On How To Increase Your Survey Response Rates
1. Survey Response Rates
- Current PeoplePulse Clients:
recently conducted phone-based research of current
PeoplePulse clients to establish the survey response
rates that they are receiving for their various
research projects. The results are documented
With invite incentive:
With NO invite incentive:
Client Survey (short length*)
(with 1 follow-up)
(with 1 follow-up)
Candidate Survey (short length)
Client Satisfaction Surveys: (medium length**)
(with 1 follow-up)
(with 1 follow-up)
Short Length surveys consist of up to 12 questions
** Medium length
surveys consist of 12-25 questions
findings indicate conclusively that with all client
surveys, a follow-up / reminder to non-completing
recipients after the original invite send date is
essential. A follow-up within 10 days after the
initial invite is optimal.
an incentive is very important - research results
show it will typically lift response rates by
10-15% (depending on the quality and attractiveness
of the incentive to your target audience). The
consensus amongst many research experts is that
'useful, relevant information' is the most effective
form of incentive to business audiences.
for business-to-business initiatives money (incentives)
has never been an effective way to entice survey
participation. This is particularly true the higher
up in an organization you go. In our modern day
economy the real currency is knowledge. Consider
offering the respondent a personalized summary of
the findings, or access to other research you have
executed." (eg. white papers, salary surveys,
skills trends, innovative case studies, etc).
Towler, a Psychologist and Senior Partner of Creative
Organizational Design, also comments:
can increase survey response rates dramatically.
Our experience has shown that offering a worthwhile
incentive can entice up to 50% of the people who
would not normally complete the survey, to finish
it and send it in. This applies to both paper and
pencil surveys and ones that are presented on the
study of Response Rates and Response Quality of
Internet-based Surveys by Maastricht University
in the Netherlands concluded:
vouchers seem to be the most effective incentive
in long questionnaires, while prize draws are more
efficient in short surveys. A follow-up study revealed
that prize draws with small prizes, but a higher
chance of winning are most effective in increasing
the response rate."
finding is supported by the experience of Jonathan
Nye (Research Info, 1998):
recently finished a strictly web-based research
project where we e-mailed the prospective respondents,
(who were current customers and users of our client's
software) and asked them to visit the URL where
the survey was being hosted. By including the URL
in the original e-mail we made it very easy for
them to access the survey.
As an incentive our client offered one license of
their software package for everyday the survey was
online that would be raffled off to 7 lucky respondents.
This was very effective and yielded over a 20% response
"Post-Placement" surveys to clients asking
for feedback on specific recruitment assignments
within a week or two of the placement being made
yield a far greater response rate than the more
general "Client Satisfaction Surveys".
Feedback from other organisations suggests that
clients are generally quite receptive to timely
requests for feedback regarding a recent assignment
via a short survey. However, there seems to be a
perception that "Client Satisfaction Surveys"
are longer to complete and that results will perhaps
get 'lost' in the sea of responses.
Quinntessential's research of other non-recruitment
clients conducting online client satisfaction surveys
confirms this - a typical response rate is between
10 and 20% with incentives and follow-up reminders.
CustomInsight, a US company that designs and administers
surveys offered the following comments regarding
the link between response rates and survey types:
rates vary widely for different types of surveys.
Customer satisfaction surveys and market research
surveys often have response rates in the 10% - 30%
range. Employee surveys typically have a response
rate of 25% - 60%. Regardless of the type of survey
you are conducting, you can have a major effect
on the number of respondents who complete your survey."
surveys sent to successfully placed candidates typically
yield excellent response rates for current PeoplePulse
has shown that personalisation of e-mailed survey
invites can lift response rates by 7% or more. Dirk
Heerwegh's 2005 study into personalised invites
for online surveys (eg. 'Dear John' as opposed to
'Dear Customer') covered more than 2,500 survey
respondents and concluded that personalised survey
invites increased response rates by 7.8 percentage
points. In addition, respondents that received personalised
invites were 2.6% less likely to drop off before
completing all survey questions.
Response Rates - Further Research:
with traditional paper or phone research methods, the
rate of response for online surveys varies according
to a range of factors such as: the target audience being
surveyed, the nature of the survey content, the perceived
value of incentive being offered, the day of week and
time of day the survey takes place, the level of personalisation,
following information regarding response rates is drawn
from 199 online surveys conducted in the US with a total
of 523,790 invitations sent to potential respondents.
Online Survey Response Rates
survey response rate:
survey response rate (sample size of less than 1,000
rates vary greatly depending on the target audience
and the nature of the research. The average combined
response rates for all survey types is 26% (with incentives
and follow ups).
invitation lists are associated with lower response
rates. It is important to use as focused and high-quality
e-mail list as possible (especially when acquiring
your sample on a paid basis.
Online Survey Response Times
half of online survey responses are likely to arrive
in the first day.
out of eight responses arrive within the first week
recommend at least 2 weeks as a run time for surveys
in which it is important to get a full response. This
is especially true for firm-wide employee surveys,
where employees may be on 2 week vacations.
Online Survey Responses and the Time of Day
rates and times are best for surveys sent out between
6:00AM and 9:00 AM, at the beginning of the work day
but not on Monday morning.
response times are quicker in the evenings, response
rates are low.
related surveys to be sent after 3:00 PM should wait
until the next business day.
The length of the survey is seen to have a negative
influence on mail survey response rates in that the
longer the survey, the more likely it is that the response
rate will be lower (Herberlien & Baumgartner, 1978;
Steele, Schwendig & Kilpatrick, 1992; Yammarino,
Skinner & Childers, 1991). Recent studies have also
indicated that respondents in business-oriented studies
were more sensitive than consumers to survey length
(Jobber & Saunders, 1993) and that survey length
was one of the main reasons for business persons' non-response
(Tomasokovic-Devey, et al., 1994).
of an issue to the sampled population has been found
to have a strong positive correlation with response
rate for postal and Internet-based surveys (Sheehan
& McMillan, 1999; Watt, 1999). Salience has been
defined as the association of importance and/or timeliness
with a specific topic (Martin, 1994). For example, a
survey on homeowner taxes would likely be more salient
to a population of homeowners than a population of college
noted that "if a person attaches little interest
or importance to the particular content of a survey,
then it will not matter if the survey form is short;
the person still is unlikely to respond."
Which incentive performs better? A $2,500 sweepstake
OR a $2 cash reward for everyone?
a study conducted by e-Rewards Market Research, two
random sample selections utilised: 4,000 people were
invited to complete the survey for entry into a sweepstakes
drawing of $2,500, and another 4,000 people were invited
to complete the survey for $2.00 in cash. Both groups
launched and closed on the same day of the week and
the same time of the day. It was a one-minute survey
about books and music.
results: Within 7 days after sending the invite,
response rates were:
for $2 cash 'pay all' sample.
for $2500 sweepstake sample.
Kurt Knapton, Executive Vice President, e-Rewards Market
Case Study One - Online Surveys Lessons
Learned by IBM
e-business Innovation Centre in Toronto
ran an online business-to-business survey
between 2000 and 2001, and after tweaking
a number of variables they managed to double
their response rates in the second year
of running the survey. Here are some of
the lessons they learnt:
length - Kept the survey to a minimum.
In 2000 the survey was 37 questions. For
2001, we condensed the survey to 20 -
24 questions, and greatly reduced the
number of mouse clicks required to complete
honest about how long the survey will
really take - Our first draft survey
would have taken much longer than our
promised 10 minutes to complete. We did
not want to annoy the respondent (and
so affect our credibility and response
rates), so we shorted the survey to ensure
it would take no more than 10 minutes
we promised it would.
value, value, value - In our experience,
online survey response rates increase
dramatically when the participant gains
value from responding. For the 2001 survey,
we identified multiple and relevant value
for responding to the survey. We offered
a copy of our final results, additional
learnings on executions, and added a contest
component as additional incentive.
the survey mid-week, during mid-afternoon
- Most e-mail users will start their Monday
mornings cleansing their mailboxes of
non-corporate or personal emails. The
likelihood of your email being read is
increased by sending out e-mail invitations
mid-week, after 12pm. Other e-mail marketing
strategies (e.g. sender and subject line
testing) can contribute to higher response
1 reminder e-mail to the survey invitation
- Standard to an online survey execution
is sending out one reminder email to the
survey invitations. Our reminder email
generated 15% more responses.
our target market, fax invitations were
not found to be effective - Out of
1811 fax invitations, we received only
32 responses or a 1.8% response rate.
for some open ended questions - Allow
customers the opportunity to provide some
open-ended answers instead of answering
just "other". It can be disappointing
at the close of a survey to discover very
high "other" response. This
indicates that there is an insight that
has not been presented in the options
provided in the closed question format.
To counter this from happening, we added
some open-ended questions whereby the
respondent could articulate what the "other"
answer meant. For report writing, these
open-ended responses can be used to confirm
or articulate a finding.
Case Study Two - E-mail Subject Line
a simple example of how optimising your
email process can work:
In this example, the target opt-in list
was broken up into three randomly selected
groups. Three different emails were sent
containing the same body text but different
are the headlines and results:
Line 1: FIRSNAME, November Client
Attraction Newsletter out now
Click through rate: 20.3%
Line 2: FIRSTNAME, heres
a new 7 Marketing Trends report for you"
Click through rate: 28.0%
Line 3: FIRSTNAME, 7 Marketing
Trends I think you should know about
Click through rate: 45.6%
winning headline outperformed the second
best headline by 63% and the worst
headline by 125%!
this type of split test an integral part
of your online marketing process allows
you to ramp up your results by orders of
magnitude on an ongoing basis.
factors that can influence the effectiveness
of email subject lines are Personalisation
FIRSTNAME, how to improve your
profits will perform better than
How to improve your profits.
Proximity means writing your subject
lines such that they convey your message
as quickly as possible (preferably in
the first 4 or 5 words). Most email clients
[eg. MS Outlook] only display the first
few words of a subject line, so it pays
to make them count. Subject Line 3 above
communicates the most information the
fastest, which is why I believe it performed
Source: Will Swaynes blog - http://www.marketing-results.com.au/blog
"What survey response rate can I expect?"
Survey response rates vary widely and depend on a variety
of factors. It is difficult to predict the level of
survey participation you will receive, but with understanding
of certain factors that influence response rates, you
may be able to determine approximately, or even increase
your response rate.
Response rates can be influenced by factors such as
customer loyalty, brand recognition, incentives (ranging
from honorarium monetary payments and prizes to published
survey results), invitation wording (how well you pitch
your survey to potential participants), marketing of
survey, perceived benefit from participating in survey,
customer demographics, how actively customers or employees
are engaged in the improvement process, and other things.
An important incentive to survey respondents is that
their opinions will be heard and action will be taken
based on their feedback. If respondents believe that
participating in a survey will result in real improvements,
response rates may increase, as will the quality of
Response rates can soar past 85% (about 43 responses
for every 50 invitations sent) when the respondent population
is motivated and the survey is well-executed. Response
rates can also fall below 2% (about 1 response for every
50 invitations sent) when the respondent population
is less-targeted, when contact information is unreliable,
or where there is less incentive or little motivation
Internal Survey Response Rates
surveys (i.e. a company surveying its employees) generally
have a much higher response rate than external surveys
(e.g. surveys aimed at customers or people outside of
Internal surveys will generally receive a 30-40% response
rate or more on average, compared to an average 10-15%
response rate for external surveys. Response rates may
be even higher if employees feel comfortable with the
survey environment and feel that their anonymity is
an Australian-built online survey tool:
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tool used extensively by Australian and New Zealand
based organisations to conduct online customer
and employee surveys.
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Ways to Improve Online Survey Response Rates - Spencer
E. McNeil, Director of Research Services, Primary Point,
Current PeoplePulse clients - phone-based research
Dillon, Laurie, 2001 - Centres for IBM e-business Innovation:
Interactive Marketing and Brand Strategy Practice for
the Canadian Marketing Association
Herberlien & Baumgartner, 1978; Steele, Schwendig
& Kilpatrick, 1992; Yammarino, Skinner & Childers,
Hostedwire.com - http://www.hostedwire.com/200503/newsletter.html#faq2
Journal of Computer-Mediated Communication - http://www.ascusc.org
Jobber & Saunders, 1993
Jonathan - Research Info, 1998
Sheehan & McMillan, 1999; Watt, 1999
SuperSurvey - http://www.supersurvey.com/papers/supersurvey_white_paper_response_rates.htm
Tomasokovic-Devey, et al., 1994
Public Opinion Quarterly 2005 - Personal saluations
and email survey response rate. By Dirk Heerwegh