Full disclosure: I’ve put off finishing this Survey as Conversation series for longer than expected, but that’s probably to be expected for the final step in most processes.
After all, though many of us feel pretty good about the questions we want to ask in the middle of our research, and hopefully how to start it off, knowing where to wrap it up can be tricky. It’s a bit like trying to end a real conversation. In the “real life” dialogues we practice as language learners, we often politely exchange “Goodbye!” with “See you later!” but in actual real life, it can be a little more like this:
“Okay, so I’ll see you tomorrow. Don’t forget those papers.”
“Sure, sounds good. Wait, when did we say?”
“Like 2 pm, right? Talk to you then.”
“Great, 2. Thanks! Take care.”
“You, too. See you tomorrow.”
“Oh — and say hi to Tommy for me.”
“Will do. Be well.”
Okay, presumably some people do just say “Bye!” and hang up, but there’s the other extreme, too — the long drawn-out closing exchanges of besties and sweethearts (“You hang up.” “No, you hang up first.” “I’m not hanging up until you hang up!”). Suffice it to say, wrapping up is hard to do.
Are we there yet?
Before you end your conversation — or survey — you need to be sure that you’ve accomplished your goals. Not everyone brings a script to a real-life conversation, although those of us who are shy or forgetful (or both) do sometimes benefit from bringing our own reminder checklists to important conversations. Just as shopping lists ensure we return home with the right ingredients for our next meal, checklists can help us ensure we get all the answers we need at doctor’s appointments, job interviews, and other Big Deal conversations.
Double-check that the goals you outlined initially are covered by the questions you’ve included. Confirm also that the survey flow makes sense. When you’ve got everything covered, you’re ready to wrap it up.
With whom have I been speaking?
Unless you regularly make or receive anonymous phone calls, it’s pretty likely that you know who you’re talking to from the very beginning of a conversation. In a survey, though, it’s possible that you’ve been asking fairly personal questions in a fairly impersonal way. Before you wrap it up, do you need to know who’s been giving these answers?
If you’re conducting a confidential or anonymous survey, be careful about overdoing the demographic questions, and be extra careful about making many of them mandatory. If there’s something that you absolutely must know in order to make use of your data, make that single question mandatory. A common example is asking for an employee’s work site or department at the end of an employee engagement survey. While the engagement data overall is useful, the most actionable results will be those segmented into key slices. The head of the Herndon office or the lead of the Product Management department will benefit from insights into their own team members’ experience. If the data can’t be sliced, the overall results are less useful.
In terms of the flow of a conversation, it might seem a little funny to ask this kind of question at the end, but remember that your participant has already shared plenty of information with you. With the end in sight, they’re more likely to be willing to respond to one or two key personal questions by the end of the survey. If there are too many of these questions, if they’re too personal, or if too many of them are mandatory, though, your participant may drop out anyway.
Thank you for your time!
Once your participant clicks ‘Submit’, that’s it. The conversation’s over. Right? Technically, you’ve gotten everything you need from them, but you can still leave them with a positive impression — the equivalent of smiling and waving goodbye after you’ve parted.
The post-submission Thank You Page offers you the chance to customize that parting wave. Of course, use the opportunity to thank your participant for their time and consideration, but you may also consider including additional details. Perhaps you need to set expectations with participants about what happens next. How will the responses be used? When will results be shared? Plus, you might want to let them know what to do if they have any additional feedback — a contact email address, a phone number, or a link to your closed-loop ticketing system. You might share results of the survey to let them know how others responded, or you might even encourage them to invite others who might be interested in responding.
In a quiz or assessment, it’s especially important to consider the post-submission follow-up. On your Results Page, show final scores, or even customize the message based on how well your participant did overall or in certain categories. If you’ve ever submitted a test response with your fingers crossed, you know how valuable it is to get fast feedback.
And another thing…
Beyond the goodbye wave of the Thank You Page, you might want to drop a follow-up note in your recipient’s inbox. True, you might not send a card every time someone chats with you — although if you’ve taken tea with the queen or even caught up with an old friend, sending a thank-you note is both polite and awesome. Still, the “PS” of a follow-up email could include some additional details (Here’s a discount code for 10% off of your next purchase!), reminders (You’ve registered for our workshop at 1 pm on Friday. See you then!), or invitations to continue the conversation (Looks like you could benefit from a review session. Click here to schedule a check-in.).
Rules & Alerts makes this a lot easier in surveys than it might be in real-life conversations. In real life, we scribble on sticky notes, receipts, and the backs of our hands to try to remember the appropriate follow-up. No-hassle automated follow-up based on the triggers of your choice? Amazing.
Don’t be a stranger!
The best conversations aren’t isolated one-offs. We call and meet our friends and loved ones over and over again to pick up where we left off, to question and answer, and to continue to learn from each other. We ask follow-up questions (Remember how…? Whatever happened with…?) that show we care. We suggest new topics and activities (What would you think about…? Would you be interested in…?) that enrich our lives. We support each other (Are you okay since…? How have you been dealing with…?) to deepen our relationships.
Remember that the same is true in surveys. While some may truly be one-off studies, anytime you’re dealing with the same group of people over time, remember to consider their experience in your ongoing conversation. What role do surveys play in your employee experience conversations? How do customer experience surveys build the relationship customers have with your brand? Be sure to follow up, to take action on results, and to keep communicating. The next time you reach out to connect, your audience will be glad to continue the conversation.