Whatever you’re surveying about, your data is only as reliable as your response rate. Whether you’re requesting course/instructor evaluations or surveying customers/stakeholders, most organizations want to get the best response rate they can. In this post, we explore the top four tips our clients have identified as moving the needle to improve response rates.

1. Examine the survey length

  • Make sure the survey takes no more than 15 minutes to complete.
  • Verify that the questions apply to all respondents.

TIP: If any questions do not apply to all respondents, consider asking a qualifying question at pertinent points in the survey, then setting up branching to show the conditional
questions only when necessary.

2. Make sure the survey is easy to complete

  • Choose a distribution method that respondents feel comfortable with (see Survey Format, below).
  • Consider personalizing the survey. At least personalize the greeting.
  • Keep survey questions simple and straightforward, and provide answer choices instead of open text wherever possible. See our blog post titled 4 Tips for Writing Better Evaluation and Survey Questions for details on how to do this.

3. Remind, remind, remind

  • Use a pre-survey notification message and follow the pre-notification with a copy of the survey including a cover message.
  • Contact non-respondents using combination of messages and surveys.
  • Consider a fourth send.
  • Consider sending reminders and invitations via multiple channels (email, LMS announcements, etc), even if the survey is delivered using only one channel.

4. Offer a variety of way to complete the survey

Consider offering multiple ways of responding (e.g., online + paper, paper + phone, or some other combination).

Tips for Online Surveys

  • Be sure to support mobile devices.
  • Keep your survey simple and friendly, particularly the first page.
  • Where possible, ensure anonymity.
  • Alert participants ahead of time. Communicate, communicate, communicate.

Tips for Paper Surveys

  • Consider pre-notification or commitment cards.
  • Send reminder cards to thank those who have responded and remind those who haven’t.
  • Provide return postage.
  • Include a strong cover letter in the mailing; people want to help, but only if they know the impact.
  • Consider redistributing the survey mailing itself at least once.
  • Consider using Certified Mail™ or Express Mail™ for crucial surveys to smaller groups.