Michel Theriault

5 tips for creating effective occupant surveys

Michel Theriault, Principal, Strategic Advisor
Thursday, March 20, 2014

What are the elements of effective occupant surveys?

Occupant surveys are an important tool that many facility and property managers may neglect. Surveys provide information needed to improve services, demonstrate how good services are, or even justify changes or budget increases. Managers shouldn’t be afraid of the results; they should take advantage of them.

Surveys are much easier and cheaper to do now with easy-to-use web tools, such as Survey Monkey, Polldaddy and Fluid Surveys.

The following are tips for developing an effective occupant survey:

1. Collect actionable data

Facility and property managers should gather information that can be used for analysis, and should require respondents to note their building, department and floor.

Surveys and questions should be kept short and neutrally worded. Otherwise, responses may be tainted. And managers should only ask questions about things that they could actually do something about. Personal questions about staff should be avoided, as it is about service, not people.

2. Use a variety of questions and answer scales

Managers should not give a neutral option in surveys, Rather, a four-answer scale with a fifth option of “I don’t know or can’t answer.”

Managers also shouldn’t apply the same scale to each question. Some questions should be answered with a yes or no instead. The person forming the survey should consider the question and adjust the answer method to collect information in a way so that it can be best used and analyzed.

3. Be specific

Managers should ask questions that will help improve service. For example, they shouldn’t simply ask if occupants are happy with the temperature. A yes or no response to that question will not indicate if it’s too cold, too hot, or if fluctuates too much.And if the questions aren’t crafted properly, occupants may also answer about a specific time period, leaving management confused about whether they were referring to last winter or this summer.

Survey software should be used to its fullest potential, such as by including follow-up questions that depend on previous answers.

Management should also ask for comments, but avoid a simple blank “Comments” section. Rather, they should pose specific questions like, “What suggestions do you have about [blank]?” or “What would you most like to see changed about [blank]?”

4. Compare similar data

Property and facility managers should ask the same questions year-over-year to get valid comparisons and show any improvement, rather than just having absolute number. However, they should be careful about comparing one organization’s results with another’s, unless the same questions are being compared.

5. Account for audience

Consider a different survey for decision makers, whether they are a facility or property manager’s main tenant contact or department managers.

Michel Theriault is principal of Strategic Advisor, a facility, property and asset management consulting firm. For more information, visit FM Insight and The Built Environment 

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