7 ways to Increase Survey Response Rates

Surveys are a great way for businesses to get feedback from their customers. Unfortunately for a lot of companies, their response rates suck. Most companies average response rates of 5-10% using traditional survey tools and a miserable 1-5% using their ticketing software.

With increasing pressure to retain customers, I believe you need to be putting more emphasis on increasing your survey response rates.

Bain Insights wrote a great piece on customer surveys last June which discussed problems with how B2B businesses are doing their customer feedback. Here’s an excerpt of what they had to say.

The chief executive of one business-to-business (B2B) company, for instance, hired market research firms to gather data about its promoters and detractors. The research firms carpet bombed the company’s customers with surveys. But the resulting scores proved volatile and undependable.

Response rates were low, which increased random variation from one period to the next. And no one could tell exactly which individuals filled out the surveys. Indeed, subsequent analysis showed that few senior decision makers or influencers ever took part. So the scores didn’t accurately reflect key individuals’ attitudes and actions.

Keeping that in mind, the article went onto explain the importance of tracking survey participation. Bain Insights reported, “Higher response rates lead to more accurate survey scores. Anything less than a 40% response rate for business-to-consumer (B2C) and 60% for B2B enterprises is a red flag”.

These stats are based on telephone surveys, so how about email survey rates?

With email survey response rates, SurveyGizmo believes you should be aiming for above 10-15%, which is the average. That’s still pretty low right? I really think you need to be getting at least 50% of your surveys completed, otherwise you’ve got a problem.

Before I recommend seven ways to increase your survey response rates, let’s identify some benefits you’ll receive from an improved survey response rate:

  • Better insights from your customers to help make better business decisions
  • Use feedback to build out new products and services to meet your customers’ needs and solve their problems
  • Track feedback across a period of time so you can build customer feedback profiles around your customers

So there are some good reasons to keep reading, now let’s get into the seven ways to increase your survey response rates:


1. Remove text boxes from your surveys

This sounds obvious but is often over looked. Removing questions that require a written answer, in other words, a text box – can dramatically increase your response rates.

The key here is to keep things super simple and to the point. You can do that by asking questions that you can then place in radio boxes or checkboxes for answers. My theory is you need to respect your survey respondent’s time, everybody is super busy nowadays – try keeping your questions quick and concise.

Client Heartbeat has run a number of tests around including and excluding text boxes. Results have found a significant correlation between the number of text boxes and response rates.


2. Shorten your survey, keep it under 10 questions

The shorter the survey, the better the response rate, as the graph from Vovici below proves.

Vovici, a survey software company, conducted a study on abandonment rate which showed a direct correlation between number of questions and survey abandonment.

Here are five quick tips they recommend to keep your survey short:

  • Keep your focus – take out irrelevant questions that don’t work towards your goal
  • Ask only the most important questions – don’t draw things out, keep it concise
  • Don’t ask esoteric questions – cut questions that make distinctions only apparent to those within your organization
  • Don’t set false expectations – Remove questions that raise issues that can’t be addressed
  • Reduce the block answers and make them more checkbox answers


3. Bake surveys into your sales process

Definitely one of my favourite ways to increase survey response rates, just bake it into your sales process.

So what do I mean by that?

This strategy involves having your sales guys include the customer feedback surveys in your sales pitch. Now I don’t mean survey your prospect, here I mean tell them that all new customers receive a quarterly customer feedback survey which they must fill out (make it compulsory).

Tell them why it’s compulsory – tell them that you do it because you value your customer’s opinions and consistently make improvements to your products and service levels based on your customer’s feedback.

By doing this, you not only come across as a very customer centric organisation, but can also can boost your survey response rates to 100%!

To get a better perspective of a company implementing this strategy, I asked Mimi Tan, Operations Director at R&G Technologies to provide some insight:

We believe it is important to introduce the customer to the HeartBeat Survey during the induction process – explaining what it is and its purpose. This allows us to show the customer that we are a customer service focused company and as result encourages them to participate.

The HeartBeat surveys are sent directly from the Operations Director who overtime has already established a good rapport with the customer. We found that this makes the customer feel obligated to participate as well as give the HeartBeat that personal touch.

R&G is one of Australia’s fasted growing IT Companies. With customer service at the forefront of the company’s success, I think it’s safe to say the high survey response rates are helping to spur on growth.


4.  Follow up

What would you do if you sent through a business proposal and didn’t receive a response within a week? Follow up right?

Well that’s exactly what you need to do with your customer surveys. Client Heartbeat has done some studies and found that by following up after one week, then again after two weeks, you can literally turn your customer survey response rates from 20-30% to over 85%.

Next time you send out your customer surveys, make sure you track the resp
onses on an individual level and follow up after a week with those who have not responded. Just shoot them through another email and resend the survey link – pretty simple stuff.

You’ll be surprised how much of a jump you will get – probably the easiest way to increase your response rates.

If you find it hard to keep up with monitoring the customer survey process, try using Client Heartbeat – the tool automates the whole process and has proven strategies to make sure receive up to a 85% response rate! See how it works here.



5.  Order questions logically

Vovici recommends using an ‘inverted pyramid’ approach to ordering your questions.

Begin with screening questions. Conventionally, screeners route people out of a survey depending on answers to initial questions. You have their attention; skip them out to another survey instead if they are not a fit for the survey underway. Otherwise they get the impression their feedback isn’t valuable.

Once you’ve screened your respondents, take them through to your general questions and if you do have some more specific open-ended questions – put them in here.

After the specific questions, delve into demographics which will help you profile your respondents.

By keeping your survey questions logically ordered, you give yourself the best possible opportunity to receive higher response rates. Remember to start with screening questions, move through the general questions (and open-ended if you must have them), then wrap things up with the demographics questions to help you with profiling.


6.  Craft your invitation carefully

A well-written invitation can skyrocket your survey response rates. Whether you are conducting surveys via email, snail mail or phone, make sure your offer is compelling to your respondent.

Today I’m going to focus more on email surveys as that’s the most popular way IT companies get feedback from customers.

Here are five tips to creating a better survey email invitation:

  • Minimize the likelihood of span by ensuring your email is complaint and doesn’t include any spamming words like free, act now, $
  • Use an appealing subject line to grab the respondent’s attention. ‘Help us improve our response times’ is a good one for MSPs
  • Send from a corporate email address – this links back to what Mimi was saying about the survey emails she was sending out came from her email address. She already had rapport and trust with her clients so they we’re more likely to fill out the survey
  • Make a good impression after they’ve clicked, Vovici found that you only have 8 seconds to impress. Tell them what you want them to do and what’s in it for them
  • Consider using incentives – find something valuable to your clients, it can often be something you can acquire for free, so brainstorm a couple of ideas


7.  Use Client Heartbeat

The final and the easiest way to increase your survey response rate is to use Client Heartbeat.

Client Heartbeat is a business intelligence tool that automates the entire customer feedback process.

Client Heartbeat can help you:

  • Put together your survey questions
  • Send out the emails from your corporate email account
  • Track individual responses
  • Send out follow up emails


Plus, there’s more:

  • Benchmark your performance against competitors
  • Identify customers at risk (by monitoring feedback over a period of time)
  • Capture testimonials from your happiest clients
  • Drive new leads by letting respondents share their testimonials across social networks – this has the potential to reach an additional 2,000-4,000  eyeballs


Are you interested in Client Heartbeat? Learn more or Request a Demo

So there it is, seven ways to improve your survey response rates. Apply these proven strategies and kick your response rate troubles in the butt!

Gordon Tan

Gordon Tan is an entrepreneur based in Australia who has started and sold multiple technology companies with a combined value of $150m. This included a client satisfaction benchmarking platform which gave him first hand insight into the best practices of over 6,000 businesses. After retiring at 35 he is now a recognised thought leader on winning and retaining clients - His two passions: making clients the heartbeat of a business no matter what the product or service and this blog.

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