14 ways to improve your
survey response rate

improve-survey-response-rate

Want to improve your survey response rate? You’re not alone. It’s one of the major reasons businesses swap to Customer Thermometer. We hear, so often, phrases like “our response rates have been declining”, “I’m worried we aren’t hearing from the customers who really matter”, “our current survey tool doesn’t work on mobile devices properly”, and “people don’t have time for this any more”.

So we’ve put together our 14 top tips to help. Want to improve your survey response rate? Read on…

1. Be utterly ruthless with your questions

The faster it is to respond to your survey, the higher the response rate you will get. Seth Godin once said of surveys, “every question you ask is expensive” – he means expensive in terms of goodwill from your customer.

What is the smallest number of questions you could get away with asking? You could probably get 80% of the value by asking just 20% of the questions. Maybe even 90% of the value from just 10% of the questions. Try it out. Always be testing.

improve survey response rate use emotions2. Don’t be a machine

You don’t have to be wacky if you don’t want to. But don’t write in machine-language either. Write questions which are meaningful, and provide possible answers that are emotional. Get to the heart of the issue, make people think and even smile and your response rate will improve.

“Slightly dissatisfied” is not an emotional state many real human beings can relate to.

“I had some real problems” or “Your service made me mad” will elicit a much better response.

3. Close the loop

What do you do with your survey results? Honestly?

Do you follow up with every customer who answered your survey? Or, do the results go into a black hole once they’ve been presented at a meeting?

If your customers hear back from you after they gave you feedback, they will answer your survey every year. If they get a “thanks for your input” page and nothing else happens, guess what? They will feel ignored. And they won’t give you their time (however short) next time you ask their opinion.

4. Don’t be negative

Do you use your survey results to pick out highly performing teams and reward them? Why not?

If you publicize this internally and externally, you’ll see more customers understanding why their feedback matters. Too many surveys focus entirely on what didn’t go right, and high performing areas are taken for granted.

Shout the good from the rooftops and more of your team will want that treatment too. This can increase your survey response rate because customers see that their feedback is being acted on and positive changes are happening as a result.

5. Make like Amazon

One click ordering was a genius concept when it was hatched by Amazon more than a decade ago. Why ask for 10 clicks when one will do?

Why not make it that easy for your customers to give you feedback?

See point 1 – perhaps one question really is enough… The less you ask, the more responses you will get. There will be many parts of your business that you can implement this kind of feedback mechanism – seek them out.

6. Easy on the emotional persuasion

On a recent to-remain-unnamed vacation, the representative from the company said

“if there’s any reason you can’t tick the 10/10 boxes on the form I give you, then please see me now before you get on the plane home”.

If anything put me off answering the survey it was that. See point 14. This kind of activity encourages entirely the wrong behavior.

7. Bundle it

Bundle your survey in with other emails rather than sending separately.

If you can bundle your survey as part of the final response of an interaction with a customer, it both increases their chances of opening it, plus it reduces the amount of email they get from you.

Consider adding your survey to the invoice a customer receives, or to their receipt. You could even add it to their shipping or ticket closed notification.

8. Trigger it

improve-survey-response-rate-use-triggersIs your survey timetable built around you or your customer?

Here’s a clue…if it’s built around you, it’s likely to be annual, quarterly or some other arbitrary timeframe that your company can manage. If it’s build around a customer, it’s more than likely event driven.

How soon after a customer interaction do you send a survey? Seconds or minutes? Weeks or months? The more event-driven and real-time your surveys are, the higher the response rate will be.

Customers need to feel that the survey is relevant and timely. Leave it too long and the feedback will be colored by a newer interaction or the mists of time.

9. Ignore best practice

If you can’t trigger surveys based on events, consider the time of send in this context… All those “best practice” times to send emails are only valid until they get popular. If enough people send their survey at 11am on a Tuesday, that time ultimately becomes the worst time to send a survey. Best practice rapidly becomes herd mentality.

Look at your customers. Are they answering emails from their mobile on the train home and therefore a bit bored? Are they online at the weekend and have a few minutes?

Experiment and see what works for them rather than replicating others’ timings. See also point 8 above. The very best time to send a survey is right after you finished delivering your product or service. Work to get as close as possible to that.

10. Consider the emotional bank balance

If I spent $1.99 with you, and you send me a 20 question survey, I am not going to complete it unless I am hopping mad.

If you’re sending a survey completely out of kilter with your service size, you’ll get a highly self-selecting audience bothering to respond. Think carefully about the emotional bank balance between you and your customer.

Completing a survey is a kind of favor. Customers will only do you that favor if they feel like the item or service they bought is somehow in balance with the favor being asked (or they are really mad.) Consider what’s proportional and respectful of their time and your response rate will go up.

11. Snapshot not scattergun

Gathering the data of who is going to receive a survey is often a long way down the checklist.

A lot of time goes into making the questions and designing the invitation. And then the survey is sent out to a scattergun sample, or the entire database.  Instead, think of it like taking a snapshot of satisfaction across a specific set of customers, at a specific time in their relationship with you.

Consider how and when you can ask them how they feel, at a time that is convenient. By trying hard to take a snapshot, you’ll be tempted to ask fewer questions, thereby once again, increasing your response rate

12. Decision fatigue

Did you know by asking a ton of questions and providing a ton of possible answers your survey could actually be contributing to customer dissatisfaction?

Limiting choices leads to better decisions. It leads to better actionable insight for your business. This is underlined in the book The Paradox of Choice by Barry Schwartz. Too many choices give customers a sense of overwhelm.

Q: How do you annoy a customer even more, who thinks the service they received was pretty average:

A: Give them the choice of selecting 3,4,5,6,7 or 8.

Design your survey to eliminate choices – it can greatly reduce the stress and hassle your customers feel when presented with one.

13. Virtue not necessity

improve survey response rate be confidentDo you fling surveys out in a one-off fashion? Are you apologetic for taking customers’ time? It’s a bit like shuffling onto a podium to give a keynote and mumbling, instead of striding on confidently and projecting your message.

Consider placing the survey at the heart of a proactive customer communications program about your interest in their views. Tell customers it’s coming. Build it into your sales process and underline the fact that you will regularly survey your customers and explain what will happen with their feedback.

Don’t try and hide from the program or apologise for it. Explain you love customer feedback and you’ll be sourcing it in a number of ways during the lifetime of that customer’s relationship with you.

14. Love negative feedback and mean it

Many businesses are scared of receiving negative feedback – seeing it as something to be reduced or diminished. If you embrace feedback of all types, and involve the customer in what you’re doing to fix their issue, they’ll love you for it.

People enjoy being listened to and having their concerns acted upon. In turn, it will make them generally more likely to give you feedback in the future – good and bad.

As complaints-specialist psychologist Guy Winch says,

“Once we trust a company can work with us to resolve a crisis, we automatically feel more loyal to them. By providing excellent complaint handling and service recovery procedures to their customers, companies can mend the relational rupture, prove their trustworthiness and increase customer loyalty.”

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