Likert Scale: Using And Getting More Value From These Survey Questions

Philip Cleave
August 10, 2023
Woman answering a Likert scale survey question to rate her satisfaction.

Good customer feedback is the key to helping organizations shape experiences that will keep their customers coming back for more.

Yet, when it comes to analyzing feedback from your most valued customers, being able to interpret their sentiment is probably the most valuable of all. This is because attitudes are infectious, which can have a massive impact on how your customers and others they speak to perceive your brand.

Consequently, this has led to the rise of many psychological evaluations to help measure satisfaction, with Likert scale survey questions among some of the most popular.

Therefore, if you’re not already familiar with them and using them in your surveys, you might like to read on to see how Likert scales can benefit you. But before we explore their advantages and best practice tips for creating them, it’s helpful for you to get up to speed with what they are.

Likert scale definition

Essentially a Likert scale is a rating scale question that is used to measure attitudes, perceptions and opinions.

Typically used in market research and social science surveys, researchers can use the scale to better gage the views and sentiment towards a product, service, brand or market.

The scale itself was created in 1932 and named after its inventor, American psychologist Rensis Likert.

The Likert scale survey is typically built around a 5, 7 or 9 scale rating model, whose answer options range from strongly agree to strongly disagree, with a neutral option in the middle. The scale itself evaluates feelings towards a statement (also known as the Likert item) being asked. The scale can be used to measure a variety of different sentiment themes including likelihood, agreement, quality, frequency and importance.

Once all your respondents have taken your survey, it’s easy to tally up the results for a Likert scale question. Just add up the numbers (or ordinal data) associated with each value sentiment to give you an overall score. For example, where 1 = strongly disagree, 3 = neutral and 5 = strongly agree.

The Likert scale is also known as a “summative” scale for this very reason.

Even if you don’t immediately recall completing one, such is their popularity, it’s likely you’ve encountered Likert scale questions before.

This could include anything from a short email survey question following a recent purchase, such as:

‘Can you rate how satisfied you were with your latest purchase?

To something more service orientated following a support call, such as:

‘Following your recent support call, how likely are you to return?

Given their ease and flexibility, it’s not surprising that Likert scales are one of the most popular ways of measuring attitudes in market research.

Benefits of Likert scale

When it comes to the advantages of using Likert scale questions, their simple set up is one of their biggest benefits. This shouldn’t be too surprising considering the fact that this makes it simpler for you to ask your questions, while making it easier for your customers to complete and provide the insights you need.

Likert scale questions can also provide you with a more nuanced insight into the intensity of your audience’s feelings compared to a simple yes or no question. Yet, at the same, because it’s such a simple way to generate information, your data’s quick and easy to analyze too.

Compared to binary questions, Likert scale questions also provide you with more data to work with on customer intention, their perspective on your products and services, and the importance they place on particular issues. And of course, to further enhance your insight, you can also follow up particular questions with some open-ended questions, in areas where you feel a respondent might be able to provide some additional valuable insight.

Limitations of Likert scale

As with any approach there are some limitations with Likert scale questions however, so it’s good to be fully informed about these before you choose to include them in your survey.

One of the chief criticisms is that they can be prone to bias. This is because some respondents may feel pressure to give socially desirable answers or may not fully understand the question, which can result in inaccurate data. Survey creators need to be aware of these biases and take steps to minimize their impact, such as using clear and unambiguous questions.

Similarly, Likert scale questions may not fully capture the complexity of opinions or attitudes, which is not helped when some respondents choose the most extreme options or express no opinion at all. This can lead to results being clustered around the middle or at each end of the scale, making it hard to distinguish between strong and weakly held opinions. It also leaves researchers with data that is less useful or informative to them.

Sample Likert scale questions

We've already touched on how Likert scale questions are particularly popular for measuring customer satisfaction.

Well, here’s some more specific survey question examples of where you can use a Likert scale spanning customer satisfaction, customer effort and more general product areas.

Customer satisfaction

The Likert scale forms the basis of the Customer Satisfaction Score (CSAT) metric question as follows:

How satisfied were you with our [product/service/support interaction]? Rating your answer on a scale of 1 to 5, very dissatisfied to very satisfied

Customer effort

The Likert scale is also used as a basis for the Customer Effort Score (CES) metric question as follows:

How easy was it for you to accomplish your goal with us today? Rating your answer on a scale of 1 to 5, very easy to very difficult

General product areas

The Likert scale format can also be very helpful when used for questions to do with a company’s products and services such as the following:

How satisfied are you with the quality of the product? Rating your answer on a scale of 1 to 5, very dissatisfied to very satisfied

How likely are you to [repurchase/renew our contract]? Rating your answer on a scale of 1 to 5, very unlikely to very likely

How useful do you think other people will find this product? Rating your answer on a scale of 1 to 5, not at all useful to extremely useful

For an even simpler and more visual way of presenting Likert scale questions, you might also like to consider smiley face surveys.

Best practice tips for creating a Likert scale survey

While we’ve talked about the many benefits of using Likert scale survey questions, we’ve also considered some of their limitations. However, by incorporating some simple best practice tips you can reduce the potential for any downsides, while maximizing the benefits.

Here’s some best practice guidance to consider:

Keep your ordinal scale points odd

Many researchers suggest that as well as having an equal number of positive and negative sentiment selections, Likert scales need to have a neutral midpoint option in case either agrees or disagrees with your question.

By keeping a ‘no opinion’ middle ground, it ensures that the respondent doesn’t feel pressurised or biased towards either the positive or negative end of the rating spectrum.

Don’t have too many options

While Likert scale questions can have as many as up to 11 scale points for a respondent to select from, having too many can lead to confusion. And the more scale points you have, the less simple it is to draw any conclusions between the sentiment points that people chose. A more sensible limit would be something like having a 5 or 7-point Likert scale question.

Use questions rather than a statement

If you’re to avoid the potential of acquiescence bias (AKA ‘Yes’ bias) caused by respondents’ tendency to answer questions agreeably or positively, you need to think more carefully about the wording of your questions.

Be mindful of your language. Avoid leading questions and opt for open-ended questions instead.

Consider the following example:

If you asked: “How much do you agree with the following statement: I am satisfied with the quality of this product?” you would be more likely to receive a biased response than if you asked: “How satisfied are you with the quality of this product?”

Avoid double-barrelled questions

Likert questions should be phrased clearly and as specifically as possible to avoid confusion, which could prevent respondents from completing your survey.

To help this process make sure you’re not asking any double-barrelled questions or questions that have multiple options that people can respond to. A good example of this is as follows:

“Would you recommend our product to a friend and how likely are you to do so?”

Consider flipping your answer scale options

We’ve already talked about the potential for bias creeping into some of your respondents' answers, if you’re not clear and unambiguous with your questions. Well, the same could be true if you keep repeating the order of your answer scales.

So, in order to avoid this repetition, instead of displaying all your answer options in ascending order (e.g. 1 = very dissatisfied, 5 = very satisfied), you could consider flipping the answer scales for some of your questions to (e.g. 1 = very satisfied, 5 = very dissatisfied).

Take the time to carefully craft your questions

Whatever your thoughts about Likert scale questions, we hope you found this blog informative, and it will give you greater encouragement to use them.

Probably one of the most important takeaways if you do decide to use them is to incorporate our best practice tips, and ensure you have a thorough read through of all your questions before you launch your survey.

If you can do this, you will find Likert scales to be a really impactful and valuable question type to include. They will not only increase engagement with your respondents, but also provide you with high-quality data that is both reliable and valid.

Start creating more engaging surveys

Survey questions such as Likert scales can really help to engage your respondents and keep them focused to complete your survey. However, for the very best results you also need a survey platform that can offer you the full mix of question types.

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