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Understand and improve your survey response rate

Regardless of how much time and effort you devote to creating a survey, it’s hard to know what sort of survey response rate you’ll receive. Happily, there are a number of best practices to consider whenever you build a survey. Following them will improve your survey response rates.

To get the best ROI from your survey project, keep the following issues top of mind.

Your audience can determine your survey response rates

In general, there are two basic audiences for any type of survey: Internal and external. It’s important to know who is your intended audience for your survey.

An internal audience is typically made up of employees or people that belong to a particular organization (like a soccer club).

An external audience will be drawn from a more general population, such as customers from across the world.

Surveys sent to internal audiences tend to have much higher response rates compared to those sent to external audiences while external surveys tend to have much less engagement.

One explanation for the difference in response rates is each audience’s motivation.

Let’s say a company issues an internal survey to its workers to learn what their challenges are. In this instance, it’s easy to see how the employees may be eager to provide this feedback. It’s a chance for workers to tell management what can be improved. Also, if they help the company make more money, then maybe they will see some of it.

External audiences may not see the benefit to them in completing a survey. Even when targeting specific groups of customers (such as those who made a purchase in the last 30 days) and offering a reward for their participation, you still might not receive strong response rates. It’s possible the customer isn’t interested in the free gift you’re offering, or that they already own something similar.

For best results, create targeted surveys

It’s critical to target your intended audience. The more relevant your survey questions are to them, the more likely they are to give you what you want most: Feedback.

When a survey is done well, and pinpoints a segmented group, response rates can exceed 85%. Conversely, failing to target the right people, or not giving the right incentive, can see rates dip below 2%.

How to influence survey response rates

There are a lot of things that influence response rates, from how you send them to what you are exchanging for answers.

Think about the demographic. It can clue you in to the best distribution method. Then, consider what type of incentive will appeal the most to your respondents.

Other factors to consider include:

  • customer loyalty
  • brand recognition
  • timing.

Depending on your company, timing can be crucial. For example, if you your company just had a data security breach – and you issue a survey – chances are that responses will be low. But, if your business has a good reputation, and you just won an award, you may get more responses.

3 things that will improve your response rates

Here are a three simple ways to get the most survey responses you can.

  1. Be clear about survey benefits: Tell your audience immediately where they stand by completing the survey. Tell them how they will benefit. Assure them that their voices will be heard loud and clear. When people know how their time will be spent, they’re more likely to give it to you.
  2. Keep it short: Shorter surveys get more engagement. Research shows that the ideal survey should take five minutes or less to complete. Respondents typically complete five close-ended questions per minute, or two open-ended questions per minute. Keeping surveys brief helps your respondents to avoid “survey fatigue.”
  3. Continue engaging anyone who hasn’t finished it: Ideally, every survey will have a progress bar that lets the respondent know how close they are to finishing. But, people are busy and can’t always finish a survey they’ve started. Don’t let them slip away! Send a few gentle reminders by email to let them know they’re almost done, and how much you value their feedback. Space out the reminders by a few days, send them at different times to re-engage them.

By following these simple tips, and targeting your audiences right, you’re well on your way to creating surveys that get great response rates.

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