When you conduct a survey as a business owner, you do so with the intention of improving your services, products, and offerings for your customers. But data is meaningless if it’s collected and left unengaged. After completing your survey, you’re faced with an important decision—how to interpret survey results.
There are a number of options available to you, and while none of them are wrong, knowing which one will help you best and most efficiently achieve your initial goal is essential. If you aren’t sure what options are at your disposal and how to evaluate them based on your survey goals, you’ve come to the right place. In this article, we’ll cover the top five methods for interpreting survey data. After reading through them, you’ll have a strong sense of which methods may not be relevant for you, and which are most likely to advance you toward your goals.
How to interpret survey results
Data can be a powerful tool to drive your business or organization forward, expanding your impact and reach among customers and throughout the field. But in order to optimize a survey’s impact, you need to ensure you’re starting off on the right foot. Here are a few steps to take as soon as your data has been collected to make the process of analysis as seamless as possible:
- Trim the fat: When completing surveys, it’s possible for individuals to submit incomplete, inaccurate, or out-of-scope responses. Whether done intentionally or accidentally, these responses should be flagged and removed before you begin the process of analysis to prevent them from skewing your results.
- Break data into groups: It’s common for a survey to include a mix of quantitative and qualitative data. If you do, it’s helpful to break these different types of information into other groups to see quantitative data in one set and qualitative data in another.
- Refocus on your original goal: You created and conducted this survey for a specific reason. Before you begin analyzing it, spend some time remembering what those goals were. By doing so, you’ll be able to more easily identify the methods of analysis that will best achieve your goals, rather than getting sidetracked by other stories the data may be trying to tell.
While they may seem superfluous or unnecessary now, tackling these steps right away will simplify the analysis process and make sure you’re focusing on your original goal.
The best methods for interpreting survey results
Once you’ve completed these initial cursory steps, you’re ready to begin the real work of data analysis. Here are some of the top methods for analysis to consider:
- Start with quantitative data: This type of data lays the foundation for your survey, and it’s essential to start with it since it allows you to confirm straight away that your participants are part of your target audience. While the quantitative data may not exclusively be geared toward self-identification, beginning here will help you locate and eliminate outliers before diving deeper into the data. Moreover, the quantitative data will help contextualize the qualitative data.
- Cross-tabulate to deepen your population understanding: Even when you focus on a subset of the population, there is still variance among them, and analyzing them as one may prove to be a disadvantage. By splitting your respondents up by demographics, you’re able to identify trends and relationships and conduct a more focused analysis of your population and data overall.
- Identify statistical significance: While data sometimes feels like a concrete fact, it’s important to remember that not all trends you feel are emerging may be statistically significant. For example, if you run a survey and ask if respondents would recommend your product over another, receiving a 33% affirmative response may feel significant. However, if your survey is focusing on respondents between 18-30 years old and the majority of those who generated your 33% success were older than your target audience, this data unfortunately isn’t statistically significant.
- Weigh correlation vs. causation when analyzing your data: It’s tempting to see a trend in your data and generate a neat narrative that explains it—but as you analyze your data, it’s imperative that you remember correlation does not necessarily equal causation. Carefully consider the data you receive in order to determine whether there may be a missing variable in your equation that is driving the trend, rather than the ones included in your survey. When using data to paint any picture, you have an ethical obligation to do so as accurately and honestly as possible.
- Seek out past data to build upon in your own analysis: While you can use new data to extrapolate important and meaningful insight into your core question, it can be incredibly useful to identify past surveys on a similar topic that may contribute useful information to consider in conjunction with the data you’ve collected. Knowing how responses have changed or remained the same over time could provide additional insight into your assessment of the topic at hand, or allow you to contextualize the topic in a new way.
Remember that you do not need to choose a single approach when deciding how to interpret survey results—in most instances, applying several of these methods will allow you to glean the most meaningful and well-rounded understanding of your data possible.
Voiceform makes it easy to understand the story in your data
While the data analysis process can be complicated, by implementing these methods you’re sure to receive helpful answers to the questions you set out with initially. Want to make things even easier on yourself? Choose to conduct your analysis with the help of a platform that’s already designed with robust and easy-to-navigate tools for you to use.
Voiceform auto-categorizes your data, making it easy to see the whole picture or focus in on different sentiments, themes, sub-themes, or categories that emerge. If you’re not sure how to interpret survey results, Voiceform makes easy and efficient work of what can be a difficult process. To learn more about our analysis tools or book a demo, reach out today.