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Our tips for using Likert scales effectively in your surveys

Though you may have never heard of the Likert scale, you’ve almost certainly seen it before. The Likert scale is one of the most frequently used rating scales in studies and satisfaction surveys.
This being said, how can you use this rating scale effectively in your own surveys?

What is the Likert scale?

Definition of the Likert scale

The Likert scale is a rating scale that usually includes between 3 and 7 answer options, and is very frequently used in studies and surveys. This rating scale can help you determine to what extent participants agree or disagree with a statement. The Likert scale was developed by Rensis Likert, an American psychologist, at the beginning of the 1930s.
 

Here’s an example:
 

example-likert-scale


Of course, the terminology used for each of these options may vary. For example, “no opinion” could be replaced by “neither agree nor disagree” or “neutral”.

Using the Likert scale in marketing

While this rating scale was originally designed to elicit the opinions of participants, nowadays it is often used in marketing to evaluate customer satisfaction, for the Customer Satisfaction Score, or CSAT.

“How satisfied are you with [Product X, Service Y, etc]?

  • Very unsatisfied
  • Unsatisfied
  • Neutral
  • Satisfied
  • Very satisfied
     

likert-scale-customer-satisfaction-survey
 

This simple tool, with its wide variety of possible answer options, can enable you to obtain very accurate feedback. This is the key reason for its success.

The Likert scale has also been the inspiration for most other types of rating scales. For example, numeric rating scales are closely based on Likert scales.

Our suggestions for using the Likert scale effectively

How many answer options should you include in your Likert scale?

We recommend using an odd number of answer options, either 3, 5 or 7, in order to give participants the option to state a neutral opinion.

Answer scales with even numbers will “push” participants to make a choice. While this may make data analysis easier by creating more clear-cut results, it could also end up skewing the results, if participants had a neutral opinion on the subject but could not select a “neutral” answer option.

It is possible to add additional options to the scale in order to obtain more precise and nuanced feedback. For example:

  • Not at all satisfied
  • Unsatisfied
  • Somewhat unsatisfied
  • Neutral
  • Somewhat satisfied
  • Satisfied
  • Very satisfied

However, we suggest not including too many answer options in your rating scales. It might seem like the more options you offer, the more precise the feedback will be.

This is true to a certain point, but having more than 7 options will create the opposite effect. Studies have shown that when a scale has more than 7 options, some participants will answer randomly, as they have difficulty selecting an option that matches their opinion. In most cases, we recommend including 5 options in your Likert scale.

Should your Likert scale be symmetrical or asymmetrical?

It is not essential for your answer options to be symmetrical. Asymmetrical rating scales can sometimes be easier to understand. Take a look at these two examples:

Example A:

  • Very good
  • Good
  • No opinion
  • Bad
  • Very bad

Example B:

  • Excellent
  • Good
  • No opinion
  • Bad
  • Terrible
     

asymmetrical-likert-scale


The scale used in example A is perfectly symmetrical. The scale in example B is asymmetrical. Asymmetrical rating scales can sometimes sound clearer and more natural to the participant. Once again, it is not absolutely necessary to have perfect symmetry in the wording of your answer options.

Discover How to maximize your response rate with perfect wording.

How can you create an effective numbered Likert scale?

Numbered rating scales can sometimes result in confusion for participants. While it is not necessary to avoid using them, if you choose to use a numbered Likert scale in your survey, make sure that your participants can easily understand what each number represents. If necessary, include a legend in your survey.

For example:

1 = Very satisfied
5 = Not at all satisfied

You can also use smileys, like in this example:

 

likert-scale-example-smiley-legend

 

Your Likert scale should include the entire spectrum of opinions

It is very important to include options corresponding to the entire spectrum of possible opinions in your Likert scale. For example, avoid questions that look like this:

  • Very satisfied
  • Satisfied
  • Somewhat satisfied
  • Neutral

In this example, the entire range of possible opinions is clearly not represented. To obtain accurate results, your Likert scale must be “inclusive”.
 

The Likert scale is used in nearly all surveys, and plays a particularly significant role in customer satisfaction surveys. Seen in many different forms, this rating scale is known for it’s ability to elicit accurate and easy-to-analyze feedback.
 

Key points to remember:

-Offer an odd number of answer options, including a neutral option
-It is not essential to have symmetrical answer options, what’s important is to make sure they are written clearly
-If you use a numbered scale, make sure it is easy for participants to understand
-We recommend 5 answer options, or a maximum of 7
-Be sure to include answer options that correspond to the entire range of possible opinions

 

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