Death By Survey

I travel a lot.  In my job with FACTS, I’m on the road three or four days a week for most of the year.  After every hotel stay, I receive an email that says, “Please tell us about your stay,” and then proceeds to ask all kinds of questions, from how my check-in experience was to was the temperature of my breakfast food acceptable.

I’m sure you receive lots of surveys too.  If you’ve purchased a vehicle, if you’ve taken your vehicle in for service, if you’ve eaten at a restaurant, or have bought products or contracted for services, you can be sure you’ll be receiving a survey to communicate your experience to those that track this important data.

But a 17-page survey that asks me to rate every minutia thinkable is a little ridiculous.  This type of survey every once in a while is acceptable, but when companies continue to survey the same people with an extensive line of questioning and rating scales, it makes one want to simply fill in circles in a pattern rather than answering questions based on one’s actual experience.

Do your survey the families in your school about their experience with your school?  You should – but not with a 17 page survey.  Not even an 17 question survey.   Simply ask 5 questions:

1) On a scale of 1 to 10, how would you rate our school?

2) If your answer is not a 10, what one thing could you suggest to make it rate a 10?

3) What 3 things would you say are the most remarkable attributes of our school?

4) What attracted you to our school?

5) What continues to keep you engaged with our school?

I used to counsel schools to ask 3 questions – the first 3.  But, true to my theory of 3 leads to 4 leads to 5, some schools have provided feedback regarding question number 3, noting that the most frequent answers are “A focus on Gospel values, excellent academics and a safe and caring educational environment.”  Those are great attributes, to be sure – but they’re not “remarkable.”  They’re “expectations” of a quality faith-based school.  Therefore, their expectations are being met.  Questions 4 and 5 have been added since remarkable qualities are usually attributes that parents see as unique relative to their experience of your school, but your school may consider it to be something that you’ve “been doing for ages.”

You may be saying, “See, what we’ve been doing is great, so that means we don’t have to change anything.”   That would mean that, indeed, “everything” is great about your school:

  • Your school has a great annual appeal, allowing you to fund a growing endowment so you can provide financial aid to families with financial need;
  • You encourage gifts to be made to your school which are significant, either through major gifts or planned giving practices;
  • Your school has an enrollment waiting list;
  • Your school’s surroundings are inviting;
  • Your school’s technology is less than 3 years old;
  • The list can go on.

If your answer to the above 5 questions start with the word, “Well…” it helps to remember that there’s always room for improvement, and although we can never reach perfection, we can strive for excellence…in all that we do.

When school begins this year, give each of your parents this five-question survey.  Compile the results and analyze them to gain your customer’s input regarding their experience, since it’s their experience that will attract other families to your school.

© Michael V. Ziemski, SchoolAdvancement, 2014 (Original Publication Date: 20140811)