I’m sure I don’t need to tell you that customer feedback surveys help improve product development and better meet your users’ needs.
But I probably also don’t have to remind you how hard you try to avoid taking any surveys…
I don’t blame you. According to CustomerThink, the average response rate for an e-survey (web, app, email, etc.) averages between 5 and 15% and rates “have been steadily eroding for the past twenty years.”
Luckily, there are techniques you can use to increase your survey response rate and provide a better feedback experience.
In this post, I share a few methods that can help increase the likelihood of users completing your feedback surveys.
#1. Explain Why You’re Running a Survey
Fact: People are more likely to help you or perform an action that you ask of them if they know its purpose.
In his seminal book, Influence, Robert Cialdini discusses the affect the word “because” has on our willingness to help and participate. Referring to a study known as the “Xerox Mindfulness Experiment,”
He describes three different ways researchers approached students waiting to use a Xerox machine. Each approach required the participants to ask if they could cut in line to photocopy their papers.
In the first experiment, researchers simply asked, “Excuse me, I have five pages. May I use the Xerox machine?” This approach received a positive response of 60%.
In the second approach, wording the question as “May I use the Xerox machine, because I’m in a rush?” yielded a positive response of 94%.
In the final test, researchers asked, “May I use the Xerox machine, because I have to make copies?” 93% of people responded positively to this request.
Here’s a video overview of the experiment:
Cialdini concluded in his book:
“A well-known principle of human behavior says that when we ask someone to do us a favor we will be more successful if we provide a reason. People simply like to have reasons for what they do.”
Bonus: To further increase the likelihood that a person will take your survey, make the reason relevant to them. As the Xerox study showed, even a potentially insignificant reason (i.e., “because I have to make some copies”) is enough to compel people to act on your request.
#2. Set Expectations
Consider this: You agree to take a survey. But right after getting started, you realize that what seemed like a short questionnaire in fact consists of pages upon pages of questions.
Frustrating, isn’t it?
But it’s not the survey’s length that irritates you, right? It’s the fact that its creators didn’t tell you upfront about it.
There’s plenty of advice suggesting the most optimal survey length and time it should take a participant to complete it.
For instance, according to SurveyMonkey, respondents take more time per question when responding to a shorter survey. When presented with a longer questionnaire though, they tend to move quickly between questions. This suggests that longer surveys suffer from poor data quality as many users would speed through the survey. Shorter surveys, then, may return better data.
Verint, for instance, suggests that customer feedback survey should be no longer than 10-20 questions.
But regardless of your survey’s length, you should help your respondents plan for taking it.
You need to tell them, approximately, how long it will take to complete the survey, as Amazon does below. This will help avoid situations when they may have to abandon it due to time constraints.
Consider using progress indicators such as a progress bar or an in-survey notification that tells your participants how deep into the survey they are.
# 3. Use Your Audience’s Language
Using jargon may alienate your participants and push them to abandon your survey out of frustration. When you compile your questions, make sure to use language that feels familiar to your audience. (If you did a survey on air conditioner satisfaction, for instance, would you ask the customer about how they feel about the conditioner’s exhaust hose or run capacitor?)
Make sure that you keep all questions simple, brief, and direct. You can feel free to be playful, as long as you don’t distract participants from the overall goal of the survey.
Also, acknowledge any particularly difficult questions. Encourage participants to leave a detailed answer and thank them in advance for doing so.
#4. Don’t Suggest Any Answers
At times we tend to construct questions with the goal of directing participants into giving specific answers.
After all, who wants feedback to confirm that users don’t need a particular feature you’ve spent months and months developing? Or that the layout you feel so proud of is actually unusable?
But as any good product manager can tell you, it’s more important to get unbiased, honest feedback than feedback which simply inflates the ego. Isn’t that the point of a survey, anyway?
For example, I recently began a survey which started with the question, “On a scale of great to amazing, how awesome do you think we are?”
This question didn’t allow me to suggest that the product in question was anything but “awesome.” It also kept me from completing the survey, since I was turned off by the biased question.
The truth may hurt, but when it comes to surveys, getting it is essential.
#5. Run a Pilot Survey First
Finally, never launch the survey without prior testing.
Always run a pilot test to assess if:
- Users understand what you expect them to do.
- Questions are clear and don’t deter users from completing the survey.
- Technology doesn’t prevent participants from taking part.
Send your survey to a small selection of participants first. Analyze their response to find out if they had any problems completing it. If, for any reasons, they did, revise the questionnaire. Make sure that users can understand it and there are no obstacles preventing them from completing it.
Ask participants for feedback on your participation request to find out if it encourages them to take part.
Repeat the process until you’re 100% sure the survey is easy to use and that you’re making a compelling case for participating.
Customer feedback surveys provide an opportunity to get a deep understanding of user needs, pain points, expectations.
However, many users avoid taking surveys at all cost.
So to increase response rate, explain the reasons for running the research, set expectations, use language your customers relate to, and test if you make a compelling case when inviting them to participate.