How to increase the response rate to online surveys

The response rates to online surveys have fallen across all industries since the introduction of the GDPR , in some cases by half. What can companies do to increase it? Here you will find eight practical tips.

1. Tell everyone: we’re starting a survey!

In many companies, online surveys run “on the side”. Few of the potential attendees and staff know they are taking place. Communicate the survey like a big new project. This will prepare the participants and your colleagues for it – and arouse their curiosity:

  • In the newsletter , in social media and on the website, you explain why the survey is taking place and what your aim is (for example to improve products and services or to find out the latest opinions on a topic). Include a link to the survey or a login option. Explain what benefits the participants have: They gain new insights, can influence the development of your products or the service of your company is improved.
  • School all employees who have contact with the potential participants (salespeople, account managers or call center agents): they should bring up the survey every time they meet and explain the benefits of participating.
  • Put a brief note in your email signature four to six weeks before the survey. You can link to the blog article about the survey with the words “Why your opinion matters – find out”.

2. Send advance notice and arouse curiosity

Send an advance notice two to three days before the survey. In it you draw the participants’ attention to the survey and name the goal. An example:

  • “Hello Max, here at ABC GmbH we are introducing a short survey on customer satisfaction. With it you can tell us in a few minutes what is most important to you when working with us. Check your inbox for the invitation in the next two days. We look forward to hearing from you!
    Tina Musterfrau, CEO of ABC GmbH “
  • Use a clear subject, such as “Announcement: Tell us what you really feel”, “Coming soon: Survey on topic XY”.
  • Be brief and keep a consistent layout for the advance notice, survey, and invitation.

3. Personal addressing of each participant

As with sending newsletters, the same applies to online surveys: a personal approach ensures a higher opening rate and more participation. Write “Dear Ms. Mustermann” or “Hello Tim” instead of “Dear participant” or “Dear customer”.

Important when addressing the question personally: If you evaluate the survey anonymously, write it down. Otherwise the impression could be created that the answers are linked to the name. For international participants, send the survey in the appropriate language and also translate the invitation.

4. CEO as the sender

An email from Steve Jobs in your mailbox? You probably wouldn’t have hesitated for a second to read it. A message from Apple support or from “Steven from Market Research”, on the other hand, is less exciting. You can use this effect in surveys: The invitation to participate should come directly from your CEO. Insert – after prior agreement – his signature and his signature. On the website you can insert a statement from the management about the survey with a portrait photo. This underlines how important the survey is for your company. You arouse interest and motivate people to participate.

5. Don’t ruin your response rate yourself

You may know that: When you stayed at a hotel, you were annoyed by a bad breakfast buffet. You fill out an online survey on the booking portal and share your frustration. And it happens … nothing! Your motivation to answer another survey is sinking.

Many companies forget to tell participants how they used the results after taking an online survey. In doing so, they destroy their response rate themselves. By the time the next survey was carried out, the respondents had the impression that the survey had no effects. They are no longer willing to sacrifice their time.

Avoid this mistake. Did you perhaps start new projects in the company after the survey? Have new employees been hired to improve a service? You can publish this information – just like before the survey – in the newsletter, on the website or on social media. You should also contact individual participants personally: Imagine, after your hotel feedback, an employee called you, apologized and offered a voucher as compensation! Customers are pleasantly surprised when you write to them or call them after a survey. For sales, this can also be a welcome opportunity to contact important customers again.

6. Frequency and timing of the survey

Check who sends out surveys in your company and how many surveys the participants receive on average per month. If you write to your potential participants more than once a month, the surveys become less important. Depending on the industry and target group, that can be too much. The motivation to participate and the response rate decrease.

Weigh how much time your respondents have. Treat their precious time with respect. An example: You send out a satisfaction survey after every purchase and every service case. Check if this is really necessary. Your customers are very satisfied with the products and the delivery, but are they having problems with after-sales service? Reduce the number of surveys on product and delivery and focus your surveys on the critical after-sales area.

7. Target group of the online survey

A low response rate could be because you are promoting the survey to the wrong audience. An example: Maschinenbau GmbH sells high-priced tools to craft businesses. The order is processed completely digitally. A few weeks after ordering, customers are invited to a survey by email. The response rate is only a few percent, although the salespeople received enthusiastic feedback from the craftsmen during the conversation. A target group analysis shows that the survey ends up in accounting – because their e-mail address is known. In future, the survey will be placed on the website next to the instructions for the machine. In this way she reaches the craftsmen who work with the machines every day and who are happy to give feedback on their experiences.

8. Short sentences, clear language

“It would be very welcome if you avoided passive constructions and nesting sentences in your interview communication, and at the same time you would make it a lot easier for your participants if …” Stop! Nobody answers your survey with this writing style .

Write short, simple sentences. For each comma, check whether it can be replaced by a period. Use adjectives and filler words sparingly.

  • An example: Instead of “The survey is short, uncomplicated and easy to answer. We promise that we will check the answers individually ”you write:“ The survey consists of five short questions. It takes a maximum of four minutes to answer. We promise: We read every single answer. “

Avoid passive constructions and common places:

  • “We are constantly working with the results of the survey to improve our customer service. We therefore ask for your participation. ”Better:“ All service managers meet every month and we decide together what we want to improve on our hotline. So that we can do the right things, we need your feedback! ”This sentence creates a picture in the participant’s mind and motivates them to take part in the survey.

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