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Using gamification to liven up your digital surveys won’t just send the QUALITY of your responses through the roof, it’ll also result in far more QUANTITY. Great news for anyone seeking customer, employee or sales channel feedback.

Easier doesn’t mean better

The proliferation of online survey tools has made both creating surveys and getting instant feedback on them quicker and easier than ever before. But – despite what the authors of The A-Z of Microwave Cooking in South Africa would have you believe – quicker and easier does not necessarily mean better. Quite the opposite, in fact. Because we all receive so many surveys these days, we tend to put less time and effort into answering them.

Gamification to the rescue

Not all survey tools are created equal. The good news is you can use the principles of gamification to drastically improve the quantity and quality of your responses. Gamification is the application of typical elements that make games engaging. Even really simple tweaks can reap massive rewards – and it all starts with a subtle shift in mindset. Put bluntly, the more participants enjoy the survey, the better and more voluminous their answers will be. Increased enjoyment can be achieved through “better design, language and imagery, using more creative questioning techniques and applying learning from behavioural science,” explains Deborah Sleep of Engage Research in the UK.

No one knows more about the benefits of gamifying your surveys than Sleep who – together with Jon Puleston – spent a full year conducting in excess of thirty research experiments with over 5 000 participants on behalf of big guns like Sony Music, Allianz Insurance, AMS Media Group, Heinz, Kimberly-Clark and Mintel Research. Their findings can be used to drastically improve any survey – from customer service and employee engagement to favourite pizza toppings.

It’s not what you ask, but how you ask it

It all starts with reframing your questions so that they draw respondents in. Instead of asking people what food they like to eat, prompt them to come up with their ideal dinner menu. Instead of asking people how much they like a brand, ask “them how happy they would be to wear its name on their T-shirt.”

Imposing a set of rules is another nifty way of transforming a mundane task into a game. How else could something like Farmville – which requires users to pretend to grow virtual vegetables, for crying in a pail – have become so popular? A simple question like “Describe yourself” yielded an average of “2.4 descriptive words.” But asking people to describe themselves in “exactly seven words,” almost doubled the number of descriptors Sleep and Puleston received.

Born to compete

All games – from hopscotch to Olympic sprinting – rely on human beings’ innate desire to compete against one another or the clock. This is why imposing a time limit on survey questions is so effective. Sleep and Puleston found that giving people only two minutes (as opposed to not specifying) to list their favourite foods saw a six-fold increase in the number of answers!

Even promising respondents a virtual brownie point – i.e. nothing, nada, zilch – for every correct answer saw enjoyment rates almost double. What strange, Pavlovian creatures we are.

Visual design matters

How you package your cleverly constructed and carefully worded questions is important too. The use of fun visual and design stimuli has been shown to further buoy respondents’ enjoyment and output.  This can be as simple as using cheerful colours and quirky illustrations to elevate your survey. Or it can be taken to the next level by allowing respondents to drag anchovies and artichokes on to their virtual pizzas. Sleep and Puleston also found that giving instant feedback on answers was really effective.

Little and often

In the old days it was common to complete employee engagement or sales channel surveys on an annual or biannual basis. Advances in technology mean you can now send surveys every day… but you do so at the risk of seriously cheesing off your employees / sales partners. In the last couple of years, innovative firms have leveraged mobile apps to push mini surveys or even single questions to people’s phones.

Provided these tick the gamification boxes outlined above, they can work wonders on the quantity and quality of the data you garner.

Putting the theory into practice

  • Employee engagement surveys are, by definition, supposed to be engaging. But try telling that to the bored workforce of RG Delport and Sons who’ve been answering the same Xeroxed survey every December since 1987. In today’s uber-competitive race for talent you simply can’t afford to have disengaged staff. Making regular use of gamified surveys to find out how employees really feel AND then providing instant (or near instant) feedback that shows how much you care can work wonders for motivation and engagement. You could, for example, push an interactive task to employees’ phones that requires them to allocate the firm’s HR budget for the upcoming financial year. If you’re not doing this kind of thing, you can rest assured your competitors are.
  • “A customer’s experience and feedback should be the only factors that validate important decisions within your business,” writes Rachika Sharma. But most business don’t send out nearly as many customer satisfaction surveys as they should. Unlike employees, customers are not obliged to answer your survey. So here, more than ever, it is vital to ensure that answering the survey is an enjoyable and rewarding experience. To encourage people to take the survey in the first place, you can dangle the carrot of material rewards or discounts, but this will only get you so far. The best way to obtain large amounts of really useful data is to make use of intelligent, gamified surveys that people enjoy completing. For instance, pushing short questions to customer’s social media accounts can prove very effective.
  • The sales channel is an especially tricky area to manage because most reps will simply follow the money, favouring Samsung today and Sony tomorrow. The challenge is to establish genuine loyalty where salespeople prefer a brand for the right reasons. Cleverly crafted and gamified sales channel surveys can be an extremely compelling weapon in your behaviour modification arsenal. Surveys can be used to find out what salespeople really feel about your products and services and they can also be leveraged as educational tools. This could be achieved by getting reps to compete against one another when answering a survey about features and benefits, for example.

It’s never too late to start using the principles of gamification to supercharge both the quantity and quality of your survey responses. Whether you’re looking for better data on employee engagement, customer satisfaction or sales channel motivation, we’d love to help.