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Understanding Factors That Reduce Survey Response

Aug 28, 2008
Collecting survey data begins with designing a survey that encourages a high response rate. Many companies and organizations rush blindly into surveying their employees, customers, and vendors without giving any thought to how they should encourage a response. In such cases, a dismal response rate is predictable. While there are millions of people who will simply refuse to respond to a survey, there are several obstacles to a high response rate that can easily be avoided. Below, we'll describe several of these obstacles in the hope that you can avoid them during your next survey.

Questions That Are Unclear

The questions that you include on your surveys must be easy to understand. Consider that most people who receive your survey are already busy or exhausted. In that state, they'll have very little tolerance for questions that are unclear. If they can't easily understand what is being asked of them, they're likely to simply discard your survey. Be clear. If you're forced to use terms that may be unfamiliar, define them.

Inconsistent Survey Format

If your survey uses different formats, your response rate will decline. Survey respondents desire uniformity. If your survey alternates between multiple choice, true/false and short answer questions, many respondents will fail to complete it. Be consistent throughout your survey, even if it limits the type of responses you'll receive. It's more important to encourage response.

Lack Of Notification Or Reminders

Depending upon who you're surveying (your employees, customers, random neighborhoods, etc.), you should use a notification or reminder process. For example, if you're surveying your employees, let them know ahead of time. Send a few notifications as the survey date draws closer. If you're surveying people in your neighborhood, you may need to remind them about the survey. Often, people fail to respond simply because the survey isn't in front of them.

Lack Of A Clear Purpose

Everyone has an opinion and they usually want to give it. But, there needs to be a purpose for their doing so. If your potential survey respondents don't understand the value their opinions and thoughts will provide, they'll be less likely to offer them. For example, your customers want to know how their feedback will help you make changes in your business. Your employees will want to know how you'll take action on the feedback they offer. State the purpose of your survey clearly at the top.

Lack Of Incentive

Most survey respondents want to receive something for their time. That is, they want an incentive. If there isn't an incentive for them to complete your survey, they're less likely to do so. Depending upon the nature of your survey, the value of the data you're soliciting and the time required to complete it, you can offer a variety of incentives to increase the response rate. Examples include baseball tickets, movie tickets, points that can be redeemed for prizes, discounts and even money. For some types of data, a simple invitation to have access to the responses can serve as an effective incentive.

Boosting Your Survey Response

It's rare that you'll enjoy a 100% response rate for any given survey (though it can happen). That said, many organizations sabotage their survey efforts by asking unclear questions, using different formats and failing to send reminders to respondents. They also neglect to provide a clear purpose for the feedback. Finally, many organizations don't offer an incentive that compensates people for spending the necessary time to complete the survey. By addressing each of these potential obstacles, you can help make certain that your survey receives a high response rate.
About the Author
Survey Gizmo is a leading provider of online survey software, check out their website for more great ways to use surveys to enhance your business.
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