FEATURE31 July 2017

It’s the way you ask it

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Behavioural economics Features Impact Public Sector

Cognitive biases can be triggered by questionnaire structure – by mistake or by design, as Crawford Hollingworth explores


A frequent objective for all is measuring customer satisfaction. Without this information, it’s hard to know how, where and what to improve in a product or service. Yet it’s not always easy to gather customer feedback accurately. 

However, behavioural science can offer explanations for why a survey is often not as accurate or informative as we might hope. Selection bias, dishonesty and subconscious cognitive biases – such as framing and priming effects and reference points that skew responses – can all influence responses.

Behavioural science can also offer some useful guidelines for better measurement of customer satisfaction. In this article, we’ll look at four insights into the design of research and survey questions to make them more effective.

Questions that collect objective, behavioural information can increase accuracy

Survey questions are often open-ended and unstructured in their language to avoid priming a particular response from a customer. However, they leave respondents with considerable ‘wiggle room’ ...