Polls and Feedback: Everything you need to know

A poll is a time-tested way to research, record and analyse opinions of audiences. Used extensively in elections to predict outcomes, online feedback polls have also become a handy tool in the arsenal of the savvy marketer.

Learn about how polls work, and how to engage effectively with your audience for insights with this guide.

Polls and Feedback - A complete guide

What is a feedback poll?

A feedback poll is an online survey, usually in the form of an onsite popup, used to gather opinions of users through the use of short, contextual questions. It is typically used to get instant feedback on a variety of questions that a business may have, as polls are versatile enough to be leveraged in a multitude of ways: right from determining customer satisfaction and collecting product feedback, to gauging employee reactions to training and getting event feedback.

While they are easy to implement, the real trick to developing a successful feedback poll is to design questions adroitly. We will be covering some best practices later on in this article on how to make the most of the opportunity to bring your users’ opinions into your process.

What is a feedback poll?

10 great reasons to use polls for feedback

The overarching benefit to using online surveys and polls for feedback is its effectiveness for market research. There are loads of ways to conduct market research though, so we’re going to talk about why polls are especially effective at getting into the minds of your users.

Real-time results

One of the bigger advantages of using online surveys is that you get real-time results. As soon as users have submitted their responses to your survey, you can view and analyse them. This enables you to act upon the results as soon as they come in. In the case of any user concerns, for example, acting quickly upon feedback can be quite beneficial.

Contextual

It is best to get feedback about an interaction as soon as that interaction occurs. The proximity of time makes responses far more accurate, than if they have to be recalled later specifically for feedback. For instance, if you want to gauge a customer’s feelings after a support interaction, it would make the most sense to have a survey just after it ends. The interaction will be clearer in the participant’s mind, and thus make for a more accurate evaluation. Effectively, the insights then are more valid.

Logic-based

Set up question sequences to trigger based on responses. Skip questions altogether, if they aren’t required.

User convenience

Apart from a few minutes of their time, survey participants don’t have to invest any resources for the survey. In fact, this very ease of use presents a friction-less opportunity to share their feedback. It is important to consider ease of participation when designing a feedback mechanism. If it is requires too much effort or time, chances are participants will drop off midway.

Tip

Consider allowing your survey participants the control of when and how to complete the survey. If they can start, stop, and submit the survey when they choose, it will increase their inclination to respond.

Flexible

Online surveys may be hosted on your website, but you have the flexibility of sending participants there from anywhere. Send an email newsletter with a link, or use social media to point them in the right direction. Because surveys can be customised to the URL, they can be different depending on sources, triggered by events, and much more.

Tip

Customise your surveys to integrate with your website design. A visually pleasing form has a greater chance of being filled out by users.

Scalable

You can reach many people with an online survey, without any scalability issues. Setting up a survey to target thousands of respondents is just as easy as setting up for a few.

Accuracy

Survey responses are recorded directly into a database, without any human intermediaries. Therefore, they are far more accurate than responses written down, and then plugged into a system. The removal of the inevitable margin of error due to human intervention generates more reliable and consistent data.

Something to consider

Accuracy is difficult to maintain for anyone conducting a repetitive task, and as time progresses, errors tend to creep in. Online surveys preclude that situation altogether.

Economical

Resources are always a consideration and, if you’ve considered using a paper-based survey or perhaps hiring a market research company, user insights are not easily or economically come by. Hosting a poll on your own online assets, like your website or mobile app, enables you to get the information you need, on a budget.

Quick

Rapidly create and administrate online surveys. Using a good survey tool, you can design a survey in minutes. Also, since the results are real-time, you can view reports in a variety of formats as soon as responses start coming in.

Something to consider

The time required to fill out an online survey is also less. Therefore it is quicker from a participant’s perspective too – always a bonus!

Anonymous means quality

Feedback is potentially more truthful, and consequently more valuable, if it is given anonymously. Assured confidentiality can dramatically impact response rates. Additionally, participants will be encouraged to feel more comfortable when sharing their honest opinions, and will tend to be more expansive with longer, more detailed responses to questions.

Something to consider

In-person or telephone surveys, which are commonly used as a means for market research, can sometimes be intrusive. Additionally, because respondents are speaking to a person, they may hesitate to be completely honest, and therefore answers can lose their objectivity. This makes responses less bankable in terms of analysis. Online surveys remove this barrier altogether.

What kind of feedback polls are there?

There are several ways to structure feedback, so that it becomes useful for further and future analysis. Depending on the usecase, there are 5 types of feedback polls that you can customise to elicit the kind of response you want from a participant:

Short answer

Used to get a one-line response

Long answer

Used to get a detailed response to a question

Radio button

Select one of the mutually exclusive options available

Polls and Feedback
Checkbox

Select one or more options

Custom targeting
Net promoter score [NPS]

Overall measurement of all responses

Integration with CMS and analytics tools

Net promoter score (NPS)

A net promoter score is a special sort of survey in the form of a rating scale, designed to measure an overall level of satisfaction. The respondent sees an 11-point scale for rating their response, starting with 0 and ending with 10. This type of survey gets its name from its widespread use as a tool to measure customer satisfaction and the customers’ likelihood of recommending – or promoting – the product or service they are using to people they know.

The results are broken up into three categories: detractors (0-6), passives (7-8), and promoters (9-10). Typically, the polling tool in use will set these limits. The calculation used to arrive at the result, which is a single number, is as follows:

Of course, NPS can be used for more than just the measurement of satisfaction; anything that requires a gauge of likelihood is a good candidate for this type of poll.

How to customise surveys

Certain usecases may occasionally require a target audience for valid results. Customisation is the way forward in these cases, and so there are several ways to do so. The following list is just indicative of the functionality on offer in most good polling tool dashboards, but in the hands of a creative marketer, they can become quite powerful.

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  • Device-based segmentation: Should your survey appear on mobile, desktop, tablet, or all three? There are many reasons why a survey may be justifiably available on only some of these devices. Responsiveness may be a concern, for example, or a longish survey may present poor user experience on a mobile device. On the flip side, there could be a scenario where feedback is only required from a tablet user, perhaps about an app.
  • Designing an effective survey is predicated on both good questions and a good mix of questions. Consequently, answers to certain questions may make further questions redundant, and thus should be skipped. The judicious use of dynamic logic when designing the flow of the questionnaire can ensure that users are not posed questions that are useless to them.
  • A poll is an efficient way to gather a great deal of data from a lot of people in a short period of time. It is, in effect, a statistical tool for data gathering and analysis, and thus requires a certain number of respondents to yield relevant results. It is possible to set the number of respondents as an upper limit, indicating the moment at which the survey reaches statistical relevance for analysis. For instance, a poll may require at least 15,000 participants to reply before the data can be considered to be complete and valid. Setting that as a target ensures that the survey runs until that number of participants is reached, and automatically ends the survey.
  • Surveys can also be run within a set time period. It is somewhat analogous to the previous point of setting a limit on the number of respondents, as in both cases the polling tool takes care of the administration and maintenance. On the remote off-chance that a survey is forgotten, these safeguards prevent it running indefinitely.

As survey tools become more sophisticated, more customisations will appear on tool dashboards. However, as said before, basic customisation options can become immensely powerful when leveraged well.

How to set up a feedback poll

The technicalities of setting up a feedback poll only takes a few minutes at the most; the time-consuming part is asking the right questions. Let’s start with the overall process of setting up a feedback poll:

Step-by-step process

The most important step happens even before the survey is configured: formulate a strategy. Ask yourself what your goals are for feedback. In the case of customers, you could be looking to ascertain what product issues users may be facing, or what aspects of service could be improved upon. Could there be any trends that you could leverage in your business, and therefore increase engagement and sales? These are all related to organisational goals, and thus have to trickle down from there.

Choose the right tool: Where would you get the most views for your survey? How do you reach your target respondents? There are social media polls, which are limited in scope, email surveys, which add to the already overflowing inboxes, or onsite surveys for existing visitors. We’ve dedicated a whole section below to the considerations associated with a great polling tool, so that you can choose wisely.

Integrating any tool into your workflow will involve some amount of tech wizardry. Depending on the specific tool in use, code scripts will need to be added to your website. It can be done in a matter of minutes though, especially if the tool has reliable documentation to consult.


Location, location, location. Your survey can’t just go in anywhere or for that matter at any time. Users need to be in the right frame of mind to answer questions. Landing pages are generally considered poor places to have surveys, since users are still in the process of discovering the product or website. It is important to select a time and spot that finds users most amenable to being communicative and expansive.

It’s now survey time. Draft out appropriate questions, and mix up the responses to ensure that the poll doesn’t become monotonous. Check out our suggestions for developing a great survey questionnaire, after these steps.

Ask the right questions

It can be tricky to develop the kind of questions that people want to answer. Creating a good questionnaire involves taking care when crafting questions, because the goal is to generate reliable responses. Check out our tips to writing great questions:

Be pertinent: You have set out to design a survey because there is data you want to collect. The data is about a specific topic, and answers a query or a set of queries you have about your organisation. The results will give you a definitive answer, one way or the other. Therefore, ensure that your survey questions are direct and unambiguous in their goal. They should be well-defined and relevant. If there is the tiniest doubt about the value of a question at all? Get rid of it because it is taking up valuable space.

Collaborative filtering

Collaborative filtering

Have a mix of question types: It is very tempting to stick to a certain type of question for a survey, like multiple choice or open-ended ones. However, the novelty soon wears off. Too many multiple choice questions is limiting, and regardless of how many options you offer, chances are you will miss some. Too many open-ended questions become tedious and time-consuming to complete. The best way forward is to take the middle path, and have a balanced mix of both.

Collaborative filtering

Collaborative filtering

Step by step: One question at a time. This one may seem blindingly obvious, but in the interest of keeping the survey short, there may be a tendency to group similar or related questions together. An example of this would be: “What do you think about the new features? Should we add more features? Is it confusing?” The overall impression of a series of questions being fired at a respondent is negative: feels like an interrogation and gets confusing to answer.

Tip: Make each question distinctive, and avoid posing similar questions. They may seem different from your perspective, but a respondent is unlikely to have your expertise on the subject. The impression created would be that the same question is being asked over and over again.

Collaborative filtering

Collaborative filtering

Keep the grading scale consistent: We have three points to make here, but have grouped them together because they are related.

- Balance the spacing between options: For instance, if 1 is Strongly Agree, then 5 should be Strongly Disagree. 2, 3, and 4 should be Agree, Neutral, and Disagree. It gets confusing if the options are disparate, and vary too much. Consider how confusing it would be to have a scale like this one: 1 – Strongly Agree; 2 – Agree; 3 – Sometimes Agree; 4 – Neutral; 5 – Sometimes Neutral. Where are the negative options?

- Stick to either an ascending or descending order: If 5 is the most positive in question 1, then stick to that order throughout the survey. Switching up the positive and negative scales will generate incorrect answers for sure, because the first scale establishes a pattern in a participant’s mind.

Collaborative filtering

Collaborative filtering

- Don’t mix up options on the scale: Stick to gradient of choice that is natural. Using the example from the first point, 1 is Strongly Agree, and the reactions steadily get more negative till it reaches 5. Keep the strong reactions on either end, and the milder reactions in the middle.

Remove bias from questions: When you are attached to your product, you tend to see it through a lens of fondness. Emotion or attachment can spill over into your survey as well, and muddy feedback. For instance, if you are looking for genuine feedback about a redesigned feature, then consider asking: “What do you feel about the new feature?” instead of “How good do you think our brand new, awesome feature is?” The second is an obviously leading question, and therefore not great for feedback. Keep the questions neutral so as not to influence the answers in any way.

Collaborative filtering

Collaborative filtering

Optional is good

You want answers to your questions. All your questions are relevant and important. There is nothing that you could have left out of the survey, and therefore everything is mandatory to answer. Nope.

Chances are that every participant will not be able to answer every question. They may not want to answer every question on the survey. It is important to be flexible, because inflexibility will lead to abandoned surveys and participant irritation. Both of those outcomes are worse than an incomplete survey. Limit the mandatory questions to the bare minimum, and let respondents skip the ones they won’t or can’t answer.

Best practices for polls and surveys

The ultimate goal of any poll or survey is to elicit quality feedback from the respondents. Only valid insights are useful at all, so going in to a survey with a strategy is critical to its success. Here’s a comprehensive list of things you should do when designing a survey for the first time:

  • Keep it short and simple: Simplicity is arguably the most important factor when creating a feedback form. Simple questions are easy to understand and easy to engage with, and thus have a higher chance of being answered at all. Use crystal clear language for communication, and be brief when drafting out questions. And when you are done with that, make sure the whole survey is short and sweet too.
  • Make it about the respondent: The golden rule of thumb when it comes to getting anyone to do anything is to make it about them. Design questions which appear to affect the respondent in some way, otherwise there is no motivation to fill out the survey. Even if there is no tangible benefit, make sure that you stress the importance of collecting that individual’s opinion.

    Tip: Rewarding a user for taking the time to fill out a survey is a tactic used by many a market research firm. Generally, respondents are paid a token amount for their time, but you can think out of the box in this case, and perhaps offer a freebie or discount. Be judicious, however, because it may be a difficult practice to sustain long-term, in the event that you would want to use surveys frequently to gather insights.
  • Timing and placement: Asking good questions is no doubt a cornerstone to valid insights and feedback, but timing and placement play a role too. Ideally, respondents should be relaxed and open to participating in a survey, and ideally in a mood to communicate. Choose a moment that is low intensity and friction-less to launch a survey. Avoid placing surveys on landing pages, and use delays not to instantly launch a survey on a visitor’s arrival.

    Tip: To get valuable data, the survey has to be exposed to the right audience in sufficient numbers. Send emails with links, share on social media, and embed it into your website.

    Survey design is more than the aesthetics of the form or the questionnaire; it involves planning from inception to reporting, and then turning those reports into actions.

Reporting poll results

Polling tools will offer up different ways to visualise the results of a poll. There are different kinds of graphs, word clouds, and lists of important statistics pertinent to the questions. Download the data, plug it into a presentation, or share the feedback results as they are with team members.

Why do you need session replays
List of ways to make sense of survey results

- Use filters to extract insights

- Segment visitors and respondents across multiple variables

- Assess the numbers to improve survey responses

What happens after the results?

So, the survey is complete, lots of data has been gathered, and the results are in. Now what?

The real action starts after the results have been tabulated and analysed. Once the feedback is shared, it needs to be acted upon in some concrete way. Either it is considered valid and changes are implemented, or it is not practical and is not used. However, even in the latter case, it still remains firmly in the category of received feedback, and has to be addressed as such.

Why do you need session replays

Follow ups are a critical step in the feedback loop, and are quite often overlooked altogether. This is a missed opportunity because being responsive to feedback, and communicating an action plan shows respondents that the time they took to fill out the survey was time well spent. Chances are that respondents who see their opinions being taken seriously and valued will be more inclined to not only participate more in future such exercises, but also will increase their loyalty to the brand.

Where can polls effectively be used?

Polls can be used a multitude of ways to get feedback. Here are some of the places, where it would be effective to bring audience opinion into the decision-making process:

  • Increasing audience engagement
  • Customer success
  • Improving customer experience/engagement
  • Employee satisfaction
  • Events and conferences

Limitations of polls

Surveys are undoubtedly an excellent tool at eliciting opinions and gathering large amounts of data for the analysis of trends. However, they do have certain limitations, due to the nature of their implementation. While none of the following points should dissuade anyone from using surveys as a part of their feedback mechanism, it is beneficial to approach the results realistically.

  • A small percentage of respondents will knowingly input incorrect information; that’s just human psychology at play.
  • Surveys are an essentially a one-directional form of communication, and do not lend themselves to meaningful conversations. There can be every effort made to ensure that the questions are comprehensive and that they do not limit communication in any way, but there is the possibility that some participants may find that they cannot adequately express their opinion in that format. Hopefully, they would then move onto other form of communication, like an established support channel, but that is certainly not a given.
Tip
  • Polls and surveys give the impression that a participant’s opinion is wanted, and that sets up the expectation that the feedback will be implemented. It is an important aspect of feedback that it results in some sort of considered action.

How to choose a good polling tool?

Choosing the right product to fit into your marketer toolkit is always a weighty consideration, because there are so many options available. Apart from the common metrics like easy integration and solid support channels that are applicable to every SaaS product, there are few factors you should consider from a polling-specific perspective:

Easy to use

This may seem incredibly obvious, but really an easy to use tool can mean the difference between usability and abandonment. You want to be able to use the tool regularly, but if it is difficult to configure and launch a poll? The tool will gather metaphorical and digital dust. On a related note, pick a tool with a well-designed interface. It is easier to learn from good UI, and it is a pleasure to work with it as well.

Reporting formats

There are many ways to make sense of data, and your chosen tool should be able to generate several kinds of visuals. Instead of spending time plugging data into a separate data visualisation application or spreadsheet, look for an application that can make graphs and collate responses effectively.

CRO suite

A poll or a survey is a great mechanism for market research; however it certainly isn’t the only mechanism for customer feedback. Instead of cluttering up your browser with multiple dashboards from a bunch of different service providers, select a CRO tool with all the bells and whistles. One dashboard means that you have a powerful suite with multiple options all in one place.

Responsive

Websites are quite often accessed on mobile devices and tablets, and thus responsive website design is now an industry standard. However, this capability also must translate into a feature of a good polling tool, seeing as surveys could just as easily be viewed on a handheld device instead of a desktop. Therefore, the survey tool must be able to handle responsive design well.

Social media polling

Polls have also been integrated into most social media platforms as well: Twitter, Facebook and Instagram, being most popular. Social media takes the survey to the intended audience, and therefore can be quite useful. However, they are necessarily limited and quite basic in scope. Thus, when looking for polling tool, consider a feature-rich tool with more functionality and flexibility.

Tip: Social media polling may well be limited, but chances are that more people will see it. If you want a larger audience for your survey, it would be a great idea to start there, and then have a more detailed setup on your website. However, it is important to note that results from a social media poll will not integrate directly into a dashboard, so they would have to be collated and analysed separately. Weigh the advantages of using a social media poll against the resource overheads it requires for execution to arrive at a method that works best for your needs.

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Conclusion: The importance of feedback

Feedback has long been established as a constituent of the communication process. In environments where the majority of communication generally flows in one direction, it completes the cycle by providing information on the effectiveness of that communication.

Take, for instance, a learning environment like a university class. The lecturer will take students through material for most of the session. If there are students who cannot understand the taught material, the lecturer would not know till much later, unless there was feedback.

Why do you need session replays

Receiving feedback is a means to effectively listen to how your communication has been experienced. It then becomes an opportunity to use those insights for improving said communication, by evaluating whether the actual experience matches up to what you intended the experience to be.

In short, feedback is a mechanism by which you can grow and constantly strive to do better. Whether this energy is directed at customers or employees, or any other stakeholder for that matter, it is always a step of development in a positive direction.

Therefore, regardless of what kind of survey or poll is being used, it is vitally important to the development of any organisation to obtain actionable feedback.

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