Have you ever been asked a question you weren’t sure how to answer? Maybe the wording of the question was confusing and your inability to answer wasn’t because of your lack of understanding, but rather the murkiness of the question itself. Perhaps it was that, instead of one simple, straightforward request, you were asked a double-barreled question – a type of question that’s actually two questions in one. 

Now, picture your employees or customers in that very situation when you survey them about their experience with your company. 

You want your employees to be able to quickly and accurately give you feedback about, say, the recruitment process at your company, or for your customers to tell you what they think about your product or service, right?

If so, understanding double-barreled questions – and knowing how to avoid them in your employee and customer surveys – is a great place to start. 

In this double-barreled guide, we will discuss: 

  • What double-barreled questions are and why they’re confusing when used in surveys
  • Double-barreled examples to help illuminate the problems they cause
  • Fool-proof tips for avoiding double-barreled questions moving forward

What is a double-barreled question?

A double-barreled question asks two questions in one. They’re typically easy to identify because they’re compound questions that often include words like “and” or “or” to connect the series of questions. 

For example, consider the questions: “Are you hungry or thirsty?” and “Do you want coffee and breakfast?”. Both are double-barreled questions that ask your opinion about multiple things. They may require two or more answers in order to respond with how you really feel or what you really want.

What if you’re not hungry, but you’re thirsty, and your response options are simply “yes” or “no” – how do you respond? 

That conundrum is exactly what makes double-barreled questions confusing and difficult to answer.

When you’re asking your employees and customers about how they feel or what they want, you want to be as specific as possible. By asking two questions in one, you make it difficult for your employees and customers to answer either one accurately or honestly.

As a rule of thumb, you always want to avoid double-barreled survey questions in order to receive clear, concise, and pointed feedback.

What are some examples of double-barreled questions?

Feeling unclear about how to identify double-barreled questions in your surveys? Not to worry. 

Here are some examples of potential double-barreled questions in employee surveys and customer surveys, respectively. 

Double-barreled employee survey questions 

  • How would you rate your recent training and onboarding process?
  • Was the recruiter or hiring manager helpful throughout the recruitment process? 
  • Would you recommend this company to your friend and how likely are you to do so? 
  • Are you happy with your physical workspace or do you prefer working from home? 
  • Does your technology make you feel productive and connected with your team? 

Double-barreled customer survey questions 

  • Was the product easy to find and did you buy it?
  • How likely are you to return to or recommend this store?
  • Did your recent purchase meet your needs and would you buy it again? 
  • How satisfied were you with your recent in-store experience and purchase? 
  • Was the website helpful and did the chatbot make it easy to get your questions answered?

How to avoid double-barreled questions in your surveys 

Correcting surveys with double-barreled questions is simple. Let’s break down the three easiest ways to ensure your survey questions are effective currently, and moving forward. 

1. Split up your survey questions

The most straightforward fix for a double-barreled question is to split it up. Doing this has two benefits: your employees and customers won’t get confused, and you can interpret the results more accurately. 

Let’s look at one of the above examples: “Did your recent purchase meet your needs and would you buy it again?” 

If a customer had answered “yes,” you wouldn’t necessarily know if they were saying “yes” about the recent purchase meeting their needs or if they would consider buying the item again. And if they said “no,” it’s possible that the purchase met their needs but they didn’t have a great buying experience so they wouldn’t buy the product again. 

Either way, you would have no way of knowing their true opinion – including what went wrong or what went right – based on the survey results alone.

The split-out correction would be: 

  • Question 1: Did your recent purchase meet your needs? 
  • Question 2: How likely are you to purchase the product again?

2. Align the questions to your goals for accurate results

Another fix would be to ask more intentional questions that strictly align with your survey goals. 

Take the physical workspace question, for example – Are you happy with your physical workspace or do you prefer working from home? 

The question is a bit confusing. To help clarify the question, consider asking yourself if you’d like feedback on your employees’ overall hybrid working experience or about the tools they need to succeed either at home or in the office. And ultimately, which question is more in sync with the goal of the survey?

Aligning your questions to the ultimate survey goal is the best way to get actionable feedback that will help you reach your objectives.

3. Proofread your questions before sending them

Lastly, don’t forget to proofread. Re-read your questions (twice or three times) before submitting the survey to make sure your questions are double-barreled-free.

In fact, send a test survey to a colleague for another set of eyes on the questions. Ask them to gut-check that the survey is clear and stays true to your survey goals.

In conclusion, double-barreled questions are easy to avoid if you know what to look out for. Our advice? Ask one question at a time and don’t overcomplicate it. Your survey results will be that much more clear and actionable – a win for you, and for those whose experience you want to improve. 

Start gathering feedback to understand your employee and customer experience with Delighted surveys. You can send 250 surveys for free in Delighted’s 7-day trial or jump right into a FREE plan and send up to 1,000 surveys in minutes.