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Departments: Quality Software

Software Reviews

Survey Select Expert 5.1
Survey tool's features and capabilities are top-notch.

by Dirk Dusharme

Surveys play a vital role in assessing customer attitudes and needs, but until fairly recently, they were often cost- or manpower-prohibitive to small companies. However, Web-based surveys have brought assessment tools within easy reach of even the most frugal companies. Survey Select Expert, a survey design and analysis tool from SurveyConnect, is one of the latest entries into this field--and the best we have tested to date. Its easy-to-use interface, high degree of flexibility and excellent reporting capabilities put it at the high end of the spectrum for such tools at this price.

Survey Select Expert comes with 31 prebuilt surveys for human resources, marketing, education and associations. These can be used as-is, but you'll more than likely add, delete or modify the existing questions to suit your particular needs.

If you need to design your survey from scratch, it's easily done. Add a question to your survey worksheet, and a properties box allows you to input all the parameters for that question: question text, scale type, scale weight, scale location and more.

Survey Select Expert includes dozens of the most popular survey scales (yes/no; various Likert scales, such as strongly agree/strongly disagree; satisfaction scales; open-ended text; and so forth), or you can design your own. Most of the canned scales allow three to five response levels and can be set to choose one or choose many responses. If you design a lot of surveys that use the same questions or custom scales over and over again, you can archive your questions or scales in a user library.

Several of the question properties enhance the type of analysis you can later perform on response data. For instance, if you will need to calculate response means, the designer can determine the order for the response scale. A five-level strongly agree to strongly disagree scale can be set up to give response values of 1 through 5 where 1 is strongly agree, or 5 through 1 where 5 is strongly agree. This eliminates having to later transpose responses to negatively phrased questions prior to analysis. If you plan on doing percent-favorable analysis, scales may also be weighted, the designer determining whether, for instance, a "strongly agree" is a negative or positive response. Another very useful feature is the ability to assign questions to topics (categories). Later, you can perform analysis against topics as well as individual questions cross-tabbed against that topic.

Most Web-deployable surveys offer conditional branching, the ability to skip questions based on responses. Survey Select Expert's interface for doing this is the most intuitive we have seen.

Survey Select Expert allows your completed survey to be deployed via Web, e-mail and hard copy. But because it has no WYSIWYG interface, you must first experiment to see how it formats output for Web and hard copy. Once that's understood, the output is pretty predictable. We found the Web-deployed surveys to be well laid out and with no big surprises. The hard-copy output was a little more problematic, suffering from several minor formatting problems and one semiserious one, such as questions sometimes being scrunched together or instruction text blocks missing altogether. But bringing the document into Microsoft Word and fiddling with the text easily fixed these.

Once deployed, response data can be pulled from a Web site directly into Survey Select Expert, pulled from a MAPI-compliant e-mail program or input manually.

Survey Select Expert's built-in analysis tool should do the trick for most users: mean, standard deviation, cross tabs, double cross tabs, gap analysis, count, percent, percent-favorable, and more, all of these against either questions or topics and with or without demographic filters. Reports are easily generated using the more than 200 report wizards, which are smartly categorized. It's even possible to filter reports by key words in text fields, a useful tool for processing data only from respondents who write specific comments, e.g., "excellent." You can also design your own analysis using a built-in design tool that offers more analysis options than the wizards. The analysis tool's charting capabilities are good, with the standard selection of bar, pie, 3-D, line, area, polar, etc.

For those who need more robust analysis tools, Survey Select Expert will export in SPSS format for direct use with that product, or in ODBC/ADO, or ASCII formats.

Overall, Survey Select Expert is an excellent tool priced appropriately for its functionality. If your company does many surveys and you need a flexible design and analysis tool, Survey Select Expert may be the ticket. At least download the demo and give it a test.

About the author

Dirk Dusharme is Quality Digest's technology editor. Letters to the editor regarding this article can be e-mailed to letters@qualitydigest.com.


Survey Select Expert V. 5.1
by SurveyConnect Inc.

Requirements: Pentium computer; 128 MB RAM (256 MB or more recommended for intense analysis); Windows 98, 2000, NT or XP; SVGA and 100 MB hard drive space.

Price: Single user: $1,495. Volume discounts available.

Contact: SurveyConnect Inc.
2503 Walnut St., Ste. 201
Boulder, CO 80302
Phone: (303) 449-2969
Fax: (303) 938-4015
E-mail: info@surveyconnect.com