The Complete Guide To Open-Ended Survey Questions (2024)

Open-Ended Survey Questions

Nothing can beat the usability of an effective survey. It is certainly a major customer and employee satisfaction measurement tool that, if coupled with the right questions, can help generate exceptional insights.

In other words, crafting the survey questions is the key to creating high-quality surveys. One of the most common survey questions is open-ended survey questions. In this extensive guide, we will discuss open-ended survey questions from the inside and out.

We will share examples of open-ended questions you can use as well as best practices to draft the best survey questions.

Let’s not waste any more time and get right into it, shall we?

Table of contents
What are open-ended questions?
Open-ended vs. closed-ended questions
Advantages of using open-ended survey questions
When to use an open-ended survey question
Examples of open-ended survey questions
Best tips for using open-ended survey questions

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What are open-ended questions?

Remember, a survey is only successful if you can get useful insights from it. One of the best ways to make the most of a survey is by asking respondents to share a more comprehensive response.

Indeed, yes or no types of answers work. But, comprehensive answers give brands an opportunity to dive into the answers and gather more context — often helpful in improving business operations and processes.

This is precisely where open-ended survey questions come to the rescue.

Open-ended survey questions are questions that allow respondents to deliver free-form, open-text answers. In other words, they have complete freedom in their answers and can share as much detail as they want.

An open-ended survey question does an excellent job of generating meaningful answers that also help brands realize customer sentiments.

More importantly, the answers to open-ended survey questions can be analyzed at scale using automated tools and spreadsheets.

Open-ended vs. closed-ended questions

What are the differences between open-ended and closed-ended questions? We can understand the differences between the two through this simple example.

Open-ended question: “What do you think of automated website design tools?”

Closed-ended questions: “Do you use automated website design tools?”

As you can clearly see, the open-ended question focuses entirely on generating qualitative research data. It pushes the respondent to provide contextual insights in their own words that help brands collect more meaningful answers from customers.

On the other hand, the closed-ended question is quite limiting. It only focuses on quantitative data and hence generates limited customer insight. However, the data closed-ended questions generate is easier to analyze and manage.

To sum up — open-ended questions are qualitative, contextual, personalized, and exploratory while closed-ended questions are quantitative, data-driven, manufactured, and focused.

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Advantages of using open-ended survey questions

We have discussed the differences between closed-ended and open-ended survey questions. But, how do open-ended survey questions really help? Well, there are many major advantages of using open-ended questions in surveys.

1. Generates detailed responses

First, open-ended questions tend to generate detailed responses.

The respondents going through the question will find the opportunity quite lucrative since it gives them the freedom to produce in-depth details that provide more meaning and context to their answers.

This will only help brands find out more about the user experience and ways they can improve the interaction.

2. Helps improve products and services

Second, open-ended questions help brands figure out problems with their products and services, especially issues that they might not have anticipated earlier.

Drafting open-ended questions don’t require much effort. But, the results it generates can easily help improve products, and services, and boost revenue.

3. Know more about your audience

Third, open-ended questions allow companies to know about their audiences. Customer behavior is one thing that never ceases to change.

It keeps evolving.

Hence, it is crucial for brands to track the change in audience behavior, something that open-ended survey questions can help them with.

The questions can help build an understanding of the target audience and refine the buyer personas.

4. Works even with a small number of respondents

Fourth, you don’t need a large respondent base to make the most of open-ended survey questions.

This is because each respondent has the freedom to share candid views and feedback about the products, services, and overall customer experience.

There is absolutely no restriction whatsoever. Even if your audience or respondent pool is small, you can generate high-quality data and analyze it for improvement.

valuable feedback, employee feedback, survey research

When to use an open-ended survey question

Timing is key to success. Moreover, the context you add through the open-ended question will make or break the survey. Therefore, make sure you use open-ended questions at the right time.

Here are some of the best times to put open-ended survey questions to the test.

1. When the number of survey respondents is not high

With open-ended questions, you are looking for unique responses that can be closely looked at and analyzed for product or service improvement. Now, these unique responses can be small and sometimes very large.

Therefore, open-ended question surveys can be quite overwhelming if conducted over thousands of respondents. We highly recommend conducting open-ended question surveys on a much smaller survey group, for example, a group of 40-50 respondents.

2. When you are surveying industry experts

Whenever you are surveying industry experts, you will generally have a small group of respondents. So, this goes well with the previous point. Now, open-ended question surveys are perfect when surveying experts.

This is because the experts will have a lot of feedback to share. Moreover, the experts have the ability to share specific insights that can provide you with valuable information. The idea here is to let the expert speak freely.

3. When conducting preliminary research

A well-conducted open-ended survey can help you pave the path to an effective closed-ended question survey.

This is because open-ended survey questions help formulate the responses — giving researchers the opportunity to understand the audience well and use the information to create highly effective closed-ended survey questions.

This is important as closed-ended question surveys are conducted on a large audience.

5. Survey conclusion

We highly recommend you add an open-ended survey question at the end of each survey. This will help the respondents speak their hearts out.

You may do this even if you don’t intend to analyze the responses. Just letting the respondents speak will help you make them feel special and cared for.

open ended questions, quantitative data, qualitative data

Examples of open-ended survey questions

Drafting open-ended survey questions can be a little overwhelming, especially if you are new to copywriting. Therefore, we have shortlisted some of the open-ended survey questions that you can use as inspiration.

Such questions will help you think of open-ended questions that cater to your industry and target audience. Let’s take a look at them, shall we?

  • What do you like the most about [product]?
  • What was the most disappointing thing about [product]?
  • What would you say to someone asking about [product]?
  • Which known celebrities do you think will want to use [product]?
  • If the [product] were a fruit, which kind of fruit would it be?
  • What makes you purchase from [brand]?
  • When it comes to [brand] personality, how will you describe it?
  • What if you show off [product] from [brand]? How will people react to it?
  • Which kind of music comes to your mind when you think about [brand]?
  • Which superstar do you think will rock [product] from [brand]?
  • What are the words you will use to describe [company]?
  • If [company] was a sports car, which sports car would it be?
  • What do you tell the people that ask how it feels working at [company]?
  • What will be your go-to reasons when (god forbid) you’d want to leave [company]?
  • What are your motivations to come to work every day at [company]?
  • As a student, what do you think can be improved at [school]?
  • What do you think about your fellow students at [school]?
  • What are your biggest concerns as a student at [school]?
  • What is it that [organization] can do for you to make your experience better?

We highly recommend you use these open-ended survey question templates for your upcoming customer satisfaction surveys.

Make sure you add the organization/brand/company/product name correctly before sending the surveys to your respondents.

examples of open ended questions, provide quantitative data, accurate responses

Best tips for using open-ended survey questions

Now that you are well-acquainted with using open-ended survey questions, we highly recommend you stick to the best tips and practices. Check out these tips for using open-ended survey questions more effectively.

1. Don’t add unnecessary questions

Open-ended questions are already asking too much from the respondents. The customers will be putting everything to prepare an honest answer for you.

Therefore, you should try to make their lives easier by NOT adding questions that are unnecessary.

The best way to ensure that is by drafting a list of questions you can add to the survey. Now select the questions that will help you achieve the set research goals.

In other words, you want the survey or questionnaire to be short so that the participants can focus on the open-ended question.

2. Leading questions will not work

We have already discussed the impact of leading questions on surveys in one of our previous posts.

Modern-day customers are smart enough to understand that you are trying to manipulate their survey answers by asking leading questions.

Therefore, try not to write leading questions. After all, you want unique and candid answers to open-ended questions that help you generate reliable insights.

3. Use both open and closed-ended questions

Indeed, open-ended survey questions work well in helping respondents deliver qualitative responses. But, you also want to collect statistical data that couples or complements the qualitative data.

In order to establish a solid and complete understanding of your target audience, we suggest you use both open and closed-ended questions (multiple choice questions) to draw insights from both forms of data.

4. Frame questions to encourage a response in their own words

The way you draft questions has an immense impact on the response respondents leave.

If you write questions in a way that makes the respondent leave a one-word answer or single-word answer, you’ll probably end up with many one-word responses to your open-ended question.

This is counterproductive.

Therefore, frame the questions in a way that encourages respondents to share their stories. Make the open-ended question more engaging to receive an honest and detailed response.

5. Don’t push respondents to give reasons

Do you force the respondents into providing reasons for their responses? Bad strategy. Quit it as not all respondents are equipped with the ability to think critically about certain questions.

If you insist on asking about the reasons behind their responses, the respondents might start making up stories, resulting in dishonest customer feedback. Such responses are only going to negatively impact the open-ended survey results.

Final thoughts!

There you have it. This extensive guide is aimed at marketers and business owners that want to make the most of their customer satisfaction surveys.

Open-ended survey questions are key to generating rich data that pushes brands to create a better understanding of their target audience.

Therefore, we suggest you follow the examples and tips mentioned in the guide to create high-quality open-ended survey questions.

Moreover, you should try to make both closed and open-ended questions work together. This can be done by following each closed-ended question with an open-ended question.

The tactic can help you gather both quantitative and qualitative data — making the survey more insightful and useful for brand development. Did you find this post helpful?

Then don’t forget to check out other informative posts on the blog!

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