write the question neutrally. For example, “You liked the software solution?” Y/N is not as carefully worded as “What are your thoughts about the software solution?”

(a) It was average (b) It was bad (c) It was good (d) I will need to get to know the product better

10. Stay away from absolutes, like always, never, all, etc., when asking a question because often that will bias a survey to a negative response.

What is a digital survey?

A digital survey usually refers to two types of surveys. One, where the respondent has agreed to provide survey answers, for a particular company, and for a particular fee. These types of surveys are referred to as Panel surveys. Two, where the respondent is contacted through an email blast of potential respondents. Both types of digital surveys are usually conducted through a static link and usually comprised of little to no open-ended questions. Most survey companies are ones that provide only digital surveys.

What is a phone-based survey?

A Phone-Based survey is one where the respondent is contacted by phone, and a phone interview takes place between the caller and the respondent.

What are the advantages and disadvantages of a phone-based survey vs. digital survey? Both phone-based and digital surveys have their advantages. The advantages of phone-based surveys are that they allow the caller/surveyor to navigate to the correct respondent, verify the respondent’s knowledge, clarify the intent and meaning of questions with the respondent, as well as clarify answers given from the respondent. Also, open-ended questions are easier to elicit full answers. Because the caller verifies respondents, respondents cannot “game the system” as they can in digital surveys. In other words, digital surveys often have the same respondent filling out a survey under different profiles to gain the fee/reward. Phone-based surveys are often better for B2B surveys. The advantages of digital surveys are they are less expensive, they can reach more respondents quicker, and sometimes respondents feel freer to answer questions honestly. Digital surveys are often better for Consumer surveys.

How long should a survey take, and how much do surveys cost? The length of time a survey takes, and the cost of a survey depends on many factors, which include whether they are conducted by phone or digitally; How many questions are asked; How many respondents are in the survey? How hard it is to find qualified respondents; How many open-ended questions there are; When the respondents are available; How common are the respondents; How easy it is to get a respondent to do the survey, and much more.

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