Answer Invitees Who Ask Questions about the Survey

When you send out invitation emails, every now and then one of your potential participants wants to know something about the survey project or about you. This doesn’t happen often, but before they start filling in the questionnaire answers, people raise points or bump into concerns along the lines of the following.

Anonymity: What I have encountered most commonly is that they want to understand the steps you will take to preserve the confidentiality of their answers. They want to know how much they can trust divulging sensitive information, or any information at all. A few might want assurances that neither they individually nor their employer will be identified. Aside from anonymity regarding their individual information, they may want to know what you will do to protect data more generally.

Role change: I have handled a couple of questions from people who had been recently promoted and who wanted to know whether they were still considered eligible for participation. One person whom I recall was serving in an acting COO capacity and wasn’t sure whether that interim status would disqualify them.

I’ve also had people who retired recently and had a concern about their eligibility. Related to role confusion are the questions that come from someone who wears several hats or perhaps is only partially in a role such as the Chief Financial Officer who also handles the IT functions in a law firm. Essentially, these are inquiries about qualification.

Spam or intrusion: Email replies have come to me from a couple of people who wanted to know how I had obtained their work e-mail. Other people want to ask for information that lets them determine the legitimacy of your company, especially if you are a third party conducting a survey on behalf of a sponsor. A few write to ask you to send the report to their personal email mailbox.

Uncertainty about prior response: The final set of inquiries that I recall had to do with potential respondents being unsure whether they had already filled out the questionnaire and submitted it or whether my survey was different from another survey on the topic. These are easy questions to answers. If they ask to see their prior answers, it can be an irritating hassle to comply, mostly because of formatting, but the data is certainly available.

All questions deserve a prompt and respectful answer because you want that person to take part if they are qualified and, in any case, you want them to speak well of your survey effort. Besides, it is the decent thing to do.