1. Where do I start?

If you did your preparatory survey planning well (as we wrote about in this useful blog post), the first thing you should do is find your notes from this. It’s probably been a while since you created the survey and a freshening up of the purpose and what kind of results you are looking for is a good start.

Read through your notes (if you have any, otherwise try to remember!) so you have the purpose of the survey and what type of result that would be most valuable at the top of your mind. It helps you to find what you’re looking for more easily in the survey results. You might well find unexpected results too, but if you know roughly what you are looking for, you increase your chances of getting started much quicker!

2. How did the survey perform?

If you’re a very curious person, you can jump directly to the next step and take this point later. But don’t forget – this is the lesson that helps you improve your survey!

First, how was the response rate? As expected, maybe better, or worse? Can you find any reasons why?
Were there some remarkably high drop-outs for any questions? This is great to know when you’re creating your next survey.
Did you distribute the survey in different ways? In that case, how did the different channels perform?

3. Take an overview of the result

Start with an overview of the whole survey results. What was the percentage distribution among parameters such as gender, age, geographic location, departments or industry? Continue with the questions that will give you the real value of the survey.

1. How content are your employees overall with their workplace?
2. How many of your customers have bought your new product?
3. How many in your target group have actually seen your latest ad campaign?
4. Take notes on the most interesting results – they are a good starting place when it’s time to break down the results.

4. Break down your results and find the hidden treasures

You have probably already have got some unexpected, expected, alarming and pleasant findings, but now when it’s time to dig deeper I bet you will find a few more. Breaking down your results means roughly that you put one question in relation to another.

An example: You are analysing the results of a product survey. In the overview you notice that your customers have an average knowledge of your latest product, but you want to find out if this is applicable to all of them. So you start to break down the question, “Are you aware of our new product X”, with the question where the respondent filled in their region of residence. Now you find that awareness of the new product is much higher in metropolitan areas and below average in the rest of the country. You continue by adding age to the breakdown and now you see that awareness of your new product is significantly higher among people under 30 years.

So, what do you know now? The launch of your new product was successful in most parts of the country, but the fact is you seem to have missed people over 30 years old who don’t live in cities. How do you reach them then? Well, that’s up to you, but now when you know who to target, you will save a lot of time and money for the marketing department!

5. Find out why people answered as they did in the open text comments

This is often an interesting part of your survey result analysis because it gives you a great opportunity to find out why people answered as they did. If you included, as we recommend, the possibility to comment after some of the questions you will find that a surprisingly high number of people like to add a small comment to their answer. Reading these will help you get a picture of why some of the results are high or low. They will probably also give you a bunch of new ideas about how to improve your products or services.

By making a word cloud of all of the written answers to a question, you can get a quick overview of the most prominent words written by your respondents to that question. It helps you to quickly see if there are a lot of alarming comments, such as if you get “lousy” and “support” you probably should start reading the comments pretty soon. (Bonus tip: word clouds also look great in your presentation of the results – and help the viewers to quickly get a picture of the answers!)

Start sharing your results

This is not part of the five-step guide to survey analysis, but maybe even more important: make sure you share your results with every person it concerns. Do it via email, Excel reports, PowerPoint slides, logins directly to survey results or via real-time dashboards. You have done a great job and most likely found feedback and ideas on how the company can improve. Make sure you spread them!