Improve Response Rates

5 Quick Tips to Improve Survey Response Rates 

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By DJ Francis, Demand Generation & Digital Marketing Manager, Alchemer 

You create your survey, test it, send it out, and wait. You wait for responses to come in. But how many do you need to extract meaningful analysis? And how can you make sure you get enough and from the right people? 

There are some formulas for calculating your sample size, so you don’t need to get surveys back from everybody in order to create a statistically valid survey. This one is pretty straightforward:  

So how do you make sure you get the responses you need? 

We asked market researchers and customer-experience experts about the secrets to getting the survey results they need. And they all pointed to the same five factors. 

  1. Make it relevant and engaging 
  1. Keep it short 
  1. Give them a reason to start and finish 
  1. Keep it clear and easy to complete 
  1. Know what kind of results you want 

These look pretty easy to do, so why is it so hard to get the results? 

1. Be Relevant and Engaging 

“We start with screening questions to ensure we’re reaching the right audience,” explains Peggy Lawless of Lawless Research. “That way, we can disqualify people quickly, so they don’t get frustrated.”  

“Ensure the respondent is only seeing questions that apply directly to them,” says Alli Milne, the Manager of Digital Learning Content at Alchemer.  

Alchemer Director of Customer Marketing, Vanessa Bagnato, adds, “Pull customer segmentation into your surveys. Then apply segmentation logic in your survey to display only relevant questions.”  

2. Be Brief 

“Consider the respondent’s time and engagement when taking a survey,” advises Alli Milne. “Make sure it is not so long that you will lose their interest.” 

Peggy Lawless is also firm on this subject. “You need to keep your survey to 10 minutes or less.” Under the TEST tab for your survey, Alchemer gives you the Estimated Length, plus the Fatigue and Accessibility Scores. 

3. Give Them a Reason to Finish 

Today, most surveys seem to disappear into black holes, and you don’t hear from the company until they want to survey you again. This has led to a considerable drop-off in survey response rates. There are typically two ways to encourage people to finish: reward them or show they were heard.  

Alchemer and many of our customers have found that closing the loop dramatically improves response rates. When customers and respondents realize that you heard what they said, they respond the next time you ask.  

“The ‘we heard ya’ angle often results in higher response rates, but also more constructive feedback than just a laundry list of things people did not like,” says Anne-Marie Roerink of 210 Analytics. “I’ve found that incentivizing the account managers to encourage participation among the clients they manage is more successful than incentivizing the clients directly.” 

4. Make it Clear and Easy to Complete 

If you ask somebody to think back or make a tough choice, you’re asking them to invest a lot more time and energy than they probably signed up for. Questions that ask you to think back to an event or recall something that happened last month require more effort. A few of these increase the chance of survey fatigue. This is where most surveys get abandoned. “Utilize the fall-off report to specifically identify what pages respondents are leaving the survey from most frequently,” recommends Tyler Voth, Senior Onboarding Analyst at Alchemer.  

“We all think differently, but good survey questions can only be interpreted one way,” adds Anne-Marie Roerink. “When the question isn’t clear, the answers won’t be either. If several questions leave room for interpretation, you can quickly see the frustration in respondents, and they start hooking off.”  

5. Know What Kind of Results You Want 

“Know exactly what you need from the survey, and only ask questions that will give you that feedback,” says Alli Milne. Test the survey with internal people or a small sample to make sure you see the results you need in the reporting tab. If you look at the results and think, “That’s not what I asked,” chances are there’s a better way to ask questions that get the results you want. 

“We definitely found the need to anticipate how people will fill out a survey because people will take it in a really strange direction if they have too much leeway,” says PCMag Features Editor Eric Griffith (who is responsible for the Readers’ Choice surveys). “The write-ins can be crazy.”  

For more tips and tricks to increase your response rates

Download our free e-guide: How to Get the Survey Responses You Need: 5 Quick Tips to Improve Response Rates 

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