Maximizing Response Rates: Get Respondents to Start the Survey

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It is incumbent on researchers fielding self-administered surveys to maximize response rates.  This reduces the potential for response bias, where the survey results may not accurately reflect the opinions of the entire population of targeted respondents. Previously we discussed ways researchers can increase the likelihood of respondents opening an email survey invitation.  This post addresses how to get respondents to actually click on the survey link and participate in the survey.

Make the Invite Easy to Read

Don’t bury the lead.   The opening sentence must capture the respondent’s attention and make the investment in effort to read the invitation.   Keep in mind most people skim emails.  Keep text of the invitation short, paying close attention to paragraph length.  The email should be easy to skim.

Give a Reward

Offering respondents a reward for participation is an excellent way to motivate participation.  Tangible incentives like a drawing, coupon, or gift card, if appropriate and within the budget, are excellent tools to maximize response rates.   However, rewards do not necessarily need to be tangible.  Intangible rewards can also prove to be excellent motivators.  People, particularly customers who they have a relationship with the brand, want to be helpful.  Expressing the importance of their option, and communicating how the brand will use the survey to improve its offering to customers like the respondent is an excellent avenue to leverage intangible rewards to motivate participation.

Survey Length

Intangible rewards are often sufficient if the respondent’s cost to participate in the survey is minimal.  Perhaps the largest cost to a potential respondent is the time required to complete the survey.  Give them an accurate estimate of the time it takes to complete the survey – and keep it short.  We recommend no more than 10 minutes, more preferably five to six.   If the research objectives require a longer survey instrument, break the survey into two or three shorter surveys and deliver them separately to different targeted respondents.  Do not field excessively long surveys or mis-quote the estimated time to complete the survey – it is rude to impose on your respondents not to mention disastrous to your participation rates – and it’s unethical to mis-quote the survey length.  As with getting the participants to open the email – creditability plays a critical role in getting them to click on the survey.

Credibility

One of the best ways to garner credibility with the survey invite is to assure the participant confidentiality.  This is particularly important for customer surveys, where the customers interact commonly with employees.  For example, a community bank where customers may interact with bank employees not only in the context of banking but broadly in the community, must ensure customers that their survey response will be kept strictly confidential.

Personalizing the survey with appropriate merge fields is also an excellent way to garner credibility.

Survey Entry

Make it as easy as possible for the participant to enter the survey.  Program a link to the survey, and make sure it is both visible and presented early in the survey.  Again, most people skim the contents of emails, so place the link in the top 1/3 of the email and make it clear that it is a link to enter the survey.

In designing survey invitations, remember to write short, concise, easy to read emails that both leverage respondent’s reward centers (tangible or intangible), and credibly estimate the short time required to complete the survey.  This approach will help maximize response rates and avoid some of the pitfalls of response bias. Click here for the next post in this series in prompting respondents to complete the survey.

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About Eric Larse

Eric Larse is co-founder of Seattle-based Kinesis CEM, LLC, which helps clients plan and execute their customer experience strategies through the intelligent use of customer satisfaction surveys and mystery shopping, linked with training and incentive programs. Visit Kinesis at: www.kinesis-cem.com

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