How to Evaluate Survey Software in 3 Steps
By Brian Henderson
There's too many companies selling survey software and the industry has branching into several categories without any one category becoming meaningful to customers and prospects. Here's a quick guide to help those looking to bring in structured feedback into their organization.
1. Identify Candidates – Make a List.
Build your master list of potential candidates knowing full well you will throw away most of these names in time. Build up your list using all available means possible. Ask your friends for recommendations, look for online directories that list survey software (Yahoo, DMOZ, etc), and of course, check the search engines. When searching the internet, be sure to specify the most relevant keyword phrases that appeal to you. If you are looking for Microsoft-based survey software, you might also try Google's Microsoft focused search engine.
2. Compare Basic Attributes – It's Spreadsheet Time.
Create a new spreadsheet. This will be your ratings guide. Going across the first row, put the following attributes: Company Name, Functionality, Cost, Support, Maintenance, Reliability, Performance, Scalability, Usability, Security, Flexibility/Customizability, Interoperability, and Legal/License issues. Also put a couple specific features that you couldn't live without such as "Multilanguage support," "Advanced dBranching," or "available in software and hosted offerings".
Going down the far right column (Company Name), put the names of the companies identified in step one. Set aside some time for emails/calls. Use email to make as much headway as possible because getting consumed with phone calls. But in the end, phone calls will give you more of a sense about the people you'd be working with if you end up making the purchase.
3. Analyze Top Candidates in Depth – Pick Your Top Five, Then One.
By now based upon your conversations with the company staff and using your master list, you should quickly be able to narrow down your list to the top five candidates. You might already know by now which company you want to support. Now you can dig in deeper. See if the companies offer a free trial software download or an internet-based trial that you can explore. Make sure you trial the form of surveying (software or hosted) that you want to implement. If you aren't sure at this point, try both.
Then, when you get closer to making the purchase decision, compare the attributes you liked side by side. Especially when looking at hosted and "market-research" oriented survey software packages, be sure you understand the incremental costs that will apply once you go over your response limits. When you are using a company's internet bandwidth, they have to put measures in place to make sure you aren't using more resources than you are paying for. For example, large research companies like Nielson, who sends out hundreds of thousands of surveys per year, would cost significantly more to a company than a 10 person marketing consulting firm.
If you are leaning towards a software-based solution, watch out for limits of number of users and capabilities that you might get charged extra. Start small and see if you can test run on a hosted solution first, that way if you discover something you don't like, your investment loss is minimized.
About the Author
Brian Henderson oversees internal and external marketing for Prezza Technologies. Prior to joining Prezza Technologies, Brian has held senior-level marketing positions in successful New England-based companies, including Perseus Development Corporation, Equallogic Corporation, and EMC Corporation
Learn more about Prezza Technology's Online Survey Software.
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