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Business Survey Methods

Much of the balanced scorecard depends on data collected by surveys. Below are excerpts from authorities on survey design and survey methods, providing some of the basic principles and considerations that should be understood by anyone who needs to develop a survey for supporting the balanced scorecard, for example for customer satisfaction or employee satisfaction data.

Data Collection and Response Quality

“Collecting data on business organizations is very different from collecting data on individuals. Examples of the questions that survey designers must answer include the following:

  • What level of the business organization is best able to answer survey questions — the establishment, the enterprise, or something in between?
  • In terms of job title or position, who is the person within the business organization most likely to know or be able to find the answers to survey questions?
  • Will permission have to be obtained from the owner or chief ecexutive officer prior to completing the questionnaire?
  • What records are available to the firm for use in answering survey questions?
  • Can survey questions be structured to conform to the business’ record-keeping practices, including its fiscal year?
  • Are there particular times of the year when data are more readily available?
  • What is the best way to collect data that may be viewed as confidential business information?

It is time for businesses to get up to date, and use the more accurate modern survey techniques.”

Cox, B.G. and Chinnappa, B. N. (1995). “Unique Features of Business Surveys.” Ch. 1 in Business Survey Methods. Wiley. NY. p. 9ff.


“The fundamental principle of sample design is to maximize precision within the fixed budget, or to minimize cost for a specified level of precision.”

Colledge, M.J. (1995). “Frames and Business Registers: An Overview”, Ch. 2 in Business Survey Methods, Wiley, NY. p. 21.


Definitions of Survey Terms

Sampling Survey

“In the broadest sense the purpose of a sample survey is the collection of information to satisfy a definite need.”

There may be “a variety of purposes for which information is collected. Most frequently, however, interest has centered on four characteristics of the universe or population under study. These are:

  • population total (e.g. the total number unemployed);
  • population mean (the average number of persons engaged by an industrial establishment)
  • population proportion (proportion of cultivated area devoted to cotton);
  • population ratio (the ratio of expenditure on foods to that on rent). The populations are considered are finite in the sense that the number of objects contained in them (such as persons, farms, firms, stores) is limited.”

“Broadly speaking, information on a population may be collected in two ways. Either every unit in the population is enumerated (called complete enumeration, or census) or enumeration is limited to only a part or a sample selected from the population…. A sample survey will usually be less costly than a complete census…. Also, it will take less time to collect and process data from a sample than from a census. But economy is not the only consideration; the most important point is whether the accuracy of the results would be adequate for the end in view. It is a curious fact that the results from a carefully planned and well-executed sample survey are expected to be more accurate (nearer to the aim of the study) than those from a complete census that can be taken. A complete census ordinarily requires a huge and unwieldy organization and therefore many types of errors creep in which cannot be controlled adequately. In a sample survey the volume of work is reduced considerably.”


“In order to cover the population decided upon, there should be some list, map or other acceptable material (called the frame) which serves as a guide to the universe to be covered. The list or map must be examined to be sure it is reasonably free from defects. If it is out of date, consideration should be given to making it up to date. It would be important to know how the list or the map had been made.”

List of 13 survey planning considerations [and one added]:

  1. Define objectives of the survey
  2. Define population to be covered
  3. Define the frame for the data
  4. Divide up the population into sampling units
  5. Determine the sampling parameters: size, manner of selecting, estimation of population characteristics, margin of uncertainty allowed, estimated cost
  6. Define information to be collected: relevance, completeness
  7. Define method of collecting data [and calculating its actual cost]
  8. Specify survey time scale, completion dates of steps
  9. Construct questionnaire or schedule
  10. Train interviewers and establish supervision
  11. Design procedure for inspecting raw results and editing
  12. Define how to handle nonrespondents
  13. Analyze the data
  14. [Present results to decision makers]

Raj, D. (1968). Sampling Theory. McGraw-Hill. NY.

Need more help with survey design?  For an excellent white paper on survey design, along with many related resources, please go here.

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