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Increasing Survey Response Rates: Why it Matters

  • author

    Brenda Stoltz

  • posted

    Dec 31, 2019

  • topic

    Academic Research, Market Research

Increasing Survey Response Rates: Why it Matters

You’re tasked with creating surveys to take the pulse of your audience, but beyond that, increasing survey response rates isn’t something you give much thought to. You assume the few responses you get should be accurate enough to consider a sample of the whole. Unfortunately, that’s not the case. Learn more about why increasing survey response rates is so important.

The Importance of Increasing Survey Responses

So why does increasing survey response rates matter? Because a survey can only go to a slice of the entire population or of a demographic, it is important to make sure that the slice is representative of the whole. If, for example, 39% of the business owners you survey say they’ve never taken out a loan, you need the confidence to presume that about 39% of all business owners might be in the same boat.

The more responses you get to your research study or survey, the more reliable and accurate your data will be.

A sizable and representative set of respondents means that you can rely on the data. Reliable data leads to the insights you can be confident about. Insights that can drive positive business change.

Poor participation in a survey, on the other hand, can have a detrimental impact. A small and skewed data set can lead to invalid inferences and insights which can lead to poor decision making that can hurt your business.

The squeaky wheel syndrome is a common example of issues caused due to poor respondent participation. It happens when only people who have had a negative experience with your brand respond to your survey, making the results look like you have a lot of unhappy customers! Often, customers who have had a positive or neutral experience won’t bother to fill out a survey, but those who are angry sure will!

As you can see, survey response rates play a big role in the validity and usefulness of data you collect. That’s why focusing on getting as many responses as possible needs to be a priority.

How Many Respondents is Enough?

Now that you realize the importance of a high survey response rate, the question is: how many do you need?

To determine what your sample size should be, look at three factors:

  • Population size
  • Margin of error
  • Level of confidence

If you are surveying American small business owners, how many are there in the country? That should be fairly easy to find out. Next, your margin of error will be the percent of your survey results that represent the overall population’s opinion. The smaller this number, the closer you are to having a pretty precise view of the population. We’ll come back to this in a second.

Finally, you need a number assigned to how confident you are that the population would choose an answer within the range you provide in the survey. For example, you’re 95% sure that small business owners will say they make between $50,000 and $300,000 in revenues. There’s what’s called a z-score you can use to assign a value to that confidence level. Once you plug in that z-score to this margin of error calculator , you can get that number.

Once you have your three numbers, you can calculate how big your sample size should be .

Top Ways to Increase Response Rates

Once you have your ideal sample size, your mission is to get at least that many to respond to your survey. How you set up your survey will determine your success.

Start by offering rewards that are commensurate with the amount of time the survey requires . A survey that takes 20 minutes to complete should have a higher-value reward than one with just three short questions.

Also, let participants know how long the survey will take. If they are unsure whether it will take 5 minutes or an hour, they’re less likely to complete it. A bar indicating where they are in the completion process will help.

Let participants choose their rewards , rather than limiting them to an option they may not want. Having the ability to select the gift card they want most will inspire them to complete the survey!

Qualify people early so they don’t invest too much time before discovering that they aren’t eligible for your rewards.

You can also send a reminder email so that those who have forgotten about your survey are spurred to complete it. Create a sense of urgency . Make it clear in the survey email you send that they must complete the survey by a certain date to qualify for the reward.

And be prompt in sending that reward email! No one wants to wait weeks to get their reward, so automate the process to simplify your own administrative work and to ensure that respondents are more likely to want to take your surveys in the future.

Increasing survey response rates is a critical task to ensure the success of your surveys and market research projects. Make sure you’re investing the time and resources into ensuring the maximum response for yours.

Take your research to the next level. Find out how to optimize surveys with our free optimization checklist.

Want to improve your survey responses? Click here to download a free DIY market research checklist.

about the author
Brenda Stoltz

Brenda has over 20 years of experience building, selling and marketing products for F100 and start-ups.

Brenda has over 20 years of experience building, selling and marketing products for F100 and start-ups.