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5 Ways to Increase Customer Satisfaction Survey Response Rates

Sandy McKee Sep 09, 2016 0 Comments

You know that customer satisfaction is important.

Maybe, you've been surveying your customers for a long time. Or, maybe you have just launched your first customer satisfaction survey, and you are eagerly embarking on the journey to improving your customer satisfaction level. You know that you have asked the right questions and have prepared an action plan to increase satisfaction levels.

You’re confident that your survey will make a difference. The only problem is that you're not seeing the response rates you'd like. In this post, I share our best tactics for improving response rates for customer satisfaction surveys and ensuring you receive the best possible response quality.

Read on!


What Could Be Influencing Your Survey Response Rates

Before you begin building your customer satisfaction survey, consider these 5 key factors that influence survey response rates.

  1. Target Audience
  2. Survey Frequency
  3. Timing
  4. Perceived Benefit
  5. Incentive

Influencer #1: Target Audience

For your data to be statistically sound, you need to know how many responses you need to collect. This is your goal.

Contrary to popular belief, you really don't need a 100% response rate to have good data. This is a very good thing; 100% response rates are unheard of. To determine how many responses you need, there are sample size charts and calculators to help you determine the number of responses required based on your population size (in this case, your population size is the number of customers you have) to draw accurate conclusions about the results.

Keep this in mind, too, as you decide which of your customers will receive your customer satisfaction surveys. If you think you are going to send this out to all of your customers, think again. Does your customer survey actually pertain to all of your customers or just a portion of them? For instance, if your survey is about your latest product, make sure you don’t target customers who have not used it.

Segment your customer list to include only those customers who have used the product in question. This will give you a better response rate and better data (and keep you from looking foolish in your customer’s eyes).

If you are not able to segment your list (or even if you are), use screening questions at the beginning of your survey to disqualify customers who the survey does not pertain to. Disqualifying logic will exit a respondent from the survey if they don’t meet your criteria. This will keep you from wasting their time and skewing your data.

If you are using an email campaign to distribute your survey, the From Name and Subject Line are key factors to a higher open rate. For more details about best practices for online survey invitations be sure to read: Building Better online Survey Email Invitations.

Also, take the time to set up an automated reminder email several days following the initial survey invite. It will improve your overall response rate by gently reminding customers you value their input.

Influencer #2: Survey Frequency

If you will be conducting multiple surveys, it's advisable to start with just one portion of your customers so as not to create survey burn out. Online surveys have become so popular that most of us have become a little numb when asked to take another survey. This apathy is called survey fatigue, and we recommend surveying customers only once every three months to avoid survey fatigue. You can read more about this in our article, How to use Email Segmentation to Improve Customer Survey Frequency and Effectiveness.

Influencer #3: Survey Timing

Timing is key. If you are only administering your customer satisfaction survey once a year, you are missing out on good opportunities to get your customers’ opinions and improve your business. Any touch point with customers is an opportunity to follow up and ask about their experience.

Feedback response rates are higher and more accurate if the survey is administered within 24 hours of the interaction. Since the experience is still fresh in the customers mind, they are more likely to respond.

While this is typically true for customer feedback surveys, you should consider a longer period of time if your survey pertains to product use. Give your customers time to try the product out before you ask them for their opinion about it. If you know your customer typically uses the product within 2-3 days of purchase, then wait until the 4th day to ask their opinion.

Influencer #4: Perceived Benefit

Respondents are more likely to respond when they believe that participating in a survey will result in real improvements. Customers want to know that someone is listening and that their response will make a difference (especially if they were dissatisfied). In short, response rates are higher when respondents believe they are helping a cause.

Reassure your respondents that you really are listening. To do so, add an introductory message to your satisfaction survey stating how you want to improve your customers’ experience. This simple statement will help to increase your response rate.

Influence #5: Survey Incentive

Motivating your target audience with an incentive can improve your response rate, but it can also influence results. Incentives have their place, but a customer satisfaction survey is not one of them. For this kind of survey, avoid using an incentive.

Your customers will be less inclined to provide negative feedback if they feel that it will prevent them from receiving the incentive. Embrace negative feedback. While it may be painful, it will allow you to make necessary changes to improve your business.

surveys for customer satisfaction

Designing Your Customer Satisfaction Survey to Reduce Survey Fatigue

While the above factors influence whether your customers start your survey, it is your survey design that will influence whether or not they finish your survey. If you are already surveying your customers but finding that only a small percentage of respondents are completing the entire survey, it's likely that the problem is somewhere in the design of your survey.

Survey fatigue is one of the biggest reasons why respondents abandon a survey. Good design minimizes survey fatigue and improves clarity, which results in a higher completion rate.

So, let's talk about design.

Here are 5 survey design tips you need to consider to avoid survey fatigue and improve response rate:

  1. Survey length
  2. Question type
  3. Question phrasing
  4. Relevance
  5. Pre-population

Design Tip #1: Survey Length

Keep you survey short. The longer the survey, the higher the abandonment rate. Customer satisfaction surveys should take 5 minutes or less to complete. Although 6 – 10 minutes is acceptable, longer than 11 minutes likely results in significant abandonment rates. On average, respondents can complete 5 closed-ended questions per minute and 2 open-ended questions per minute.

To shorten your survey, use question and page logic to only display questions that are relevant to each particular respondent. Page jumps and show/hide logic ensure that your respondents only respond to questions that pertain to them, reducing fatigue and keeping data clean.

If your survey is several pages long, consider using a progress bar along the bottom. This is turned on by default in SurveyGizmo's software, and it shows respondents how far along they are in the survey.

If a respondent is becoming fatigued but sees that they have nearly completed the survey, they are more likely to continue to the end.


Design Tip #2: Question Types

Make it easy for your customers to answer your questions by using easy-to-answer quantitative question types. Often, you will want to follow some of these questions up with a qualitative question asking for more information, but open text questions should be kept to a minimum if you want to avoid fatigue.

Quantitative question types include radio button, checkbox, drop down menu, and Likert scale questions. These make it easy for respondents to select answer options and provides easy reporting.

Be thoughtful about how many answer options you provide, but be sure to not force respondents to choose an option that would not apply or that they would not feel comfortable with. Sometimes a “None of the Above” or “Other” answer options are the best answer.

As you design your questions, think twice before making a question required.

Qualitative question types should not be made mandatory unless absolutely necessary. If you are asking questions that ask for an opinion that your customers may not feel comfortable giving, it’s best not to require the question.

Design Tip #3: Question Phrasing

Respondents are most likely to answer questions that are short, sweet, and to the point. Avoid complex sentence structures.

Do not ask leading questions. Keep the phrasing in your questions neutral so as to not introduce bias. Be sure not to ask questions that make your customers feel uncomfortable.

Design Tip #4: Relevance

Asking irrelevant questions is the fastest way to create survey fatigue. Don’t waste your customers’ time with questions that are not relevant to them!

Use skip logic to only show questions and pages that pertain to the survey taker. This type of survey logic dynamically controls the flow of the survey and ensures that the survey taker is never asked a question that is not relevant to them. Believe us: your customers will appreciate it.

Design Tip #5: Pre-population

If you already have information about your customers, you can pre-populate survey questions so that you don’t have to ask them for the information again. It will make you look smart, and your customers will appreciate you removing the burden of re-entering information they know you already have. This is most often used for contact information or tracking reference numbers for support tickets, but really any information can be used.

And, of course, if something has changed in your customer's profile, this is an opportunity for your customers to give you their updated information.


Customer Satisfaction Data You Can Act On!

These tips will help you increase your response rate so that you have enough responses to make a sound decision on how to improve your customer satisfaction levels.

Go get 'em!

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