When it comes to research and development surveys, the types of questions we ask can have a profound impact on the results – both positively and negatively. In order to create products our consumers will see and love, it is more important than ever to produce surveys that generate significant and useful results. But how do you choose the most effective type of survey question?
Rating scales and ranking scales are important tools that, while seemingly similar, serve very different learning outcomes. Here is how they work, how they differ, and where they belong in your survey to get the best feedback from your consumers.
What is a Rating Scale?
Rating scale questions are a variation of multiple choice. They ask the respondent (or members, as we refer to our consumer panel at Suzy™) to assign a value to a particular object or subject. Rating scales are close-ended questions that can help you gain quantitative data – information you can measure, hard facts. Rating scales allow you to collect data in a way that is easier to analyze and use.
A Rating scale question is one that seeks respondent feedback in a comparative form for specific features, products or service – “on a scale of 1 to 7 where one means ‘not at all likely’ and seven means ‘extremely likely,’ how likely are you to purchase the product in the next 3 months?"
Say, for example, you want to determine how your customers feel about your new soda branding. Using a rating scale question, you can show them a photo of the newly branded soda bottle and ask how likely they are to choose your item: very likely, neutral, or not at all likely.
Rating scales can take on many different forms. A numerical scale gives respondents a series of numbers to choose from, each representing a different rating.
Comparison scales, on the other hand, ask respondents to compare two or more items, rating them according to a defined scale. For example, if you want to determine how the cost of your soda compares to a competing brand, you would ask respondents to determine if yours is priced higher, about the same, or lower. In this way, you are using a rating scale to compare two items.
The Likert scale is one of the most often used rating scales and one you probably recognize. In this method, members are asked to agree or disagree with a statement. Combined with a numerical list, it can often look like this:
“On a scale of 1 to 7 (one being strongly disagree and seven being strongly agree), rate your opinion of each of the following statements.”
What is a Ranking Scale?
Ranking scales offer a different approach to gathering data—these questions ask respondents to compare items to one another, rather than rating them on a common scale. When trying to negotiate which items to remove from your dessert menu, for example, you might ask customers to rank the seven desserts you offer from their most favorite to least favorite, giving you insight into customer preferences.
Let’s consider your hypothetical soda brand. Say you want to collect data on how people respond to several different branding options. You present respondents with five different images of your branding options and ask them to rank the images in order of most preferred to least preferred.
This style of question gives you insight into what your customers like or dislike and provides you with feedback of how your products (or branding, in this case) compares alongside others.
A rating scale question allows you to measure strength of response. A ranking scale question allows you to measure priority of options. Using the two in tandem can give you very powerful insights into consumer preferences.