How to Increase Survey Response Rates

— July 9, 2019

Struggling with low survey response rates? Start seeing a turnaround with these tips that will help you collect more data and better understand how your customers feel about their experience.

How to Increase Survey Response Rates Surveys

It comes down to basic statistics: a small sample size undermines the reliability of your data. And when you’re putting together a customer experience program, you need reliable data that accurately represents customer attitudes and actions.

One way to increase the integrity of your data is by increasing survey response rates. With more response at your fingertips you have the power to learn more–and quickly–about their customers’ opinions so that they can take appropriate action. But, to do this effectively, you’ll need active participation from customers with your surveys.

To find out more about the customer leading companies such as Zappos, Uber and Transferwise optimise the survey experience so they can increase survey response rates. They’re committed to gathering high-quality information about the customer’s perception of their experience with their brand.

In this article, we’ll look at some of the reasons why higher response rates lead to better customer experience insights. We’ll address the challenge of getting customers to speak their mind so you can collect reliable information.

Why it Pays to Increase Response Rates

According to Bain & Company, the founders of the Net Promoter System, higher response rates lead to more accurate data, with anything less than a 40% response rate for B2C brands and 60% for B2B counting as a lower response rate and is a red flag.

Data problems can undermine the trust in a customer experience management program, as subsequent analysis doesn’t accurately reflect individuals attitudes and actions with your brand. Inhibiting your ability to deliver a positive experience with your brand.

PWC surveyed 15,000 people across 12 countries and found that 73% of respondents said that CX is an important part of their purchasing decision, yet only 49% of that same audience felt that businesses did a good job on delivering a positive experience.

The problem is that many companies don’t have access to the level of data needed to understand the customer’s perception of their experience. They are making it difficult to understand the topics across the entire customer journey that matter most to their customers.

According to Experian’s Global data management survey, 29% of businesses feel that their data is inaccurate, which doesn’t bode well if data is the foundation of a solid customer experience measurement.

Surveys are an essential component of a customer experience program and without listening to customer feedback, how can you possibly expect to deliver an experience they want? You need to give your customers a chance to speak and listen when they provide feedback. A continuous feedback loop empowers you to invent, move fast and think big by using responses to tap into your inner imagination and build on their behalf.

A high survey response rate will also provide context behind your crucial customer experience metrics. You have an CSAT score of 56… but why? Feedback helps uncover customer pain points and highlights with your product. With high volumes of feedback, you can begin to tap into advanced customer analytics and analyse feedback at scale, helping you hone and optimise your customer experience.

Tips for Increasing Survey Response Rates

Now, let’s move on to something a little more challenging—actually motivating people to take a survey in the first place.

Survey Length

When you start a customer satisfaction survey, you’ll probably compile a long list of questions. However, you’ll want to refine the number of items you ask if you’re going to maximise the number of potential respondents.

The shorter your survey can be – without sacrificing the essential feedback you need to obtain – the better. Research shows that the longer a customer survey is, the less time people will spend answering each question, meaning quality decreases.

A good tip we’ve found to useful is to add a progress bar so respondents can track progress and won’t quit mid way through as they have full transparency of time commitments involved in completing the survey.

At Chattermill, we like to stick to a 5-minute rule, we’ve noticed that surveys engagement tanks when you make a survey questionnaire extensive. Therefore it makes sense to squeeze every bit of data possible out of respondents in one go and make each question count. By that we mean, asking questions that provide actionable data.

Survey Design

To refine your survey, make a note besides each question of why it needs to be asked. Why do you require this information? What do you plan to do with it?

The idea is to only ask questions that are absolutely necessary, and will give you feedback you can use. For example, asking someone’s age and location unnecessarily extends survey’s and doesn’t provide information on customer satisfaction performance. You need to remember that the respondents’ time is limited.

The best way to minimise survey completion times is to ask for open-ended feedback, allowing the customer to speak about topics that matter most to them.

You might be concerned that asking lots of feedback in text format will be a nightmare to analyse. But with AI & Machine Learning, it’s a simple exercise of uploading your data into a platform that can analyse text at scale, providing you with actionable insights.

Ask for Customer Feedback Immediately

Response rates increase when you ask for feedback right after the goods or services have been delivered.

Make sure you time your follow-up accordingly so that you can collect customer feedback upon completion of an event.

Why? Because feedback collected within 24 hours of delivery is more accurate than data collected two weeks or a month later. People have terrible memories, so waiting too long on sending out your survey invitation could compromise the integrity of your data.

If they don’t reply the first time, don’t interpret as a signal to give up. You can set up reminder emails in your survey software to send follow-ups so you can boost survey completion rates in your next market research campaign.

Ask the Right Questions

If you’re struggling to boost your survey response rate then you need to make the survey respondents that end up in your database count.

One of the best ways to ensure that you collect quality data is to take a look at your survey design. Do your existing questions provide actionable data?

Focus on questions that help you measure performance and offer a path toward improvement. For example, instead of asking, “How was your experience with our support team?” try, “How satisfied were you with our team’s response time?” This introduces one variable that you can later work on improving.

If you have a certain business metric you’re trying to improve stay focused on a singular goal when creating your survey questions. If it’s reducing operation costs and you’re trying to reduce support expenses, ask specific questions about that one component of your business. Think speed, quality, convenience, etc.

If you’re trying to find out more about your customers then consider asking direct open ended question.

  • What did we do that you like best?
  • What could we have done differently to improve your customer experience?

The answers to those questions will provide clear patterns of the customer’s perception of your product and brand, enabling actionable points to improve the customer experience.

Personalise the Survey

Personalisation is a core part of today’s customer experience landscape, and using information that you already know about your respondents can work well in your favour, adding warmth and humanity to a sometimes clinical process.

Sending a personalised email invitation with a unique subject line will help generate engagement with your customers. Here is an example: ‘Hey Jessica! We hope you love your new jeans. Mind if we ask you a few questions about your shopping experience?’ Taking this more personal approach will invite the shopper to reply far more than a “Dear, Customer—please fill out a short survey regarding your purchase on June 11th.”

Make it Effortless

Make use of mobile surveys or quick NPS pop-ups that catch customers at the right moments. Ensure that your surveys also optimised for mobile experience.

While email surveys might seem like the most natural fit, it might not always be the best way to get in touch with a respondent. Try posting online surveys or polls on your social media channels, embedding feedback requests into different pages, and perhaps even trying SMS surveys or Facebook Messenger.

Overtime, if you test your results, you should be able to identify a certain medium or channel that works best with your target audience. Of course, don’t do all of these things at once, or else you’ll risk scaring your customers away, which will harm your response rates.

Finally, leave an open door for feedback by establishing clear lines of communication that let customers know exactly how they can leave a review, submit a support request, or rate a product.

While these passive feedback channels might not get the response rate you’d find with a direct request for feedback, passive feedback is useful when it comes to identifying issues you didn’t realise you had.

Make it Worth Their While

Your surveys should be set up in a way that engages the audience, with clear questions, an attractive design, and even a dash of your brand’s personality.

Still, you might to start offering incentives to get more responses. This might seem like a no-brainer, but incentives will vary by type of audience.

A few examples you might try:

Gift card: Consider offering a discount code upon completing a survey. This works for brands that offer a subscription service (i.e., 15% off next month’s order) or e-commerce (complete the survey for 20% off your next purchase).

Charitable Donations or raffle: If you’re working with executives or those making large but infrequent purchases, it might be a good incentive to offer making a charitable contribution in their name or donating to a charity of their choice. In such cases, a discount usually doesn’t apply. Charitable donations work best if you’re surveying a group whose mission or values corresponds with those of your own brand.

Run a Lottery: Ask your customers to complete a survey in exchange for an entry into a prize draw—think a shopping spree at your online store, a trip, or a big ticket item.

Share the Survey Results: Sharing the survey results works best if you’re in a position where you’re something of an industry leader—i.e. you work in a tech company, data analytics, or something along those lines where you have the resources to put together a valuable report your audience will find useful.

Close the Loop

How to Increase Survey Response Rates

When customers leave feedback, they expect you to do something with that information. This means that you’ll need to make a point of telling your customers about the changes you make, as you make them.

NPS Benchmarks describes closing the loop as a means of “rescuing detractors” so they don’t leave for good.

While working hard to improve detractor scores is one way you can close the loop, it isn’t always such a mad dash to keep clients from dropping off. Instead, you can make an announcement like, “You asked, we listened–here’s a look at [new features, more sizes, a redesigned support system].”

The point is to make customers feel heard and prove that you care about delivering the best possible experience. When customers see that continual effort, they’ll be more inclined to share their feedback in the future.

Wrapping Up

Accurate customer data is the secret to identifying areas where you can improve, and understanding what it is your customers want from your business.

While there are clear benefits to collecting more feedback more often, you’ll need to approach your process from a strategic standpoint—making passive feedback channels accessible and easy to find, while sending active requests out at the right time.

Be sure to ask actionable questions, allow for open-ended responses, and close the loop on any issues that emerge.

It’s that high-quality data that serves as the basis of making CX improvements the customers want, rather than making potentially misguided assumptions.

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