The use of leading questions are a sure-shot sign of a brand that assumes customer feedback and tries to build on it. Which is not a great thing. Why?
Well questions like “How did you find the [product] helpful?” are essentially leading — priming the customers to produce positive thoughts about the product and generate a 5-star or positive customer review.
However, modern-day customers are smart enough to identify the trick and cut through the fluff. They understand how brands can play with words and structure to impact their feedback through interviews, surveys, field research, and other mediums.
Therefore, it is crucial that companies learn how to avoid asking leading questions.
This post discusses the ins and outs of leading questions while sharing actionable advice on how NOT to ask a leading question.
Let’s get started!
What are leading questions?
Leading questions are essentially assumption-driven questions that push or influence respondents to generate a desired response.
Such questions help companies collect biased results from a survey or interview by smartly inferencing customers’ experiences or mindsets.
A leading question “leads” the respondents to make a certain answer irrespective of how they feel after using the product or after interacting with the brand.
For example, companies that want prospects to convert may ask, “How many products do you want to buy?”
Now this question doesn’t directly ask prospects if they want to convert.
Instead, it inferences about conversion while prompting them to have a conversation about “when or if they will buy the products.”
How leading questions impact research?
Indeed, the leading question strategy certainly puts companies in the driving seat. But, it jeopardizes customer experience and the responses to the leading questions don’t contribute to product research and development.
A leading question can largely impact the accuracy of research and the data that a product team builds on.
The interviews and surveys built on leading questions will produce a significant number of false feedback that will hardly represent the present state of the product, service, and overall customer experience.
Leading questions are generally positively-framed questions that want customers or respondents to only focus on the delightful experience.
This strategy pushes respondents to NOT share their bad experiences with the brand. Moreover, leading questions are driven by cognitive biases that allow the way a question is formed to impact the response.
5 leading questions examples
To understand how a leading question functions, we will have to discuss the different types of leading questions. Besides that, we will also share examples of leading questions that brands often use to manipulate customer feedback surveys.
1. Assumption-based leading questions
An assumptive leading question is the most common type of leading question as these are built on the preconceived notions a brand or researcher holds about product and customer experiences.
Such leading questions are used when the survey creator wants to fathom respondents’ general sentiments regarding the service, product, customer interactions, and more.
Here are some examples of assumption-based leading questions —
- How much did you enjoy our [product]?
- How satisfied are you with our [product]?
- Which [product] feature did you find most useful?
2. Statement-based leading questions
Statement-based leading questions are essentially statements that glorify an assumed experience.
Such assumptive statements often trigger respondents in choosing answers that don’t make them look bad or subject to FOMO (fear of missing out).
The response bias triggered by statement-based leading questions generally produces false answers, i.e., not useful for research.
Here are some examples of statement-based leading questions —
- Most of our customers believe that our [products] helped them solve their problems. Do you agree?
- The [show business] reports that most interns work overtime and for free. Do you work for free?
3. Coercive leading questions
Brands use coercive leading questions to generate a specific answer from the respondents. However, such leading questions are quite aggressive in structure and words, unlike other leading questions.
Where do brands use coercive leading questions?
Well, they do that in customer satisfaction surveys and website evaluation surveys. The structure of coercive leading questions is quite simple — it poses a statement followed by a question.
Here are some examples of coercive leading questions —
- You found our [products] highly satisfying, didn’t you?
- Our [products] satisfactorily helped you solve your problem, didn’t you?
- You’ll leave positive feedback for our [services] on social media, won’t you?
4. Consequential or direct implication leading questions
Consequential leading questions are highly influential and manipulative. After all, these questions allow brands to predict customer behavior!
Consequential leading questions push customers to make predictions about their behavior and potential events in the upcoming future.
However, these questions hardly contribute to insightful customer behavior predictions as the customers are not skilled enough to predict their behavior.
Here are some examples of consequential leading questions.
- If you happen to find the [product] you were looking for, will you purchase the [product] from us?
- What if our [service] helped your car paint last longer? Will you be willing to subscribe to our [service]?
5. Scale-based leading questions
These leading questions are quite tricky for the respondents. This is because they contain an unfairly marked scale full of positive responses. The idea behind scale-based leading questions is to produce responses that are in the researcher’s favor.
In this, the number of positive responses is more than negative responses. Since the feedback surveys contain more positive options, the participants will generally provide positive responses.
One of the most common examples of scale-based leading questions is —
How helpful was our [product]?
- Extremely helpful
- Somewhat helpful
- Somewhat not helpful
- Not helpful
Why avoid asking leading questions?
There are so many reasons why brands should completely eliminate leading questions from their customer satisfaction survey strategy.
Leading questions tend to infuse a lot of bias in research, especially if the brand aims at generating a predetermined or desired answer. This works because leading questions often result in highly-subjective responses.
Indeed, these questions get the job done. But, they impact the quality of data collection and further deteriorate the product research and development process.
These questions hardly provide any new insights as they only feed on biases communicated via manipulative questions.
Moreover, asking leading questions can backfire since it can negatively impact customer behavior.
Not to mention the false feedback the surveys with leading questions generate. Leading questions can push the research and development process in the wrong direction since the responses produce an untrue customer or market impression.
Still, some brands will use leading questions, arguing that these produce focused, efficient, and specific responses.
But, leading questions will only erode neutrality from the survey as they completely miss out on the purpose of collecting honest customer feedback.
How to avoid leading questions?
Now that you know everything about the impact of asking leading questions, it’s time we learn ways customer service teams can avoid asking them! Here are some ways you can completely eliminate leading questions in your feedback surveys and interviews.
1. Be mindful of what you ask
You should be extremely mindful about what you ask your customers or respondents. This is because your brand’s reputation is at stake.
So, make sure you start off the customer satisfaction survey or interview broadly before you start hitting the specifics.
For example, you can start the interview by asking about the respondent’s favorite feature and then follow it up with questions specific to that particular feature. The idea is to not lead in with assumptions!
2. Don’t use emotion-triggering words
Strong customer insights aren’t built on emotions or sentiments. They are built on hard facts and data. Therefore, make sure you don’t use emotional words or phrases, or structure the questions in a way that triggers emotional responses.
3. Invite both positive and negative feedback
Indeed, positive feedback and reviews help a brand grow. But, negative feedback provides brands with areas for improvement.
In other words, negative feedback is more worthwhile in the long run as it keeps companies on the fastest route to development.
Therefore, we suggest you welcome both positive and negative feedback by creating an open environment. Most importantly, let the respondents know that there are no right or wrong answers.
4. Revise the questions
Don’t just draft survey questions and push them without any revision. Bring new people on board and ask them if the questions seem leading.
Run through the questions many times so you are sure that none of them are leading the respondents into answering in a certain way.
You don’t want the questions related to product research and development to generate responses based on assumptions and manipulation, do you?
Leading questions are becoming more and more common in the life of a customer. After all, companies can go to strange lengths to generate positive customer feedback.
But, all actions have reactions.
Using leading questions to impact customer feedback can backfire as the results generated will only mislead brands — affecting product research, assumptions, and roadmaps.
What’s the solution? Stop asking leading questions!
We highly recommend you keep the best practices and examples in mind the next time you prepare questions for customer satisfaction surveys or interviews.
This is the only way to conduct neutral and unbiased research that helps companies design better products, services, and customer experiences.
Did you find this post helpful? Get in touch and let us know. Also, don’t forget to check out other informative posts on the blog!