Anonymous surveys are an excellent tool to gather feedback. When surveys are anonymous, participants are much more likely to be honest about potentially uncomfortable subjects, like what they think about their work environment or where a course instructor fell short.
In fact, most surveys can be conducted anonymously. Even if you can’t link answers to a specific respondent, the information you get can still be analyzed based on key demographics, the products or services they used, general sentiment, and more.
With the right platform, creating an anonymous survey is easy. Here’s how to do it and why you should consider anonymous surveys.
Anonymous vs. confidential surveys
Anonymous and confidential surveys are two different concepts, although the terms may be used interchangeably. An anonymous survey fails to link a response with a specific person. Confidential surveys are typically reviewed by one or more people, but the information within them is kept private from others.
For example, a medical survey might link patients with their responses—but the response collectors will not share that information with anyone outside a specific group.
Benefits of anonymous surveys
Anonymous surveys have several key benefits, including:
- Respondents feel more comfortable: Knowing that their feedback won’t be used to penalize them can make respondents feel more comfortable. For instance, college students can fill out instructor evaluations without worrying that their feedback will affect their grade.
- Candid answers: If you plan to ask about sensitive topics, you’ll get more honest, candid answers with an anonymous survey. This is especially important for surveys where you might ask about potentially embarrassing or stigmatized situations, such as mental health experiences or personal histories.
- Avoid bias: Most people want to be liked, which can lead to overly diplomatic or insincere feedback. Plus, if there’s a potential negative consequence for answering honestly, you’re more likely to receive biased answers when they can identify the participant.
- Increased response rate: Finally, respondents are more likely to take the survey if they know it’s anonymous—even if there’s nothing embarrassing or sensitive about the questions you’re asking.
There are also drawbacks to anonymous surveys. Not being able to identify participants means that you can’t follow up with unhappy respondents. You also won’t have a point of reference for the feedback, such as a customer with a personal vendetta or a student who consistently failed exams.
Not every survey needs to be anonymous. Choose your survey method judiciously to ensure that you get the type of responses you need.
How to create an anonymous survey
These easy steps will help you create an anonymous survey that encourages candid feedback:
- Set your goals: Every survey, whether anonymous, confidential, or otherwise, needs a clear goal. If you’re just asking random questions, you won’t get the information you need. The respondent may get bored, or fail to see the necessity of a response. Survey goals might include “find out how the new work-from-home program is going,” or “determine whether this professor is a good fit for the university.”
- Decide if you need an anonymous survey: After you’ve set your goals, consider whether you really need an anonymous survey at all. If you want to be able to follow up with respondents or provide context for their answers, this might not be the right method. If, however, you need honest feedback to analyze, want to increase your response rate, or want to avoid bias, this is a great option.
- Make a clear statement: Next, make a clear statement of anonymity, which should be at the top of the survey and in any materials used to solicit responses. This includes emails, social media posts, pop-up windows, text messages, and any other method you may use.
- Find the right tool: Finding the right survey tool is also key. Not every survey platform allows anonymous survey responses. When you’re designing and building your survey, research every potential platform thoroughly. Voiceform is a great example of a survey platform with anonymity capabilities.
- Check each of your survey distribution methods: Next, make sure that you’ve enabled anonymous responses on each survey method, including website, email, mobile, and more.
- Avoid using custom variables or data: Custom variables use the survey link to pass values for respondents into results, while custom data can store information about respondents into your contacts. Avoid using these tools, since they can identify respondents and their answers.
- Choose the right questions: You might be tempted to ask anything and everything, to get as much data as possible. That’s often a bad idea. Instead, make sure that you choose the right questions. Long, unwieldy surveys are unlikely to get the candid answers you’re seeking. Your survey should be centered around the pain points and goals you identified, such as “how could your work experience be improved?” Remember, anonymity encourages people to be honest. This is your opportunity to ask the hard questions, without discouraging participants.
- Make a post-survey plan: Finally, decide how you’ll use the information you received. You might choose to make an internal report, share your findings with customers as a gesture of good faith, use your results in a study, or use them for another purpose or outcome. Your survey goals will help shape this plan.
Ultimately, anonymous surveys are a great tool for companies, researchers, universities and other entities to get candid answers from participants. With some careful thought and planning—and the right survey tools—you can encourage engagement and honesty among participants.
Power your anonymous surveys with Voiceform
Voiceform’s survey tools are designed to power your data collection. Whether you need an anonymous survey or want to link answers to respondents, our multimedia question types, robust analytics, and customizations, survey creation and data collection makes the process easy. Learn more about our product today.