How to Increase Response Rates for Customer Satisfaction Surveys

You have just launched your customer satisfaction survey and you are eager start making changes to improve your customer satisfaction level. You know that you have asked the right questions and have prepared an action plan to increase satisfaction levels.

You’re confident that your survey is going to make a difference and you are ready to lead the charge! The only thing that is stopping you is… your lack of responses.

What to do…

Don’t despair – there are a number of things you can do to ensure you receive the best possible response rate.

Survey Response Rate Influencers

Before you begin building your customer satisfaction survey, consider these 5 key factors that influence survey response rates.

  1. Target Audience
  2. Survey Frequency
  3. Timing
  4. Perceived Benefit
  5. Incentive

Influencer #1: Target Audience
For your data to be statisically sound you will need to know how many responses to collect. There are sample size charts and calculators to help you determine the number of responses you will need based on your population size (in this case, your population size is the number of customers you have) to draw accurate conclusions about the results.

But if you think you are going to send this out to all of your customers, think again. Does your customer survey actually pertain to all of your customers or just a portion of them? For instance, if your survey is about your latest product, make sure you don’t target customers who have not used it.

Segment your customer list to only include those customers who have used this product. This will give you a better response rate and better data (and keep you from looking foolish in your customer’s eyes).

If you are not able to segment your list (or even if you are), use screening questions at the beginning of your survey to disqualify customers who the survey does not pertain to. Disqualifying logic will exit a respondent from the survey if they don’t meet your criteria. This will keep you from wasting their time and skewing your data.

If you are using an email campaign to distribute your survey, the From Name and Subject Line are key factors to a higher open rate. For more details about best practices for online survey invitations be sure to read this article, Building Better online Survey Email Inivitations.

Take the time to set up a reminder several days following the initial survey invite. It will improve your overall response rate.

Influencer #2: Survey Frequency
If you will be conducting multiple surveys you may want to survey only a portion of your customers so as not to create survey burn out. Online surveys have become so popular that most of us have become a little numb when asked to take another survey. You should not survey your customers more than once every three months to avoid survey fatigue. You can read more about this in our article How to use Email Segmentation to Improve Customer Survey Frequency and Effectiveness.

Influencer #3: Survey Timing
Timing is always key. If you are only administering your customer satisfaction survey once a year, you are missing out on good opportunities to get your customers’ opinions and improve your business. Any touch point with customers is an opportunity to follow up and ask about their experience.

Feedback response rates are higher and more accurate if the survey is administered within 24 hours of the interaction. Since the experience is still fresh in the customers mind, they are more likely to respond.

While this is typically true for customer feedback surveys, you should consider a longer period of time if your survey pertains to product use. Give your customers time to try the product out before you ask them for their opinion about it. If you know your customer typically uses the product within 2-3 days of purchase, then wait until the 4th day to ask their opinion about it.

Influencer #4: Perceived Benefit
Respondents are more likely to respond when they believe that participating in a survey will result in real improvements. Customers want to know that someone is listening and that their response will make a difference (especially if they were dissatisfied). Response rates are higher, when respondents believe they are helping a cause.

Adding an introductory message to your satisfaction survey stating how you want to improve your customers’ experience will help to increase your response rate.

Influence #5:Survey Incentive
Motivating your target audience with an incentive can improve your response rate but it can also taint results. Incentives have their place, but a customer satisfaction survey is not one of them.

Your customers will be less inclined to provide negative feedback if they feel that it will prevent them from receiving the incentive. Embrace negative feedback. While it may be painful, it will allow you to make necessary changes to improve your business.

While these 5 factors influence whether your customers start your survey, it is your survey design that will influence whether or not they finish your survey.

So lets address your survey design.

Designing Your Customer Satisfaction Survey to Reduce Survey Fatigue

Survey fatigue is one of the biggest reasons why respondents abandon a survey. A good design can minimize survey fatigue.

Here are 5 survey design tips you need to consider to avoid survey fatigue and improve response rate:

  1. Survey length
  2. Question type
  3. Question phrasing
  4. Relevance
  5. Pre-population

Design Tip #1: Survey Length
Keep you survey short. The longer the survey, the higher the abandonment rate. Customer satisfaction surveys should take 5 minutes or less to complete. Although 6 – 10 minutes is acceptable, longer than 11 minutes will likely result in significant abandonment rates. On average, respondents can complete 5 closed-ended questions per minute and 2 open-ended questions per minute.

If your survey is several pages long, consider using the progress bar as encouragement. The progress bar will show respondents how far along they are in the survey. If a respondent is becoming fatigued but sees that they have nearly completed the survey, they are likely to continue to the end.

Your survey can appear shorter if you use logic to only show questions that are relevant to your customer. Use page jumping and show/hide question logic to hide questions that are not relevant to the survey taker.

Design Tip #2: Question Types
Make it easy for your customers to answer your questions by using quantitative question types. You will want to follow some of these questions up with a qualitative question but open text questions should be kept to a minimum if you want to avoid fatigue.

Radio button, checkbox, drop down menu, and likert scale questions makes it easy for respondents to select answer options and provides easy reporting. Mix it up to keep your customers engaged.

Try to keep answer options to a minimum but be sure to not force respondents to choose an option that they do not feel comfortable with. Sometimes “None of the Above” or “Other” answer options are the best answer.

Keep your answer options mutually exclusive by avoiding overlap in ranges and clearly define answer labels to avoid any confusion.

Think twice before making a question required. Qualitative question types should not be made mandatory unless absolutely necessary. If you are asking questions that ask for an opinion that your customers may not feel comfortable giving (or your answer options do not fit their views) it’s best not to require the question.

Design Tip #3: Question Phrasing
Respondents are most likely to answer questions that are short, sweet and to the point. Avoid complex sentence structures.

Do not ask leading questions and keep your questions neutral so not to introduce bias. Be sure not to ask questions that make your customers feel uncomfortable.

Avoid hard to answer questions that test your customers’ memory such as ‘how many times in the past year”. Use a shorter time frame that they can clearly remember. This will also give you more accurate data.

Design Tip #4: Relevance
Asking irrelevant questions is the fastest way to create survey fatigue. Don’t waste your customers’ time with questions that are not relevant to them! Use skip logic to only show questions and pages that pertain to the survey taker. Skip logic dynamically controls the flow of the survey and ensures that the survey taker is never asked a question that is not relevant to them. Your customers will appreciate it.

Design Tip #5: Pre-population
If you already have information about your customers you can pre-populate survey questions so that you don’t have to ask them for the information again. It will make you look smart and your customers will appreciate you removing the burden of re-entering information they know you already have.

Merge codes will allow you to prepopulate questions from a previous answer or data from your email campaign. This is especially useful if you want to prepopulate contact information or include a tracking reference number to a support ticket.

Data You Can Act On!

These tips will help you increase your response rate so that you have enough responses to make a sound decision on how to improve your customer satisfaction levels. Go get em!

Written by

Sandy McKee

Sandy McKee is a digital marketer with over 8 years of experience in SEM, SEO, and social media marketing. She is a lover of books, fine food, and a mother of 2.

Join the Conversation
  • Balaji

    Very informative and useful article!

  • Balaji

    Very informative and useful article!

  • Balaji

    I had an input though on topic Design Tip #2: Question Types
    While “none of the above” or “other” options are good to have, options like “neither agree nor disagree” / “Neutral” etc should be avoided, as it may take the steam off the response. Afterall, at the end of the exercise, we always look for two primary inputs 1. Are we good? 2. Anything that we can improve on. Thoughts on this?

    • sgizmo

      Good input Balaji! Depending on your survey goal, your point can be valid, but “neutral” options do have a time and a place in surveys. For example, if you were measuring the changes to a brand’s packaging and how it would impact a consumers plan to purchase, it would be interesting to know if a change would make a consumer more likely to purchase a product, less likely or make no impact (“neutral”), especially if there are other factors influencing the changes to the packaging. If logistical production issues or FDA legislation dictated changes, it would be good to know that even though these changes would not increase the likelihood to purchase, that it would not detract from purchasing either. Always good to hear our readers’ opinions!

  • Balaji

    I had an input though on topic Design Tip #2: Question Types
    While “none of the above” or “other” options are good to have, options like “neither agree nor disagree” / “Neutral” etc should be avoided, as it may take the steam off the response. Afterall, at the end of the exercise, we always look for two primary inputs 1. Are we good? 2. Anything that we can improve on. Thoughts on this?

    • sgizmo

      Good input Balaji! Depending on your survey goal, your point can be valid, but “neutral” options do have a time and a place in surveys. For example, if you were measuring the changes to a brand’s packaging and how it would impact a consumers plan to purchase, it would be interesting to know if a change would make a consumer more likely to purchase a product, less likely or make no impact (“neutral”), especially if there are other factors influencing the changes to the packaging. If logistical production issues or FDA legislation dictated changes, it would be good to know that even though these changes would not increase the likelihood to purchase, that it would not detract from purchasing either. Always good to hear our readers’ opinions!

  • Haresh

    Need help with designing Incentive plan multiple call survey

    • sgizmo

      Incentives should be easy for your respondents to access, so it really depends on your audience and location. Amazon gift cards are popular for remote locations that do not have easy access to retail sites. Retail gift cards are also popular for those who are within city limits.

  • Haresh

    Need help with designing Incentive plan multiple call survey

    • sgizmo

      Incentives should be easy for your respondents to access, so it really depends on your audience and location. Amazon gift cards are popular for remote locations that do not have easy access to retail sites. Retail gift cards are also popular for those who are within city limits.

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