How to Improve Survey Response Rates survey response rate

How to Improve Survey Response Rates?

Improve your survey response rates

Follow 4 step framework to improve response rates by more than 40%.


Table of Contents

Many research organizations — from market researchers, public opinion, polling, corporate researchers, and beyond — are facing a decline in survey response rates.

AAPOR, the American Association for Public Opinion Research, frames the situation well: “[…] Largely due to increasing refusals, response rates across all modes of survey administration have declined, in some cases precipitously.”

Whether we attribute this decline to shortening attention spans, shifting of social behaviours, bombardment marketing communications, or other factors, researchers need to place heavy emphasis on ensuring the quality of their survey results.

Response rates are critical for the integrity of the research results. Low response rates can decrease the statistical validity of the collected data and undermine the overall study.

Your surveys are just one of the many messages your respondents receives on a daily basis, so how can organizations cut through the clutter?

While this paints a bleak picture, it is absolutely possible to drive response rates upwards and maintain the quality of the survey data collected.

This guide has been formulated to provide advice for researchers across all industries that wish to increase their response rates and place a focus on the respondent experience.

What is a survey response rate?

Whether you are running your survey project online or on the CATI platform, the response rate is a core metric that determines the success of the project. This metric represents the percentage of people who started and completed the survey out of the total number of surveys sent. 

Theoretically, the average response rate for online surveys is around 26.45%. While researchers consider 50% or more as an excellent survey response rate. 

How to calculate the survey response rate?

Response rate = No of people from the sample who completed the survey ÷ total no. of survey invitations sent X 100

Read how Voxco helped Coyne Research increase survey productivity by 100% and decrease the time taken to launch the survey by 50%.

What is the importance of survey participation?

Surveys are a great way to understand and learn about market demand, customer behavior, and perception. But for the survey result to be reliable and relevant survey participation and response rate is a critical metric. 

Here are some reasons why it is important to track participation to identify how to improve the survey response rate.

1. Insight generation: 

Surveys enable you to extract valuable insights about your target market, customer preference, product/service, etc. Higher participation can help you gather representative data and make informed business strategies.

2. Data validation: 

With accurate survey data, you can validate your hypothesis and test assumptions based on evidence. It helps you eliminate intuition and promotes data-driven decision-making.

3. Targeted marketing: 

A large volume of survey responses helps you segment your target audience effectively based on shared characteristics. This enables you to personalize marketing campaigns, upsell & cross-sell strategies, and more tailored to specific customer groups.

4. Analyze trends: 

Surveying your target population helps you create a holistic picture of their perception and understand the current market trends. This allows you to identify the needs ahead of your competitors. 

5. Evaluate the impact of initiatives: 

A significant drop in CES survey results tells you that the initiatives you took to make customer service seamless worked successfully. Surveys help you determine the impact of your strategies and initiatives, and higher response rates help you generalize the result to a bigger audience. 

Difference between survey response rates & completion rate 

Before we share how to improve survey response rates, it’s important to understand the difference between response rates and completion rates. 

Response rate → This metric helps you calculate the proportion of respondents who started your survey and then completed it out of the total number of people you sent it to. 

Completion rate → This metric, on the other hand, measures the percentage of respondents who completed your survey out of those who started it. 

The completion rate provides a view of the engagement level among those who initiated your survey. While the response rate considers the survey engagement among all survey recipients. 

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How to increase survey response rates - Online surveys

Researchers need to follow suit to build a respondent experience that feels personalized to the individual.

Of course, the emphasis there is on the word “feels.” It is simply not possible for researchers to build surveys for one respondent at a time. In the case of online surveys, heavy importance must be placed on advanced tactics like sophisticated logic, advanced skip patterns, and engaging multimedia incorporation — made possible by professional survey software.

1. Design surveys for visual impact

It may seem innately obvious, but many survey programmers often forget the importance of making your survey aesthetically pleasing. In short, the visual formatting of the survey heavily contributes to the respondent experience.

Sprucing up the aesthetics of your survey can be done in a few quick ways: changing colors and adding logos to match branding, embedding multimedia files like images and video, and using dynamic backgrounds to make the survey pop.

2. Employ image area evaluation

Another more advanced visual tactic for engaging survey questions is using an image area evaluator. This can be used for various question types but is most effective when evaluating concepts that are difficult to communicate in words — like choosing your seat on an airline flight.

This interactive question type isn’t incredibly common, so it’s likely that respondents will be pleasantly surprised and be more likely to respond if they see it.

In fact, you can even use image area evaluators for positive and negative selections, so one question can extract two types of data at the same time.

3. Apply skip logic

Engaging, personalized surveys allow dynamic same-page skipping or even same-table skipping that reacts instantly to respondents’ choices. As researchers, we must seek to eliminate question roadblocks in our survey, where respondents don’t see themselves in the questions that are appearing in front of them.

Manually skipping questions or re-answering that a question is non-applicable will frustrate respondents and increase drop-outs — sometimes dramatically.

Using robust skip logic in your surveys will enhance your dataset and drive completion/response rates.

4. Sophisticated branching logic

Branching is a useful method for moving respondents down specific, pre-planned paths built within the survey. The particular path they take depends on how the respondents answer previous questions — like a “choose your own adventure” novel!

This tactic contributes to personalization in the way that it is responsive to the audiences’ actions.

It only presents questions relevant to the respondent and it can follow the natural flow of a conversation, which keeps them engaged.

5. Piping tactics for engagement

Piping is a survey logic tactic that is defined by taking past responses and then echoing them in future questions within the same survey. In turn, respondents feel heard and that their responses have some sort of impact, further fostering their engagement.

Good survey software allows the piping of text, number values, and even images. For example, displaying a respondent’s survey score as they complete the survey.

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How to increase survey response rates - CATI surveys

Driving response rates for phone surveys hinges on two key factors: the skills of the interviewers and the abilities of your phone survey software.

The good news is that the right software features will help you work with your interviewers — features that we will define further below.

There are thousands of survey call centers that use antiquated and unintuitive phone survey software, which impacts the response rates and the quality of the data collected.

1. Quota management for your data

Firstly, you will want to work with a software that allows you to manage and set virtually any number of strata to match the goals of your research, so your data is as refined as possible.

These features ensure that you are reaching the right people, which will increase your likelihood of a complete. In the event that getting all completed is difficult, the other weighting and balancing features can help keep the data clean.

It’s crucial that you have survey software that allows you to do dynamic weighting and load balancing available to you in order to get the desired ratio.

2. Quota management for your Interviewers

You can also use back-end quota management programming to serve interviewers with a particular kind of respondent to connect with. Examples of this may include an interview needs to be done in a specific language, or the respondent has refused, and you need to engage a high-converting interviewer.

As interview refusals increase, it’s become more important than ever to employ methods like these and rely on a strong team of interviewers and robust software to keep delivering results.

3. Robust callback rules

Interviewers instinctively hop on to calls, desperate to get the person on the other line to listen to them. That being said interviewers need to truly listen to the potential respondent.

Are they busy? Do they need to call back later? These are the questions that your interviewer needs to be asking themselves. Perhaps they should be classified as a callback and be contacted again later.

Being able to sort and manage potential respondents within your database with robust callback rules is key to reaching engaged and willing respondents.

4. Advanced logic

We often talk about employing advanced logic programming for online surveys, but programming the back end of your phone surveys is also incredibly important. You can use the above-mentioned methods (from the online survey section), like skipping, branching, etc., to make the interviewing process easier for your staff.

In essence, the more “automated” the line of questioning is, the more simple it is for the interviewer to engage the respondent with relevant questions and get the data you need to complete the study.

Read how Voxco helped ReconMR raise productivity by 40 % & scaled to 5 call centers.

A gap in the market

According to a study conducted by Econsultancy in 2018, just 7% of organizations list personalization as a priority. This means that treating respondents with a personalized experience can set you apart from your competition — driving up completes/responses and helping you deliver quality data faster.

While most researchers are well aware of the importance of employing robust logic programming in their survey flows, not everyone is on board yet. Now is the perfect time to start taking your surveys to the next level as a differentiator in the industry.

Have a look at our Market Research Hub for more blogs and case studies on getting the most from your research efforts!

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