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How do I choose a survey company?

Define your local middle market, plan for expansion, and so much more

Surveys play an important role in gathering valuable insights that allow you to make better business decisions. When dealing with large, diverse, or far-spread populations, getting feedback can be a challenge. Today’s technology means that self-administered surveys can be both efficient and economical. But, there are distinct downsides to handling the survey process internally; the most glaring is the issue of confidentiality, as well as the drain of internal resources, and the lack of in-house research savvy.

So, how do you select a survey company that leads to successful problem-solving and growth in your organization?

First, make sure you are paying for a product that is valid by research standards, and then ask yourself the following questions:

  • Does the vendor belong to bona fide research organizations such as the Insights Association or AAPOR? What are the education and experience levels of the staff?  
  • How does the vendor address the four elements of the survey: Population Sample, Questionnaire, Data Collection, and Analysis?
  • Is there a relevant benchmark?
  • Are the factors (questions) on the survey tools scientifically validated? Am I able to customize the factors?
  • How are comments handled?
  • What is the vendor’s typical response rate, and does the vendor offer assistance to optimize response rates?

The survey reporting should be both robust and easily understood by a lay reader.  Examine sample reporting options.

  • What demographic segmentation is reported?
  • Is there an Executive Summary highlighting key findings?
  • How are frequencies, means, and trends shown?
  • Is there a comparison to a relevant benchmark?
  • Does the report visualization flow and tell a story, or is it merely a data dump?
  • What opportunities are provided for your team to slice & dice the data on your own?

Perhaps the most critical component for a survey project is the ability to answer the question, “What Now?”  Take the time to interview vendors to assess the post-survey offerings.

  • Does the vendor ask you about and focus on your research objectives?
  • Does the report tell a story?
  • Is additional analysis available?
  • Does the reporting include recommendations?
  • Is the vendor qualified to assist in action planning?
  • Are tailored presentations available, specific stakeholder audiences?
  • Does the vendor have expertise in your industry, and can the vendor share best practices of others in your industry?

In this world of data overload, simply gathering data has little value.  Survey vendors come in all shapes and sizes.  Take the time to find a vendor whose services match your needs.  A vendor who can give voice to the data is a priceless asset who will partner with you to move your organization forward.

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