What makes a good feedback form?

Start with the end in mind and define the business questions you want to answer

When designing a feedback form, it's always tempting to dive straight in and start writing questions. But by first thinking about your objectives and what you really want to know, it will make the design process much more structured. Do you just want to confirm that everything was fine; or are you looking for ways to improve?

If you're serious about quality, then feedback forms should be all about improvement. Remember that your questions don't have to remain set in stone for ever. So if there's something you want to know, then ask the question until you've got the information you need and then replace it with something else. Quality control is a journey not a destination and to be effective, you need to regularly review your feedback form and make sure it's fit for purpose. Lastly, your feedback form is also a chance to canvas opinion beyond the course itself. For example, if you're considering designing a new course, then why not test the water by asking for feedback on the idea?

Question types

Score-based questions are fine as a way of measuring your ability to delight your customers but if you want to get some insight as to how you could delight them even more, then you need more open question types in the mix.  There's no substitute for asking Learners to suggest how a course might be improved; or if you already have some ideas of your own, then you can use radio button or multiple choice type questions to find out whether your customers agree.

Mandatory questions

When using paper forms, you can't force your learners to answer your questions but when switching to a digital approach, it can be very tempting to set up mandatory questions and force your Learners to give you their views.  Our advice is Don't! No one likes to be bullied and the danger is that at best, you'll get little insight and at worst, you may get no feedback at all.  Much better that prior to collecting feedback, your instructors explain to Learners why their feedback is so important and let them give it of their own free will.

Answerable questions

It may sound obvious but don't ask questions that Learners may struggle to answer accurately.  For example, it might be invaluable to know how much time a Learner expects to save armed with their newly acquired skills but will they really know that when they've only just completed the course? Probably not. Far better to save questions such as this for a follow up survey to be completed, say, a month after the training by which time your learners should be able to give you a much more informed response.

How many questions?

When it comes to survey forms, the old adage Less is More, holds true.  We recommend no more than ten questions on a form and there's no reason why it can't be even less.  One way to reduce the number of questions is to consider whether you have redundancy.  In other words, if two questions are really asking the same thing in different ways, then see if you can merge them into one.  For each question, you should also consider why you are asking that particular question and how you will use the responses to improve your business.  If your reason for asking is because it would be "interesting to know", then it's probably one you can remove.

Who wants to know?

Consider how the feedback you collect will be shared amongst the stakeholders. Your instructors are likely to want to know how their training was perceived, especially if you're transitioning away from paper when they would have been the first to know.  Your training manager and marketing managers will also be interested in feedback; and last but not least there are your customers.  This is especially important if your main focus is on running closed events.  In short, when designing your feedback form, it's worth getting input from all of these stakeholders and ensuring that all their needs are met.

Further information

For a free diagnostic check up on your existing feedback form, visit smilesheets.com run by renowned feedback expert Will Thalheimer.

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