Designing a survey for bus passengers

Image result for surveySurveys, problem of marketers

This is not about marketing, but could be used by marketers.

People are in a hurry. Not because they need something urgently, but because the spare time they have is being eaten in big chunks by the golden toy of the 2010s: the smartphone. By peeking over the shoulder, I realized that most of the time, it is not something important. more than 50% of the people traveling in a bus are using the smartphone and of them, 60% are playing games. It is about boredom.

Now, I have participated to surveys in various cities and I know that any survey past 3 minutes is painful. Not that I don’t stay till the end. It is a bit of courtesy, but after those 180 seconds, the mind flies away and the survey is losing its goal.

So, my point is that any survey for people using public transportation should be short. But what is short ? There are two scenarios:

  • in the bus
  • at the bus stop

There are other places where to inquire people, but those two are my top choices.

Related imageSurveying in the bus

Buses are peculiar things. They spend 60% in traffic and 40% at stops. This could go 70/30, but no more than 80/20, except rush hours. You got it ? The best time to take surveys is rush hours. People love to complain. Have  a couple open questions ready for them.

If the typical time spent by the bus between two consecutive stations is 1-2 minute during regular traffic hours, rush hours increase that time by a factor of 5. That’s right. Just by following the law of numbers, you will have more  respondents in that bus.

My advice is to design two surveys: one for rush hour and one for regular hours.  Same number of questions, but different formulations if not slightly different questions.

Image result for in the busSurveying  at the bus stop

This is a double edged tool. If the bus arrives, people will abandon the survey, period. So, you should be aware of rush hours.  People have one thing in mind: get on that bus.  Choose people carefully. Here, Real-Time Passenger Information (RTPI) systems play an important role. People are consumers of information. They are hungry for it. If the RTPI device says there are 5 minutes before the bus arrives, that is your chance.  What choice do passengers have ?

  • wait 5 minutes without doing nothing
  • spend the same amount of time talking, which makes the time go faster.

Again, the survey should be no longer than 3 minutes.

Image result for boredGeneral tips for the questions

Do not assume people are really interested in the survey. No, they are bored. So, ask short questions. 5 seconds max for the question. 7 tops. One verb. No subordinate.  And estimate 10-15 seconds per answer, plus 10 seconds for thinking and another 5 for writing down the answer.  Total time for one question: 5+15+10+5=35. Let’s make it 40. How many questions in 180 seconds ?  4 or 5. No more. Plus the polite Thank you at the end and the introduction. See how little time you have ?

Image result for target  wikimediaWhat questions to ask

So you have 4 questions. First 2 questions should make people comfortable. Third one  should be your aim, the real purpose  of the survey. And the last one should also make people comfortable.  By using this approach, the survey will seem a child’s play for the interviewee. And that is important, because the next people might be just 3 feet away, eavesdropping.

It is better to have 3-4 people answer the one question than 1 or 2 fighting with too many questions. First, it’s a matter of diversity. Then, it gives fast feedback. Maybe the survey has flaws.  By having quick surveys, you will adapt swiftly to your target audience.


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