18: Better Client Surveys


Do you have a client survey? If so, why are you asking the questions you ask?
It’s a tool we know we need, but there isn’t a lot of solid advice on how to
create one, distribute it, and get the information you’re looking for.

My friend and former colleague, Dara Murray is here to help us change our approach to surveys and relationships with data.

Dara is a program evaluator and data storyteller who loves using data, research, and evaluation to support the quality and impact of organizations large and small. In the years following her first job as a Girl Scout Camp Aide, Dara has worked as the Senior Associate of Program Quality & Evaluation at the consulting firm Sharp Insight, Manager of Program Quality & Evaluation at the National Summer Learning Association, and served for two years in the AmeriCorps program Public Allies.

She currently lives and works in Baltimore as the Assistant Director of Performance Management and one of two Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Officers at Urban Teachers national. Dara holds a Master of Public Policy from Johns Hopkins University with concentrations in education policy and nonprofit management and a Bachelor of Arts in Behavioral Science from Drew University. She enjoys traveling, sending her friends charts behaving badly she finds in the wild, jogging slowly, skincare as self-care, and urban gardening.

In this episode we discuss:

  • Why you should be collecting data;

  • How to set up a structured conversation with clients;

  • How many questions you should include in your surveys;

  • The best way to improve your response rates;

  • How long is too long; and

  • Using your survey data to improve your business.


“If I heard someone say, ‘I know what’s going on, what my clients need,” I would ask how they know that. Was it from a conversation they had? Did it just feel a certain way at the end of a project? Did you get feedback from one or two people?”


“A lot of times we say something over and over and over again. We speak it into truth.”


“You might be surprised by what you find out you’re doing really well through someone else’s eyes.”


“By limiting yourself to one objective or goal per survey you can get really clear on what questions you need to ask. A lot of things are interesting, but they’re not all actionable.”


“As a rule of thumb people do not want to spend a lot of time taking your survey.”


“Unless you really need to know about demographics, don’t ask.”


“It’s your responsibility as a survey designer to get a response rate that’s high enough. It’s never your audience that’s to blame.”


“Data are information. And it’s better to have information than make assumptions about what’s going on.”


“Your results are not a value judgment on you. You’re more than five questions. You’re more than a strongly agree to strongly disagree scale.”


TWITTER: @daralaine

IG: @daralaine

LINKEDIN: Dara Murray