Three tips to get better surveys

I just received a call from the university where I studied Marketing. They wanted to know how everything is going and ask me a few questions related with my career. I agreed to do it, specially if it helps to improve their educational system.
The woman who called me was nice, and probably she was just doing her job. And that’s the problem. It’s not her fault. But people like her are the ones who can make change happen. She was just following the script without spending time in things that I said to her I would consider more important. In this case, by just adding some observations or running a different structure she could make a difference.
The problem with surveys is that they are not really useful. Instead of focusing the time and resources that really matter, we push what we want to see in the results. Or maybe we just want an excuse to blame the numbers if we don’t get the results we seek.
I’m not a big fan of surveys but, if you have no other choice (you always do), take these three points I noticed today as a suggestion to improve whatever you are doing with surveys:

1. Never use a scale from 1 to 5. Use always from 1 to 7, that leaves more space to answer. Today I found myself saying 4,5 or similar, when in a scale of 7, that would have been a clear 6.

2. Leave room for comments. That’s what you want to see first–the juicy stuff. After you’ve set the tone with the poll, gathering observations is critical. Here is where you’ve got to ask more questions.

3. Have a clear goal of what you want to accomplish. This is by far the most important point here. Far too often we do things just because. And far too often we push the results we seek without considering others points of view. First of all, set a goal for the poll. And if you’re not able to do it, you probably don’t need one.