Good customer care is a priority for most businesses. All your marketing, development, and communications efforts help to improve the relationship with your clients.
But there’s a simpler strategy. You have to understand your clients to provide exactly what they need, and surveys are one of the most straightforward ways to get data you can use.
But problem: most people don’t like taking surveys. They avoid them, thinking they’re just a waste of time. They don’t understand that they’ll get better service if they just take the time to respond.
And what’s a good response rate, anyway? Businesses aim for a response rate of 80% or higher from a small sample. But most external surveys get an average response rate of 10-15%, and internal surveys (the ones you distribute to employees) might reach 30-40%.
External surveys are particularly tricky. They demand real effort in development, and even more effort during promotion. But they can definitely be worth it.
In order to increase response rates, you need to motivate your audience. Here are a few key techniques to create better customer surveys:
1. Give prior notice
Do you respond to every survey you’re given? Your inbox may be full of invitations, yet you’re probably ignoring them. That’s exactly how your target audience feels. They’ll see the survey and will either be too lazy or too busy to respond to it right away. They’ll leave it for later, but most of them will forget.
This is exactly why prior notice is important. Send a fun email saying that everyone is about to get an important and exciting survey that will help your business make better decisions. Explain that the survey will make the products or services better, so everyone will benefit from it.
This is a good trigger. When recipients are ready for your survey, the chances of getting their response will be higher.
2. Make survey takers feel special
To attract fans of your brand on social media, you use a personalized approach. You respond to their comments, you address them by first names, and you try to make your brand feel familiar.
Your survey takers deserve the same treatment.
Send a personalized invitation. Dear Laura, I’d appreciate your help here! That’s a nice start. Tell them you appreciate their opinions and respect their time, that this survey won’t take long, and the results will help you provide a better service.
The subject line should be very clear in this aspect: Laura, here’s a 3-minute survey to share your opinion on our service.
Make the invitation feel personal, and you have a much better chance of receiving a good result.
3. Make your surveys respondent-friendly
The last thing you want is to attract people to take your survey and then confuse them with the questions, format, or length of the process. The best surveys are respondent-friendly, and have a few key characteristics:
The more questions a survey has, the less time respondents spend per question. When you offer a shorter survey, respondents will pay more attention to each question.
Long surveys cause not only frustration, but abandonment as well. A report by Oxford University Press tested the response rates to surveys that took 10, 20, and 30 minutes. The longer the stated length was, the fewer recipients started and completed the survey.
Do not complicate the design of the survey. You don’t need many colors and items here. Stick with a simple design, which makes the questions and answers clearly visible.
The language should be clear, too. Use words everyone understands. Make the sentences short and comprehensible.
Can your survey be accessed through a computer, tablet, and smartphone? The last thing you want is for a smartphone user to agree to take a survey, only to find a format that’s not optimized for this device.
They have a time frame
Show a progress bar that helps the respondent visualize how much of the survey they are left with. They won’t abandon the survey if they know they are close to the end.
The easier to understand and complete your survey is, the more likely you are to receive good responses.
4. Avoid Yes/No questions
Were you happy with your last purchase?
What does this question actually tell you? Not much. When you get the results of this kind of survey, you won’t have much data to analyze. That’s a waste of time, right there.
Tom Lawrence from EssayOnTime regularly conducts surveys and analysis. He finds there are better ways to ask these kinds of questions: “You can easily rework yes/no questions with phrases like how likely, how often, or how much. Start your questions with when, why, what, how… whatever leads to a response that gives you richer data.”
According to his experience, response scales are particularly tricky. “When they give a strong direction and rich intensity, response scales give you a good volume of data to analyze. If, however, the response scales are based on the agree/disagree approach, you’re still getting unreliable data.”
“When you have a response scale, the question should be very clear and the scale must be balanced. You need a definite midpoint and a precise range of possible answers.”
Carefully constructed response scales can provide very rich data. Just make sure you build them well.
5. Make it human
Some questions can come across as cold.
When was the last time you purchased products at our website?
Were you satisfied with the service you got?
These questions seem generic and machine-like. Try to put some life into the survey.
Tell me something: when was the last time you got a product from us?
How happy did it make you?
That’s better. Boring or generic language is far more likely to lead to uninterested responses, or no response at all. You want to get in touch with the respondent without making them bored to death.
6. Make choices easy
To improve response rates, you need to make the survey quick and easy to take. You can’t expect answers in the form of essays.
Instead, multiple-choice is usually much better. And if you do end up offering multiple choices, make them clear and don’t go overboard! Too many options will give the respondent decision fatigue.
If you really want written answers, make the questions clear and straightforward. The respondent should be able to answer one question in less than a minute.
7. Don’t be too needy
Some of the respondents might be confused by a particular question. If that’s the case, you have two options:
- Lose the respondent, or
- Allow them to skip the question
Do yourself a favor and don’t be too pushy. Allow them to skip questions! If you really don’t want to give them that option, then include “don’t know” in the list of possible answers.
8. Make the survey relevant to the user
If you’re selling summer dresses, your users are unlikely to be interested in the middle of winter. If you make Christmas decoration services, don’t conduct your survey in June.
You need to reach out when the time is right. Your survey should be relevant to the plans and daily routines of your recipients.
If you think that now is the right period for a survey, do some research to find out when exactly to send the message. Is your target audience spending more time online during the mornings, afternoons, or weekends? You want to send the invitation during the peak of their activity.
9. A reward is nice, but not necessary
When you really need to boost response rates, a reward may be the first thing that comes to mind. That’s a good idea. You could offer a discount code to each and every participant of the survey.
But what if some recipients aren’t ready to make a purchase? They’ll just ignore your request.
Actual prizes are better than discount codes, but you can’t give them to everyone. Instead, turn the survey into a contest and offer a random winner a big prize. This is a great strategy to play with if you have a really important, slightly longer survey in mind.
However, keep in mind that when the survey is brief and well-constructed, a reward is not necessary. You’ll attract more respondents by explaining the benefits they will get by taking the survey: an improved service that fits their needs.
10. Share the results!
If someone took the time to respond to your survey, they’ll want to see the results. That makes them feel a part of something big and important. Show them you value their contribution.
Write a clear report with results presented in graphs. Then, share it via email and social media. Explain what these results mean for your business. How will you consider them when improving your service?
This kind of transparency boosts the chances of getting higher response rates to your future surveys.
11. Know your limits
Did someone mention future surveys? Of course you’ll want to continue this practice, since it gives you tangible data about the behavior of your target audience. But the last thing you want is to become boring and needy.
If your subscribers get constant invitations for surveys, they’ll feel violated. Needless to say, they’ll unsubscribe from your email list.
After one successful survey, you’ll want to engage the audience in the future, too. However, too often leads to too bad in this situation. Know your limits. Sending a survey every few months is okay. Sending one each week is a good way to chase your subscribers away.
Now, you’re ready to improve survey response rates!
Think surveys can help you understand your audience better? I agree. They’re crucial for the progress of every business. But you have to do them the right way.
Have you ever surveyed your audience? How did that go? Share your tips with us in the comments below.
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