October 22, 2018
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5 tips to improve survey response rates

how to improve survey response rates

More and more organizations are using surveys as a tool to gather information from customers, employees, partners and other stakeholders with the intention to analyze responses and gain insights on various topics of interest such as customer satisfaction, employee engagement, market research and more. As a result, increased survey response rates translate into more reliable data whilst poor response rates will give you inaccurate feedback which will, most probably, lead you to make the wrong decisions.

Related: How to make the most out of online surveys

Survey response rate: Definition

When it comes to survey research, the term response rate refers to the number of people who actually responded to the survey divided by the number of people who were asked to respond to the survey. Survey response rates are also known as return rates or completion rates and are usually expressed as a percentage.

What’s a good survey response rate?

Generally speaking, there are many factors affecting survey response rates. The way you design, distribute and collect surveys will have an impact on how many responses you should expect to get. Additionally, the survey method (in-person, online, in-app, via email, etc.) as well as the survey type (employee satisfaction surveys, customer experience surveys, etc.) influence response rates. Another rule of thumb is that surveys you distribute internally (i.e. to your employees) will receive significantly higher response rates than surveys you distribute externally (i.e. to your customers).

Related: How to draft a concise HR survey

So, a good response rate depends on how these factors interrelate with each other and what your expectations are in relation to the reasons you use surveys to gain information.

How to increase survey response rates

Here’s an overview of the tactics you can use to increase survey response rates:

  • Ask the right people to take your survey

  • Send your surveys at the right time

  • Survey follow ups and reminders

  • Ask the right questions

  • Offer incentives

Ask the right people to take your survey

One of the most common reasons for poor response rates is that you are sending your surveys to the wrong people. It is important to make sure that the person to whom you send the survey is aware of who you are and why they were contacted to begin with.

Pro tip 1: Send your surveys to the primary point of contact you have for a company.

Pro tip 2: Make sure that the person you contact is the one who makes the decisions.

Send your surveys at the right time

To make the most out of feedback, consider integrating your surveys to your business processes such as customer support or sales. This will not only enable you to design survey questions contextually relevant to your daily operations but also to make sure the right type of survey reaches the respondent at the right time. Take customer service for example. Let’s say a customer contacts your support team with an issue. It makes the most sense to send a customer service satisfaction survey right after the issue is resolved. This way the customer will remember the experience and provide feedback relevant to how it was perceived.

Related: Closing the feedback loop: A Zendesk survey integration

Pro tip: Proper timing with your surveys will serve as a reminder that you care and are invested in improving individual customer interactions.

Send survey follow ups and reminders

Sometimes, low response rates are not necessarily an indication that people do not want to respond to your survey. It might just be that they got too busy or forgot to reply. This is where follow ups and survey reminders come into play. Surveypal, for example, enables you to automate follow up emails, to be sent to people who have not responded to your survey, at a time of your choosing.

Pro tip: When sending an email invitation to a survey do not include the word “survey” in the subject line. Sometimes emails are flagged when using common spam words and never reach the respondent.

Ask the right questions

The point of conducting surveys is to get business insights based on actionable feedback. Keep in mind the topic at hand and the areas you seek to improve when designing your survey questions. It is, equally, important to make sure that your survey questions are relevant, easy to understand and not misleading. Your survey response rates will plummet if the respondents do not understand the questions or if they have to put a lot of effort and time in responding.

Related: Customer feedback survey? These are the types of questions you need to be asking

Pro tip: Customize your surveys to reflect your brand – use your own brand guidelines to create visually pleasing surveys and engage the respondent.

Offer incentives

An easy way to increase response rates is to offer incentives for people to reply. There are two types of incentives organizations usually use to incite people to respond to surveys – monetary and non-monetary. If you decide to go with a monetary incentive, make sure it is high enough to make it worth the time to respond. If you choose a non-monetary incentive go with something that has a universal appeal to your target respondents.

Pro tip: Do not overdo it. Incentives might prove beneficial, especially, when conducting market research surveys, but in other instances they might compromise the quality of the feedback data.

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Keti Limani


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