Survey rating scales 1-5: Understand your audience better

Has your doctor ever asked you to rate your pain from 1 to 5, with 5 being the most severe? If so, you’re already familiar with rating scales. In fact, you probably encounter rating scales routinely without even realizing it.

Rating scales measure responses that aren’t easily quantified, such as feelings, perceptions, interests, and preferences. They also measure objective responses and rank them in relation to each other. For example, a restaurant might use a rating scale to figure out which menu items guests like most.

Rating scales are common in our day-to-day lives, such as the various apps for monitoring depression, anxiety, stress, and overall well-being. They all use rating scales so you can track your responses over time.

Many organizations use rating scale surveys to learn how to provide better value to clients and customers. You can gain equally valuable insights by using them in your business.

Pro Tip

Create custom surveys — including ones with rating scales — using Jotform’s free online form builder. 

Rating scale surveys help you understand your audience

Businesses use survey rating scales to gather information about satisfaction levels, frequency of use, loyalty, and other customer data. Rating scales allow you to compare customer response data to determine which of your products and services are most effective. This data is essential for making informed business decisions across all departments.

Consider just one application: marketing. Successful retail stores spend between 3 and 5 percent of their sales totals on marketing. That means a business with only a few employees could be spending upwards of $25,000 on marketing.

You risk wasting crucial funds for your small business if your marketing efforts aren’t targeted at the right audience. Businesses that use customer data to make marketing decisions give themselves a huge leg up.

According to Google, fewer than 40 percent of marketers use consumer research to make decisions. Rating scales are a simple but effective way to learn about your customers and improve how you communicate with them.

Marketing is only one of the many ways you can use survey rating scales to improve decision making in your organization. There are many options for applying rating scales. Let’s look at a few different types and how they’re used.

Different types of survey rating scales for different tasks

Rating scales range from super simple to highly complex. Each rating scale can be used to gather specific data. Here’s a list of five common rating scales and how they can be used in surveys:

  1. Likert scale. Participants rate their level of agreement to items that describe a topic, like customer satisfaction, usability, or loyalty. This type of survey might make a statement like “It is important for me to use my cell phone throughout the day” and then ask the participant to choose from options such as “strongly agree” to “strongly disagree” with a range of options in between.
  2. Linear numeric scale. In a linear numeric scale, participants provide a numeric response to a question or statement. This can include things like satisfaction, ease of use, brand favorability, feature importance, or likelihood to recommend. You may have seen this example recently: “How likely are you to recommend our app to your friends and family?”
  3. Frequency scales. These scales help you understand how often or how frequently people perform actions. A frequency scale question like “How often do you use your car to commute to work?” helps researchers better understand driving habits.
  4. Paired comparison scale. A paired comparison scale helps to discern preferences between two things, such as a website, brand, or design. For example, if you’re trying to learn about consumer brand preferences, you might show your survey group the branding for two companies and then ask, “Of the two brands given, which do you prefer?”
  5. Pictorial/graphic scales. Instead of picking a number, participants use visuals to indicate their opinion of a certain product. This can be helpful when participants are already used to a method of measurement. For example, it’s common to see stars and the thumbs-up for movie ratings.

Before deciding which method to use for your next survey, think about the different types of surveys people are already accustomed to in your industry. Your subject matter is also a big factor.

It may be best to use a linear numeric scale in healthcare surveys because people are accustomed to rating their discomfort on that kind of scale. On the other hand, a paired comparison scale may be best for marketing, since you can gain good customer insights by understanding how you stack up against the competition.

Use survey rating scales to get the data you need

Relentless market pressure is making organizations ever more data centric. The businesses that understand their audience best will beat out competition that’s complacent in their assumptions.

An example 1-to-5 rating scale on an event satisfaction survey template.

Learning from your audience requires skillfully asking the right questions in the right way. Rating scales are intuitive and simple, yet the results are powerful indicators of what people really want from your organization. 
Jotform makes it easy to survey your audience. Our online platform will help you create surveys, distribute them, and learn from the data. Try creating your first survey for free.

This article is originally published on Apr 10, 2020, and updated on May 05, 2022.

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