Survey software: Gather data with these applications

By J. Carlton Collins, CPA

Q. I've developed various forms, surveys, and checklists in Word that we've used for years, and they work well. However, I'm drowning in paper. What would be the easiest way to convert these forms, surveys, and checklists to a paperless environment?

A. To create forms, surveys, and checklists that are instantly tabulated for you, you can use a survey software solution such as SurveyMonkey or, perhaps, Facebook's built-in polling tool.

Facebook polling: If your company hosts (or publishes) its company newsletter on Facebook (which is a solution I recommend because it's free and it supports comments, pictures, and videos), then you might consider using Facebook's free polling tool to conduct simple surveys. You can create a poll on your Facebook page as follows:



1. In the Make Post dialog box in your News Feed or Timeline, scroll down and select the Poll option as circled in the screenshot above. (You may need to click the three dots menu located at the bottom of the dialog box to view the Poll option.)

2. Next to your profile picture, enter a question you want to ask.

3. Enter the possible responses in the Option 1 and Option 2 text boxes below the question. (Facebook polls are limited to just two possible responses, such as Yes or No.)

4. If desired, you can add a photo or image to each of your answer options.

5. Click the dropdown menu labeled 1 week and indicate when you want your poll to end (the default setting is one week).

6. As an option, you can click the Friends button located at the bottom of the dialog box and indicate which people (or groups of people) can view the survey. For example, you might limit the survey to just those employees who belong to the Audit Department group.

7. Click Post. An example survey question is pictured below.


The survey results are updated automatically each time someone makes a selection. (A drawback to using Facebook as a vehicle for publishing and delivering your company newsletter is that it might tempt employees to spend company time on personal social media matters.)

SurveyMonkey: More sophisticated surveys can be created using SurveyMonkey ( (There is a free version, and paid versions range in price from $34 to $99 per month.) The ­Basic (free) version of SurveyMonkey limits you to 10 questions per survey and 100 responses per survey, while the paid Advantage and Premier versions offer unlimited questions and responses. Some of the paid versions provide the ability to add a company logo; change colors; create URLs others can use to access the survey; export data to Excel and other formats; apply skip logic; use question-and-answer piping; insert branching; filter reports; and cross-tabulate reports. To create a free survey, visit, click the Sign Up Free button, and complete the signup process. When prompted, you can select a predesigned survey template (a few examples of which are pictured below), or you can create your survey from scratch.


The template option is the quickest way to create a new survey, as dozens of relevant questions have already been prepared — simply select the questions you want to appear in your survey (up to 10 with the free version) and click the Next button, as pictured below.


The next screen prompts you to select a method for sharing or publishing your survey (shown below). For example, you may choose to send emails to recipients, or post the survey to your website. Each option walks you step-by-step through the task of sharing or publishing the survey.



As responses are collected, SurveyMonkey instantly tabulates the responses and sends you an email notification and link to the latest survey reports. In my view, survey tools are one of the more powerful and easy-to-use tools that are dramatically underutilized by CPAs. I believe surveys should be used regularly to solicit feedback from employees, customers, prospects, and others on a multitude of topics, such as their satisfaction level with your company, services, and pricing. Over the long haul, significant changes in survey responses can help companies identify potential problems quickly so corrective measures can be implemented. They might also provide hard evidence that new company policies or programs are working well. In addition to SurveyMonkey, many other respected survey solutions are available in the marketplace — including Zoho (, SurveyGizmo (, or QuestionPro (, as examples.

About the author

J. Carlton Collins ( is a technology consultant, a CPE instructor, and a JofA contributing editor.

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