This is the second part of my mini-series on how to maximize your survey responses rates. Thanks for reading the first part and coming back for this one!  Let’s dive right in.

If you execute well on the following 10 items, you should have great success in achieving optimal response rates for your survey and, subsequently, feeling confident about your findings and recommendations. These tips apply to any type of survey you conduct: employee, partner, customer, etc.

1. Your List/Audience 

  • Survey the right/relevant audience
  • Ensure list quality, accuracy, and validity
  • Realize that different audiences elicit different response rates (for a variety of reasons), including B2C versus B2B

2. Pre-Survey Communication

Before you launch your survey, let customers know what your objectives are:
  • Why is their participation/feedback important?
  • What will you be asking them about?
  • How will the survey be delivered/conducted?
  • When will they get the survey – and how frequently?
  • How will you be using the feedback and will you close the loop?

3. Survey Invitation

The survey invitation is critical to the success of your survey deployment. I’ll devote a blog post to your invites in the very near future, but in the meantime, the key aspects to keep in mind are:
  • Maximize deliverability
  • Customize the content
  • Optimize the timing of the deployment (hour, day, date, etc.)

4. Touch Rules/Timing

Touch rules refer to when and how often you will survey someone. Consider how often you will conduct the survey, the interval or time between surveys, and the different sources of surveys within your organization. Your touch rules may vary by survey type and number of surveys in the initiative.

Another aspect is timing of the survey; this relates to recency of the event and freshness of the experience. Both impact the likelihood of a customer to respond to the survey.
5. Survey Design
If you have followed the tips I gave in my earlier blog post on survey design, you’re well on your way. All of the items outlined in the post drive response rates; in addition consider:
  • Personalizing/customizing the survey to make it more relevant
  • Appearance counts
  • Give respondents adequate time to respond
  • Consider alternate modes of data collection to supplement your online survey efforts
6. Pilot Test
Conduct a pilot test of your survey before going out to the larger audience in order to get a preview of potential response rates and to test:
  • Invitation deliverability
  • Overall design
  • Navigation
  • Data integrity
7. Survey Reminders
Reminding customers and employees about outstanding surveys is critical to maximizing response rates; I’ve seen response rates as much as double (over what was achieved with the invitation alone) after the reminder was sent.
For reminders, you should consider the same things as noted in #3. Here are some general guidelines on number of reminders and timing when conducting transactional or relationship surveys. If you’re conducting other types of marketing surveys, I would remain conservative on the number of reminders.
Transactional Surveys
# reminders = 1
Interval = 3-5 days after invite
Relationship Surveys
# reminders = 1-2
Interval = 5-7+ days after invite
8. Refresh
If you’ve been conducting the same survey(s) to the same people using the same invitation(s), etc. for the last several years, it may be time for a refresh. As a matter of fact, you’ll likely want to revisit survey (and email) content regularly to ensure that you are still asking relevant questions, capturing metrics on emerging trends, keeping it fresh, etc. Your communications should announce the changes so that respondents are aware that it’s not the “same ol’ survey again.”
9. Incentives
I’d put incentives dead last on this list if putting them at #9 wasn’t a good setup for #10 – or I would exclude them completely. But I do list them because if I don’t, some would say it was a glaring omission and question my sanity. OK, so I’ll just address my opinion on incentives here and now.
First this: Incentives are more common for B2C surveys than for B2B surveys, and they are used for certain types of surveys or data collection methodologies (e.g., panel, focus groups) more often than others.
My stance is this: try conducting the survey without the incentives first. Incentives can/do increase response rates, but at what cost? Response bias? And literally at what cost? They can be expensive to manage and administer.
Know this: The best incentive is to act on the feedback, make improvements, and close the loop!
And that’s a good segue into #10.
10. Act, Improve, Close the Loop
Close the loop with your respondents. If they feel that their feedback is being heard and used, they will provide feedback again. Follow up on their feedback. Use it for service recovery. Make product and process improvements. But most important, you must let your respondents know what you’ve done! Communication is key!
Afterall, why are you collecting feedback, if not to create and to deliver superior customer experiences!