Survey Fatigue: How to Avoid It?

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Survey Fatigue: Toeing the Line Between Follow Ups & Pestering Your Respondents qualitative data
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Survey fatigue –  a universal issue that researchers face all over the world. Your surveys are delivering the insights you need, and you want more of the same, but you can’t pressure your respondents too much.

You need to know that your survey might not be at the top of their priority list to design surveys in a manner that is respectful of the customer’s time. So, in this article, we will explore what is survey fatigue and how you can prevent it.

What is survey fatigue?

Survey fatigue is the respondent’s lack of motivation when prompted to take a survey. Simply put, it is a survey taker’s negative response to a lengthy or boring survey. 

This often has an impact on a participant’s response behavior. For example, the participant may be less likely to take or complete the survey or provide inaccurate responses. 

Most often, the reason for this is the number or length of the survey. The respondent becomes bored and tired of participating in surveys, which results in abandoned surveys and irrelevant data. 

This may seem like a vague concept, but it is real, and there are two ways it can happen.

What are the two types of survey fatigue?

Survey fatigue is a two-headed beast and can happen in two ways:

Before attempting the survey- 

This usually happens when respondents are completely overwhelmed with survey requests, making them unenthusiastic about taking the survey. A scenario such as this must be avoided at all costs, as one can risk alienating potential respondents for life.

During the survey itself- 

A researcher’s task doesn’t end with getting the respondent to take your survey – keeping a respondent’s attention within the survey is an extremely important task unto itself. Long and convoluted surveys can increase drop-off rates, which give incomplete, sub-par, and unreliable data.


Additional read: How to protect survey response rate?

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What leads to survey fatigue?

Now that we have discussed when a participant experience survey fatigue, let’s look at the reasons for both instances. 

Before taking the survey

1. Sending too many surveys: 

The fastest way you can compel a participant to abandon your survey is by sending them too many survey requests. 

It is important you find a balance between sending surveys and all the other marketing communications. 

→ Decide on a survey frequency that aligns with other communication emails.

→ Don’t send too many reminders

→ Use other mediums, such as web intercept surveys or in-app surveys, to gather your needed data. 

→ Don’t send a general survey after every transaction. 

Many organization uses surveys as a way of engaging a target audience. So, it’s important to select the right time to send a survey to reduce respondent fatigue. 

2. Lack of action:

Respondents often believe that the organization won’t read or take any action on the survey result. This leads to discouragement among participants, and they refuse to share their feedback. 

Communicate with the respondents on how you are going to use their feedback. Close the loop on their feedback to thank them or to continue the discussion.

During the survey

1. Question fatigue:

Asking the same questions in multiple ways won’t yield you different insights. Instead, it will frustrate the survey respondents, causing question fatigue. 

This usually happens in poorly designed survey questionnaires. Be mindful of the questions you prepare and conduct pilot tests to ensure there is no scope for question fatigue. This can lead to participant fatigue and result in survey dropouts. 

→ Carefully plan and organize the questionnaire. 

→ Pilot-test your survey. 

2. Asking too many questions:3. Asking irrelevant questions:

The length of your survey is enough to scare a participant away if it means they have to spend more than 3 minutes on it. 

While there is no standard rule for the number of questions you should ask, but the shorter, the better. 

→ Keep the questions crisp. 

→ Mention the estimated time of survey completion. 

Long surveys can make participants tired, which means they stop paying attention to their responses. Respondent fatigue due to long surveys can lead to higher non-completion or drop-outs. 

Additionally, if your survey link breaks down in the middle and the participant loses all the data, it is unlikely that they will start again. Invest in survey software that saves the responses as the participant goes by answering.

3. Asking irrelevant questions:

Nothing induces survey fatigue faster than seeing questions irrelevant to the participant’s experience. 

Asking questions about a product they didn’t purchase can tick off any respondent. This will lead to inaccurate survey responses. 

Segment customers based on their journey. 

→ Personalize surveys to ask questions related to their experience. 

4. Disingenuous surveys:

When your survey respondents see your survey and believe that their feedback won’t have any meaningful impact, it leads to a lower response rate and a negative brand reputation. 

Signs that your surveys are disingenuous to respondents: 

  • The questions are irrelevant to their experience. 
  • Leading questions. 
  • Lack of opportunity to provide their own feedback. 

For example, in the employee survey, if you don’t add options to share their personal feedback about the workplace, it tells them you don’t want their honest opinion. This leads to employee survey fatigue, and you end up with poor-quality data. 

So, this covers some of the reasons for respondent fatigue, but how to avoid participant fatigue? Next, we will discuss 7 ways you can avoid survey fatigue. 

Additional read: 5 ways to build trust from survey respondents.

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How to avoid survey fatigue?

To ensure high response rates, you must convey to respondents that their participation is valuable and that you respect the time they take. Researchers can reinforce the same by following certain practices.

Here are seven methods you can adopt to avoid survey fatigue or participant fatigue in your survey research.

1. Dispel security concerns

Data privacy is a big deal nowadays; even the average user is aware of the value of their data. The researching party needs to ensure that should they choose to collect a customer’s private data, especially in the case of web surveys, then they do so with the help of a secure and robust survey software solution.

2. Simplicity is key!

Survey Fatigue: Toeing the Line Between Follow Ups & Pestering Your Respondents qualitative data

According to a study by Microsoft, the average human has attention for just 8 seconds. Putting this fact to the test is a matter best left as far away from a survey as possible.

You need to design your survey questions to be brief and straightforward to get the best completion rates possible. This, in turn, will grant you far more usable data for analysis.

There can be exceptions, but those may need incentives to be more effective.

3. Focus, Focus, Focus!

Rather than meandering through tangentially related topics, a focused questionnaire with relevant queries is sure to keep the respondent engaged throughout the process. 

This holds true for any sort of survey technology – be it online survey tools (CAWI), offline survey tools (CAPI), or telephone (CATI).

4. Design & personalize

This may seem like a minor detail, but a pleasant survey design with a few flourishes here and there goes a long way in capturing and engaging a respondent’s attention. This is especially effective for online surveys.

This also means you should personalize and add branding to your survey design. Creating a personalized survey will show respondents that you have put effort and thought before approaching them with feedback requests. 

5. Sample your surveys

You’ve created your survey, and you feel it meets your requirements. But is it something that a person who is not invested in the survey’s success would be interested in completing? It’s impossible to get a definitive answer to this question, but you can send your survey to a sample audience to get some early feedback about its’ weaknesses.

Incorporating the feedback gained into your surveys can dramatically decrease drop-off rates and provide robust results.

You can also leverage an audience panel to create an ideal sample for your survey. The panelists are willing to participate in a survey that minimizes the risk of survey fatigue. 

6. Skip logic, so respondents don’t skip your surveys.

 

Survey Fatigue: Toeing the Line Between Follow Ups & Pestering Your Respondents qualitative data

Surveys in today’s digital era are much more than simplistic question-and-answer sessions. For example, today’s best online survey tools allow for skip logic, which trots out questions related to what they answer within the survey.

7. Your survey has value; you need to make your audience aware of it

People can often feel like the surveys they’re participating in are going to have no impact. If your candidates can see how and where your survey might make a difference, they will be far more likely to complete it, often with more integrity.

Down the line, mailing respondents the impact of the surveys they have participated in can make them keener to attempt more such activities in the future.

Check out the features you need to easily create and tailor engaging surveys.

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Why should you prevent survey fatigue?

Survey Fatigue: Toeing the Line Between Follow Ups & Pestering Your Respondents qualitative data

Survey fatigue can result in bad data and a waste of resources. As you rely on survey data to make key business decisions, respondent fatigue will make it hard to gather insightful data. Moreover, there is the monetary factor of conducting surveys. 

With both these factors under consideration, fatigue is a real risk. So, what does it mean for your business? We have listed four impacts of respondent fatigue. 

1. Harming brand reputation:

Your customers are doing business with many more brands and receiving survey invites from them as well. This can make survey takers irritated and harm brand perception. 

Bombarding customers with too many surveys is not the right way. Instead, find a balanced frequency and use survey best practices to ensure a high response rate. 

2. Bad data quality:

Sending an irrelevant survey or too many surveys can backfire. If your respondents get tired while taking the survey, they are most likely to select random options to complete the survey. 

3. Survey bias: 

Survey fatigue will also cause survey bias. 

You will receive responses from unhappy customers who want you to listen to their feedback. While happy customers will abandon the survey mid-way. 

This will lead to non-response bias. The survey data won’t represent the view of customers who didn’t respond. 

4. Customer churn:

A survey is part of a customer experience. If the customer feels that you aren’t taking this part of their journey seriously, they may end up leaving your brand. 

Every interaction a customer has with your company influences their perception. So if your survey is too long, or you are sending them too many surveys, these reasons are enough for them to take their business elsewhere.

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Avoid survey fatigue - Best practices for leaders

Survey fatigue results from a lack of motivation to participate in the research. It has the potential to impact the response behavior negatively. 

Here are some of the ways an organization can prevent respondent fatigue. 

01. Ensure you have enough time to act on the result:

The common reason for participant fatigue in surveys is due to the perception that the organization won’t act on the feedback. 

So, it’s important that you deploy surveys at a pace that enables you to act on the result and communicate the action to the respondents. For example, quarterly surveys give you ample time to analyze and act on the data while preparing for the next survey. 

02. Share survey results across organization:

It is imperative that your share the survey results with the entire organization. You shouldn’t just share it with top leaders or executives but with the entire workforce. 

This way, you can encourage the entire organization to become customer-centric and align the business goal with customers’ needs. It also enables employees to share their ideas and opinions on how the organization can act on the result. 

03. Implement actions:

Simply gathering feedback won’t help you improve the business outcome. You need to act on the result and implement action plans that allow you to make changes for better satisfaction. The initiatives will help you see which changes have improved business outcomes and what else you can do. It will help you reach your business aspiration. 

To reduce survey fatigue, it is important to focus on diligent communication with the respondents and acting on the feedback. When your respondents know that you will act on their feedback, it will drive the response rate and, eventually, business.

Wrapping up;

Survey fatigue is not a problem for researchers alone. Poorly constructed surveys can make people wary of taking them in the future, impacting drop-off and response rates. 

It’s imperative to communicate your survey’s purpose effectively, both when approaching a potential respondent and within the survey itself. While there is no hard and fast rule on creating good surveys, the points listed in this blog should help construct a questionnaire that gets you the data you need.

FAQs

1. What is survey fatigue?

When survey respondents experience disinterest or exhaustion in participating or completing a survey, it causes survey fatigue. This leads to lower response rates and poor data quality. 

2. What causes survey fatigue?

Long surveys, irrelevant questions, repetitive questions, or over-surveying are the most common causes of respondent fatigue leading to survey fatigue. 

3. How does survey fatigue impact the reliability of survey data?

Participant fatigue leads to lower response rates and inaccurate feedback. This makes the gathered data unreliable. A lower response rate also means that the gathered data may not represent the entire target population. 

4. How can you avoid survey fatigue?

To avoid survey fatigue, you can start by determining the right time to send your surveys. It’s also best to keep the survey short, use simple language, leverage skip-logic, ask relevant questions, and give the option to self-answer. You can also incentivize your surveys to encourage participation.

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