You’ve chosen your survey sample – the members of a target population you want to question – and designed your survey. You know that response rates can be disappointingly low, but you want to get as many responses as possible. So how do you do it?
First, understand why people don’t respond to surveys
They’re too much effort to do – Surveys might be too long, questions may be boring, or they may not work on mobile devices
Previous survey responses disappeared into a ‘black hole’ – They received no acknowledgement and had no idea whether their feedback made any difference so they lost interest
They are impersonal – Surveys that appear robotic and lack a ‘human touch’ tend to put respondents off
The questions may be too sensitive – Respondents may be turned off by questions about politics, finance, religion, family, sexual orientation, accidents or crimes
So, how can you improve your survey response rate?
Create a buzz
You’re excited about your survey, why not try to get others excited too – try to explain why you’re doing it, what the outcomes will be and give your respondents a feeling of ownership that they’re part of something, rather than being faceless survey respondents.
Make it personal
Personalised communications are more likely to be read. Use respondents’ names in subject lines and to address them in your communications, for example, ‘Hi Adam’.
Make your respondents feel known and valued by merging some personal or behavioural information into your request: ‘We hope you enjoyed ‘Macbeth’ on Wednesday night. What did you think of your theatre experience as a whole?’
Be upfront about survey length
Let your respondents know from the outset that the survey is going to take 5 minutes (make sure it’s no more than 9 for a mobile survey) and include encouraging text cues such as ‘Nearly done! Just one more question’ rather than a more ‘robotic’ progress bar.
Write an irresistible subject line
‘This is an invitation to take a few minutes to tell us about your broadband service’ vs. ‘Hi Sara! What do you think of your broadband? This will only take 3 minutes.’ Which one would you open? The first is dull and wordy, and how many minutes are ‘a few’? The second is personalised, friendly, honest about the survey length – and has more chance of being opened.
Tell people their feedback made a difference
If Adam’s response about his theatre trip contributed to more comfortable seats being installed, tell him. ‘Adam – we listened to your feedback and we’ve put in new, luxurious seating. Come and try it out soon’. Adam has been listened to, he may well go back to try the seating, and he’s more likely to fill in another survey.
Use your own panel
Market research panels include selected people from relevant backgrounds who are willing, able and incentivized to respond to your surveys. You’ll achieve a higher survey response rate from a panel than from a random survey sample. See How to manage your own panel