Personal data security and privacy is a hot topic, especially in today’s data-driven research environment.
Survey data is very important and helps businesses and organizations make informed, evidence-based decisions. As a survey researcher, you would like to ask many questions in a survey and collect as much data as possible, but it is becoming increasingly difficult to collect data. You may provide a well-designed survey, but not all respondents have the time or interested in completing your survey. A big issue could be that respondents don’t want to answer questions that ask for personal or sensitive information. If your company is trying to acquire personal information, you need to do so carefully and skillfully. Asking for personal data the wrong way can increase dropout rates dramatically.
How can you acquire personal data?
When you have to collect personal information on your respondents, consider the following:
- Anonymous Survey. In many cases, you may need to collect personal data, but you don’t necessarily have to collect information that can be linked to a specific person. Survey respondents tend to be more straightforward and honest with their question responses when their identity remains anonymous. It’s the same reason why some people prefer to comment on online content anonymously. They just feel more comfortable. When survey respondents are worried about being recognized, they are simply not as willing to tell the complete and honest truth.
- Ask Non-Personal Questions First. Build trust with the respondent by asking non-personal questions first. You will start to build trust as the respondent progresses through the survey and give respondents a chance to get to know more about the research and feel less imposed by personal questions. If a respondent does not feel the survey is from a trusted, reputable researcher, there is simply no way that they will want to answer questions that ask for personal information.
- Express Confidentiality. Clearly express how important confidentiality and security of respondent information are, and the steps your company is taking to support those claim. In the survey introductory statement, explain to respondents how their feedback will be kept in strict confidence.
- Administer a Pre-Survey Email. A pre-survey email can easily help warm up your respondents to the idea of completing your survey. Inform them of when they can expect to receive the survey, by what mode (online, mobile, paper, etc.), and explain and the benefits of the research to the respondent.
- Introduce Yourself. Compose a well written introduction statement at the beginning of your survey detailing the importance of respondents’ opinions, comments, and overall feedback. If you have to ask your respondents some personal question, explain your reasoning for acquiring this information in this introduction, and detail how this information will be used in your research. If you are administering an anonymous survey, stress anonymity. The more they trust you, the more likely they will be to provide you with the information you are looking for.
- Limit Insignificant Questions. Do you really need to know a respondent’s age, race, marital status, etc.? For certain research studies, that information is very important. If that information is not important to your overall goal, don’t ask it. Avoid asking personal questions and collecting private information if it is not necessary or consider not requiring the answer. If the respondent can move forward without answering, they will likely continue on with the survey and not feel forced to provide an answer.