How to Get Valuable Insights from Your Respondents Using Open-Ended Questions

A standard survey structure is often characterised by closed-ended questions. Respondents have a list of possible responses that they have to choose from and do so by simply checking off a box. Closed-ended questions work great when gathering quantifiable data, and are often all you need in a survey. On the other hand, open-ended questions are at times beneficial, as well. They enable companies to learn more about what respondents are thinking about a brand. Open-ended questions give respondents the opportunity to describe their opinions or experiences in their own words. This enables them to gain valuable information that would otherwise be impossible to gain from an answer list.

When are open-ended questions valuable?

There are a few key situations in which open-ended questions can be valuable. The first situation is when you want to get people’s opinions in their own words. For example, say you’ve released a new product and you’re surveying people who have used it, it might be the perfect time to ask open-ended questions to see how they describe their experience.

The second situation where open-ended questions are effective is when measuring the awareness of a brand. If you want to feel out respondents, finding what they think about the industry as a whole or your competitors, an open-ended question can garner more genuine feedback than if you were to offer a list of answers. You might be surprised what you can learn from your respondents about your competition. They might bring up companies that you’ve never heard of before as well as some details about their products.

Open-ended questions can also be used when you’re looking to discover more about your product, brand, and industry. A great question might be, “What would you like to see us do to improve your experience with our brand?” Your respondents might surprise you with features or ideas that you hadn’t considered before. With closed-ended questions you wouldn’t have a way to obtain this extra information.

The Catch

You should be careful not to be reckless with open-ended questions – there is a downside to them; especially when you use them in your survey more than enough. This will lead your respondents to simply not liking them and, therefore, leaving them blank. One or two short questions are usually fine. Respondents don’t have time or are too lazy to answer them. This is why closed-ended questions are feasible and are usually preferred by respondents.

Too many open-ended questions can also lead to skewed data. With no desire to fill them out, respondents might drop out of the survey.

Are open-ended questions worth it?

Definitely. When they are used in the right context, you could get a lot of insights into your customers, your industry, your product and your brand. Keep your respondents in mind and don’t make them work too hard. If you use them sparingly, you can gain valuable information that you weren’t even looking for.

Thinking about sending a survey? Find out more about the dos and don’ts when it comes to creating a survey.

Once you’ve got to grips with surveys and open ended questions, why not check out how you can apply this knowledge and data to work with a highly effective B2B marketing campaign?


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