Top Tips For Removing Unhelpful Information From Your Survey Results

Philip Cleave
May 13, 2020

If you’re to obtain the greatest value from your online survey, you’ll need to remove all the unhelpful responses your results. From respondents who ‘straight line’ all their answers to those that take your survey too fast, there can be numerous times when you receive answers that were either not properly thought out or were spoiled in some way. If left unresolved this can affect the overall reliability and quality of your feedback data, and ultimately the decisions and actions you’re able to take as a result.

To help you, we’ve explored a number of these challenges below, with tips about what you can do to improve data integrity and generate more valuable information to make better informed decisions going forward.

How to gain more valuable survey results

1) Use your survey software’s reporting tools to remove unhelpful responses

Reporting is a major part of any survey project, enabling you to compile and interpret your feedback. But the best online survey reporting tools also allow you to edit responses, so you can remove unhelpful or deliberately disruptive answers from your results.

This is something our customers can do with our survey software. To find out more about this, you might like to visit our analyzing your results help page.

We’ll now explore more tips about the types of unhelpful responses you should be removing below.

2) Eliminate ‘straight line’ answers

One of the biggest bugbears for researchers is receiving feedback from respondents who ‘straight line’ all their answers.

Such responses indicate that survey takers were not thinking rationally about your questions. And while you will always receive responses from people who are very happy or displeased with what you do, you can’t draw any useful conclusions from respondents who just provide neutral straight-line answer to all your questions. So, you need to remove these, so that you’re left with the most honest and useful opinions of the remaining respondents who took your survey.

3) Remove unreasonably fast survey takers

You should also look to remove anyone who you believe may have taken your survey unreasonably quickly. If they have not taken enough time to read your questions and formulate their answers, it’s unlikely that they will provide you with the honest feedback you need.

With the right software, speedy survey takers should be easy for you to spot. Customers using our own survey software can measure this, as the time that each respondent begins and completes their survey is automatically logged and pulled through to their results page.

A simple way to ascertain how long your survey takes to complete it to simply complete it yourself taking the time to carefully read each question and then record the time from start to finish enabling you to create a benchmark survey completion time. It will then be easier to identify deviating results, such as those who have only completed a survey in a fraction of the time needed to properly read, understand and respond to it.

You can of course try some other ways of reducing the problem of speedy survey takers such as trying to identify the ideal survey length to maximize the response you get to it. However, this will depend on your subject matter and the complexity of what you’re seeking answers for, but over time you should be able to find that sweet spot. In addition, by displaying a percentage scale or bar on your survey page that show respondents how far they have progressed, you can help reduce the number of individuals quitting your survey who are frustrated that it will never end.

4) Try sticking to yes or no questions

A good way to streamline your survey is to include more yes or no questions. This may mean having to rewrite some of your questions into a simpler format, but it will give you fuller and more helpful results. It’s also easier to read reports with yes or no answers to surveys.

For example, you could try changing the following question from “Can you provide your reasons for recommending our service to a friend or family member?” to “Would you recommend our service to a family or friend?”. Not a massive change, but likely to yield more responses, especially from those respondents who may have shied away from an open-ended question.

5) Think more carefully about the context of each question

It’s also prudent to consider the context of every question you ask. You need to think about issues such as why you’re asking it, who you’re asking, and what situation your survey taker is in. For example, if you wanted to find out about a customer’s recent experience of your support team, you would need to ask them about things that could have happened on that support call.

If you ask respondents implausible questions, they will become frustrated with your surveys. You can help things move along more easily by creating surveys that narrow down the questions your users have to answer.

This can be especially effective when you’re asking for customer feedback on a certain product, as you’ll typically have three types of respondents. There will be people that love your product, those that dislike it, and those that neither love nor dislike it. It would be unhelpful to ask all 3 customers the same questions. Therefore, customers that are unsatisfied should be led down a specific question path to ascertain why they are upset and what you can do to solve it, while happy customers are led down a different pathway that allows them to explain in more detail what you have done well. By doing this you will gain much more valuable feedback.

6) Put yourself in your respondent’s shoes

When you’re devising your questions, you should always try to put yourself in the mind of your survey takers, rather than take an approach which overly promotes your organization.

For example, if you asked the following question: “Because we at X company pride ourselves on offering the best customer service ever, we want to know about your experience.” You could risk alienating or further infuriating a customer who was already angry following a bad experience with your company. You’d be better off rewriting this question to say: “How did we do”, which is less likely to further irritate unhappy customers and risk them writing some very bad comments to your question.

7) Eliminate unreasonable feedback

Today’s survey software can also be set up to help you to remove any unreasonable feedback. This can range from answers that contain offensive language to responses that go over a specified word count.

When it comes to the free-response sections of your surveys, it can help you if you tell respondents up front if a specific question has a word or character limit, which is something that can be easily performed with our own survey software. To find out more about how to do this, you might like to visit our help page on Comment or Essay Box Questions.

8) Check your response rate

A quick way to see how well your survey is being perceived by respondents is to check your response to each new set of questions.

This should be relatively simple, as you will know how many people got the surveys, and how many surveys you received back. It’s then just a simple calculation of taking the number of responses returned and dividing this by the number of surveys sent out and multiplying this result by 100 to get your response rate.

If your response rate is very high, the quality of your questions is likely to be very good. In contrast, if your response rate is very low, it may indicate that your questions are confusing, the format is hard to understand, or your survey is too long.

Concluding thoughts

In today’s more competitive world where time is money, every second counts. And the same can be said for running surveys.

Having taken the time to create your survey, you’ll want it to deliver the best possible results. So, it makes good sense to remove the unhelpful responses that could be holding you back.

By following these simple tips, you’ll be on the right pathway to generating more valuable survey results, from which you’ll be able to take more meaningful actions.


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