“I had an 80% response rate! What response rate did you get?” Sometimes a survey’s response rate is used as a badge of honor. Even if response rate isn’t the most important aspect of your survey, there is no question that it is nice to get a high response rate. In addition, a high response rate usually goes hand in hand with a good survey design (which is the most important part of your survey).
So let’s look at things we can do to help ensure the best response rate possible.
Research has shown that the two main reasons people participate in surveys are: 1) they feel it will affect something they care about, and 2) they want to share their opinion with someone who will listen. [Research also shows that incentives can increase response rates, but most of the time the motivation with incentives feels misplaced.] These two points drive the key principals SDA follows to ensure the highest level of participation possible.
- Design your survey from the point of view of the respondent. There is no better way to help response rate than to have a well-designed, respondent-friendly survey. Respondents can tell how much thought has gone into the survey questions and they respond accordingly.
- Eliminate “nice-to-know” questions. These are questions that may provide interesting information but will not drive any decision or action. This shows respect for respondent’s time.
- Prepare the respondent. Communicate clearly and succinctly the purpose of the survey, how long you expect it to take them, how the information will be used, and that you plan to follow up with those from whom you don’t hear.
- Know your audience. Clearly identify your target audience and take the time to understand how best to solicit information from them.
- Personalize your survey invitations. Use personalized invitations sent from someone the respondent recognizes and respects.
- Have a live person at the other end of your survey. Have all replies to email invitations go to a live person who can respond promptly to any questions or concerns. For paper surveys, have a phone number for people to call if they have questions.
- Put your most important questions first. Get right to the heart of your survey in order to grab the respondent’s attention. Do not start with a bunch of questions about the respondent (demographics): this is a big turn off.
- Use multiple reminders. Follow up repeatedly with those who don’t respond, as necessary. This shows the respondent that their participation is important.
- Use sampling, when appropriate. Sampling shows respect for respondents’ time. If you can get the same information from 250 responses as from 500 then you owe it to the respondents to do so.
- Finally, act on the information you receive and share the results with participants. When you are truly going to take action on the results of the survey, it shows through in the questions themselves. Communicating the survey’s results and what was done to the survey audience will boost participation in future surveys.
Image courtesy of dr_tr – Flickr, Creative Commons (Attribution)