Destroy the survey stigma: How to improve response rates

After spending weeks upon weeks of creating a survey, it’s understandable to be enthusiastic about showing off your work to other people. Soak in the glamor for sure, just remember that the reward of its results is when you truly should be celebrating.

A good survey speaks for itself when you have sufficient data to justify the hard work. But what makes for good results? Having 100 people complete your survey? Having a completion rate over 75%? Surveying X amount of people in a certain industry?

There are a range of definitions for success when compiling your data. If you’ve clarified what your business goals are and the survey achieves those objectives, then you’re already well on your way. The tricky part is putting numbers to those goals. Figures that are realistic, achievable and can easily be measured or analyzed.

How to improve response rates

The type of survey you’re conducting and what is purpose is, will heavily dictate the overall response rate you’ll receive. Let’s take a look at some common survey types, the average response rates they receive and what can be done to boost those figures:

Internal surveys

Typically speaking, a survey conducted within an internal company, organization or community, will yield a higher response rate than one conducted externally. For obvious reasons, company related surveys are very relevant to staff and employees, so if employees have any issues or feedback they’d like to express, then a survey is the perfect way to do so. Most company surveys are conducted anonymously too, so the potential for truthful and constructive answers can easily be achieved.

It’s not all good news though. Based on the widespread range of statistics currently available, the average participation rate for internal surveys sits between 30-40% . This applies to both small and large enterprises, where sometimes entire departments exist solely for the purpose of producing these surveys. So what chance does a new entity have in achieving good figures?

Even worse, employees often have little faith in the opinion’s they express, and don’t believe that the ideas they express will actually be taken into consideration. This responsibility falls on the employers and shouldn’t dissuade any organization from getting the feedback they need, it’s simply a matter of acting upon the suggestions that are in the best interests of the company, including the general wellbeing of your staff.

External surveys

Surveys conducted outside of a community or organization typically fair worse compared to their internal counterparts, with completion statistics ranging between 15-20% . Many factors come into play when reaching out to potential customers, and how you present yourself doing it can mean the difference between success and failure.

Brand loyalty is an important aspect to consider. If you’re a new entity into the market, then you benefit from being able to create a fresh face for the brand. However, you’re also competing with existing products and services on the market, so you need to analyze the landscape and come up with an approach that stands out from the rest.

Your target demographic will also influence the response rate of an external survey. If your survey is designed to attract a certain niche or interest, then you need to utilize the appropriate distribution channels in order to gauge the people’s interest. Depending on how specific or far-reaching you want your survey to be, you need to establish a reasonable figure based on the desired quality and quantity of your responses. Simply having more answers than someone else doesn’t always result in useful data.

How to improve response rates

What Can Be Done to Increase Response Rates?

A more visually appealing experience

Research indicates that poorly designed surveys are a considerable factor in affecting the quality and quantity of responses received. Such surveys can be frustrating to navigate through and come across as bland, due to their poor presentation or repetitive nature. Unfortunately, most surveys suffer from these problems and it’s the reason why the process has such a stigma attached to it in the first place.

A visually impressive survey that introduces new methods of approach and interactive elements, has a much higher chance of being well-received by your participants. A good survey can be memorable and enjoyable to complete without compromising on the intended business goals, if the process is executed properly.

Incentives

As previously discussed in relation to internal surveys, respondents need a good incentive in order to proceed with completing a survey. Ideas such as gifts, discounts or special offers, are a good way to entice people to contribute, especially if you’re a brand they’re not readily familiar with. It’s a useful stepping stone in establishing a trustworthy brand and will result in more genuine answers being given.

In saying this, avoid giving too much away (eg. 80% discount on your first purchase!) and make sure your incentives are related to the business. Incentives also increase the risk of appearing desperate and can also be taken advantage of, without any consideration towards providing quality feedback about the brand or business. Be smart about what incentives you may offer.

Choosing the right distribution channels

Understanding your target market is incredibly important when reaching out to people. For example, a survey designed for young people can prove very successful when distributed through social media, while this same strategy may not work when approaching the elderly or middle-aged demographic.

This also applies to what niche or interest you’re approaching. If your goal is to survey fans of hip-hop music, then your survey could be guest featured on popular music blogs, podcasts or publications to help spread the word around.

Overview

The limitations for executing a good survey relies heavily on understanding the market, including your audience, competitors and how they reach out to their consumers on a regular basis. By creating an original and engaging experience for participants, your survey has the potential to collect data that would have gone unheard, had the presentation and process been subpar. Don’t be boring, try something different with your online survey.

By Øyvind Forsbak


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