5 ways to get fuller responses from your open-ended questions

Very often open-ended questions within online surveys can produce disappointing results. But this need not be the case. Here are five easy methods to improve responses.

Prevent mobile access to your survey
It is harder for respondents to enter text on mobile phone than it is on a computer, so you could ask your survey provider to prevent respondents from doing so. Most sample providers are fine with this, and do not charge any more.

Pipe through respondents’ previous answers
If you have an open-ended question that is asking respondents to explain or comment on their answer to a previous question, you can ask your survey provider to “pipe” through that answer, to give respondents a reminder.

Control the pace of the questionnaire
Typically it is respondents who decide on the pace at which they complete online questionnaires. In other words, they can move from question to question however quickly they wish. But this does not have to be the case; survey operators can prevent respondents moving to a new question for a certain number of seconds. This might be on the open-ended question itself, or on the previous question (to which the open-ended relates).

Use plausibility checks
It should be possible for your survey provider to include some plausibility checks relating to your open ended questions. At the very least these should help identify people who have just hit random keys in order to be able to get through to the next question.

Check the soft launch verbatims
Looking through the first few responses to your verbatims will give you an idea of what to expect from the survey as a whole. So it is a good chance to refine question wording or instructions.

Whilst there are other measures you can take, such as paying an extra incentive for the “best” verbatim responses, these are easy and cost-free.