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Avoiding Leading Questions in Customer Surveys

Want more honest survey responses? Learn how to avoid leading questions and get the answers you truly need to improve your marketing approach.

When marketing your brand, it’s helpful to know if you’re doing things right. And what better way to figure that out than by using surveys to directly ask what your audience really thinks?

However, there’s a catch. The way you ask questions matters. If your surveys have leading questions, it could push people to answer in a certain way and skew the data. Instead of getting honest, unfiltered opinions, you get a misleading view that can affect your future campaigns.

The good news is, it’s possible to craft unbiased, clear, and relevant questions that deliver genuine responses. To do that, use this guide on avoiding leading questions to hone your survey-making skills and get valuable feedback.

What are leading questions anyway?

Leading questions subtly guide people toward a specific answer when filling out customer surveys. How the questions are framed often hints at what the survey creator wants to hear, instead of opening the door to true and unbiased responses.

Take for example: “You like our new product features, right?” This kind of question doesn’t leave room for honest feedback. Survey respondents might feel pressured to agree rather than let you know what they really think. While this might work great for a cross-examination in a courtroom, it has no place in a marketing survey.

A better question would be something like, “How do you feel about our new product features?” This neutral phrasing allows respondents to frankly share both positive and negative feedback.

Neutral questions ensure that survey participants can freely share their true thoughts about your brand, products, and overall customer experience. Your website evaluation surveys, customer feedback surveys, and other feedback collection methods will then yield clearer insights, helping you make better marketing decisions.

Leading questions vs. loaded questions in evaluation surveys

Loaded questions are also important to avoid when making customer surveys. But they’re not the same as leading questions. The main difference is that loaded questions contain an assumption about the customer. Moreover, they often corner respondents into providing the desired answer that confirms the assumption, even if it’s not true.

For example, a loaded question might ask, “Why did you have issues with our software update?” This question assumes that the customer had problems with the update, which may not be the case. More neutral phrasing, like “Did you have issues with our software update?” removes the assumption and allows the respondent to share their experience.

Types of leading questions and examples

There are several types of leading questions. Being able to identify each one will make it easier to avoid crafting questions that guide survey respondents’ answers. To help you spot these right away, here are the most common types and some examples.

Direct implication leading questions

Direct implication leading questions make survey respondents consider potential outcomes and plant an idea of how they might behave in the future. This can skew their current responses based on a future scenario, rather than their opinions in the present moment.

A leading question based on direct implications might look like:

  • Upon seeing the benefits of our premium plan, would you think of upgrading?
  • If our service could save you hours every week, would you then consider paying for a monthly subscription?
  • If our product improves your well-being, would you recommend it to your friends and family?

Assumption-based leading questions

Assumption-based leading questions assume a certain fact is already true. This type of leading question often creates a narrative that might not align with the customers’ actual experience. They’re like loaded questions but lack the deliberate intent to provoke specific responses.

 Common examples of assumption-based leading questions:

  • How engaging was our recent webinar for you?
  • How convenient did you find our online shopping experience?
  • To what extent did you find our product demonstration informative?

Coercive leading questions

Coercive leading questions pressure people to agree with the survey creator or align their answers with another viewpoint. The forceful phrasing typically makes it seem as though one particular answer is more favorable than another.

A coercive leading question often follows this format:

  • You agree that our service is the best on the market, right?
  • Given our track record of success, you wouldn’t consider going elsewhere, would you?
  • It’s obvious that our website has the most user-friendly design, correct?

Interconnected statements in leading questions

Interconnected statements bundle 2 related statements together, forcing respondents to agree or disagree with both simultaneously. This approach can confuse people and typically leads to muddled and potentially false feedback.  

Some examples of closely connected statements in leading questions:

  • Our product stands out for its exceptional durability. Would you say it’s a wise investment?
  • Most of our customers find our tech support team highly responsive. How pleased are you with your support experience?  
  • Our website is informative and easy to navigate. How likely are you to explore our offerings further?

How leading questions can impact survey results

When leading questions sneak into your surveys, the results might not truly represent your customers’ thoughts and feelings. Understanding the impact of such questions is key to actively avoiding them and ensuring the reliability of your survey data. Here’s a breakdown of the potential repercussions. 

Misleading feedback on products

A leading question can trick you into believing people like or dislike your products more than they do. Questions that hint at a specific answer, like “If our consulting service could enhance your business’s profitability, would you sign up?” might lead people to say “yes” because that’s what they think you want to hear. This leading question doesn’t leave them any room to say “no” or share why they feel a different way.

If you start making changes in response to this feedback, you might be fixing things that aren’t broken or you might be missing the real issues. For example, if you keep improving the speed of a gadget but the real problem is its battery life, you’ll end up with a fast product nobody wants because it keeps running out of power.

Getting the wrong idea about your customers  

Knowing what your customers want and need is the key to good marketing. But if you use leading questions in your surveys, you might end up with the wrong information.

For instance, if you ask, “You love our new app design, right?” you’re pushing them to say that they do love it more. But maybe some people don’t feel that way at all. Some might find it confusing or not user-friendly.    

To really know what your customers think, it’s best to ask simple questions without guiding them toward a certain answer. For example, you could ask, “How do you feel about our new app design?” A neutral question will provide better data that lets you know what people are excited about and the issues that really bother them.

Marketing efforts might not pan out

When data from your surveys' leading questions informs your marketing strategies, there’s a good chance they won’t work as expected. That’s because these questions can give a false sense of what your audience wants from your brand.

Consider a survey question like, “How excited are you to sip on our lemon-flavored drink this summer?” This kind of leading question suggests a positive emotion and assumes that the respondent at least has some level of excitement. It may trigger a positive response even though the customer may prefer a different flavor altogether.

If you use that information to inform your strategy, you might be quite surprised when sales don’t match up. The money and resources spent promoting that product might end up going to waste. Furthermore, the campaign could create a disconnect with your customers when they see that your brand doesn’t understand their preferences.   

Strategies for avoiding leading questions in feedback surveys

The way you frame your customer survey questions makes all the difference in the quality and reliability of the responses. As a survey creator, it’s important to take steps to avoid leading questions. That way, you can ensure that the answers offer the accurate insights needed to grow your business. To get quality insights, use these 4 strategies to keep leading questions out of your surveys. 

Avoid making assumptions

Never presume to know how people feel about your brand and its offerings. Even if you deeply understand your customers, making assumptions keeps you from learning new things about their needs and preferences. Instead, collect feedback with an open mind to stay in tune with the evolving desires of your audience and pave the way for growth.

Maintain neutral ground

Ensure unintended positive or negative bias doesn’t creep into your survey queries. For example, asking if the customer was satisfied with your fast delivery assumes that the delivery was fast. To maintain neutrality, it’s better to ask how they would rate your delivery time. This encourages honest feedback without any push in a certain direction. 

Embrace open-ended questions

Excellent survey questions give room for both praise and criticism. By asking open-ended questions, you create space for respondents to share richer insights than predetermined answers allow. For the best results, keep your questions concise and use phrasing that encourages respondents to share their thoughts freely, like “What do you think about this product?”

Test before you launch

It’s always a good idea to pilot your survey with a smaller group before its full release. By reviewing the initial feedback, you can catch any unclear or biased questions. After making adjustments, you’ll be ready for a successful launch to your target audience.  

Pave the way for genuine feedback in customer surveys

If you really want to know what your customers think, steer clear of leading questions. While they might make it seem like customers love what you’re doing, it’s often not the whole story. By only using unbiased questions, you get real, honest feedback that holds the key to your marketing success. So, skip the assumptions and lean into genuine insights to let customers’ true voices shape your brand’s future.

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