maximise survey response rate

Customer Thermometer’s excellent survey response rate is a critical reason the service is so popular. We regularly critique and fine-tune both email and embedded surveys for our customers, to ensure they are performing as well as they possibly can.

In this post, we’ve gathered all of our best practice into one place, so whether you’re testing us out, a new customer or a seasoned user, this article will help you maximize your survey response rate.

What’s the subject line?

The first hurdle in getting a good response rate is the email subject line. Getting your recipients to open the email before they can click to give you feedback is key to success.

Here are the main pitfalls we come across:

    • Don’t use long, rambling subject lines.
    • Subject lines with 30 or fewer characters have an above average open rate. (source: Hubspot).
  • Keep your subject line as short and as  specific as possible.
  • We often see subject lines such as “How satisfied or dissatisfied were you with the driver you had?”.
  • Go for a shorter, more scannable option like “How was your driver yesterday?”
  • Don’t use the word ‘survey’.
  • If possible, avoid using the word survey too boldly in the email subject line. Most people will think there’s a link to a 20 question survey inside and delete the email without opening it.
  • Go for something more punchy like “Your input on your car service last week”.
  • Don’t be too generic. Personalized subject lines are 22.2% more likely to be opened.
  • You can use our custom fields to personalise the subject line.
  • Instead of “How was your clean?” try a subject line like “How well did Lynda clean 76 East St?” which makes it very personal to the recipient.


The Hubspot article referenced in this blog post has 19 great statistics and pointers on creating subject lines that can help get you great open rates – it’s well worth a read.

Maximizing your survey response rate with subject line

What question are you asking?

The clarity of the question you are asking is a really important factor in maximizing your survey response rate. Recipients need to be clear on why you’re asking for feedback.

Read your question in context and make sure it’s completely fit for purpose and as jargon-free as possible.

Ask yourself:

  • Does the question make sense immediately?
    • Ensure the recipient knows what they are being asked? “What did you think to our information provision?” is much muddier and more confusing than “How helpful was this email?” or “How helpful was our brochure?”
  • Is it short and scannable?
    • As with the email subject line, many people answer surveys on their phones, on the move. Keep text specific and to a minimum.
  • Is it specific to an event, person or service-delivery?
    • Make your question entirely specific if you can. This helps customers to believe there’s real intelligence behind your request for feedback and that they’ve not been blindly sent one along with thousands of others. This is especially important if your customers often have multiple interactions with you.
    • So “How was your grocery delivery at 10am this morning?” will get a better response than just “How was your grocery delivery?”
  • Are you asking the Net Promoter question?
    • Customer Thermometer can measure NPS score as part of its reporting. Whilst we love NPS for some things, it is not as broadly applicable as it has often been claimed. The question itself is quite cumbersome.
    • We see much lower response rates for the Net Promoter question on the whole than we do for the more straightforward “How did John do today?” type question.
    • On speaking with end recipients, it appears many believe that if they click to say they would recommend, they’re concerned someone’s going to ask them to do just that.
    • Do experiment with your own customer feedback processes and see if changing the question you’re asking, where it’s possible to do so, increases your response rate.

What kind of response are you asking for?

Both types of survey Customer Thermometer provides – Email Thermometers and Embedded Thermometers, offer up to 4 possible answers for your customer to give you feedback on.

As above, keep the possible answers short, clear and as personal as possible. With Email Thermometers you can add custom fields into the answers, so it’s really easy to write “Shelia was awesome!” or “My Monday delivery was late” as possible responses.

If you’re using our embedded option alongside Salesforce or another app, take a good look at which points in your ticketing or customer contact process you are adding the Customer Thermometer feedback buttons. Where in the thread does it come/is it being triggered? Make sure that the customer gets those buttons at the exact points of service delivery along their journey to maximize response rates.

As an embedded user, you’ll want to check out our enhanced embedded feature. This shows you how to add text and information around the embedded buttons to make sure you’re offering the clearest possible responses.

Maximizing response rate with icons

Check your icons, landing page and the general look and feel

Make the survey, the landing page and the look and feel as personal to you and your brand as possible. With Email Thermometers, we notice a significant drop off in response rate when a logo isn’t used.

Do stick closely to our guidelines on logo size and landing page image size (within the help text of the Thermometer build screens) to ensure legibility of the copy. We frequently see email surveys where the logo is too large and makes the survey part of the email harder to read.

Timing your send 

The time of the send is critical. If you’re scheduling your surveys each week, for chapter and verse on the best times of day to send your survey take a look at this comprehensive guide.

For Email Thermometers, we’d always recommend sending the survey as immediately as possible after the servicing, or delivery. We have one customer who installs water machines, and surveys their customer within 4 hours of that installation being closed off. Their response rate is in excess of 80%.

If you’re using Embedded Thermometers, take a similar approach. Many native ratings systems have inflexible rules on how their surveys/ratings can be run. (Ie Zendesk native ratings are triggered 24 hours after ticket closed). This can massively reduce response rate. By embedding our feedback buttons directly into their Connectwise tickets, Total Networks saw a 10x increase in their feedback.

Send from a real person

When creating your Email Thermometer, or triggering an embedded one, make certain the survey comes from a real person, or at least a named person. Sending from [email protected] or [email protected] has a very negative response on open rates – recipients treat them quite rightly, with suspicion.

Are you following up?

If customer feedback isn’t acted upon swiftly, your response rate will suffer. We have a large number of cleaning businesses as customers, and many of them send a Customer Thermometer survey after every home cleaning they carry out. Because those businesses immediately call a customers and rectify a problem if there is one, many have been using the service since it started more than 4 years ago. Their response rates are incredibly high because of the process of following up. Their customers recognize action will be taken if they click a response.

How clean is your data?

Data relevance and cleanliness is critical to maximising your survey response rate. Duplicates, errors, typos and sending the survey to people who aren’t relevant will have a huge impact on the feedback you’re able to get. Check each list carefully and ensure you’re only surveying people who have definitely been serviced by your business.

And finally… don’t forget to send reminder blasts to improve your survey response rate

Customer Thermometer lets you “remind” people who didn’t respond to your email survey. This really helps overall response rates as often people may have been travelling or in meetings and not managed to catch the original email. There’s more on how the reminder feature works here.

If you’ve got any hot tips of your own please add them in the comments field below. Alternatively, if you want us to look at your Thermometer and advise on ways to maximize response rate then please let us know.

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