In a study by Peter Drucker, there are a few case studies about how formulating your questions makes all the difference. One interesting case is about the fax machine, and how based on one survey it’s possible the machine may not have been produced at all. Here is an example of how careful consideration into your survey questions is very important:
In 1967, Xerox came up with the first modern fax machine. Xerox tried to see the marketability of a machine that can transmit signals to another and send a copy of a document over a regular telephone line. So they asked people, “Would you buy a telephone accessory that cost upwards of $1500 that enables you to send, for $1 dollar a page, the same letter the post office delivers for 25 cents?” The answer was a resounding “no” to this question.
A Japanese manufacturer also saw fax technology as an opportunity and asked the question differently, “If you can send your document immediately over the telephone line, would you use it?” They received overwhelming support by businesses and led the fax machine industry in 70s and 80s, ahead of U.S. manufacturers.
Putting the right question(s) in your survey is important. Don’t just ask questions, plan and build your questionnaires carefully and strategically, and ask consistently across a good sampling of people.