What is Response Rate, and Why Does It Matter?
The percentage of people who respond to a survey is called the response rate, this ratio is important, and shouldn’t be left to chance. High survey response rates help to ensure that survey results are representative of the target population. A survey must have a good response rate in order to produce accurate, useful results. Some analysis methods have sample size minimums, and while you can use formulas to determine the number of responses you must have before you can have confidence in the results, generally, you want the largest number of people possible to respond.
Calculate the response rate by dividing the number of people who submitted a completed survey (or most of the survey) by the number of people you attempted to contact. If you asked 185 participants to complete the survey and 107 responded, the response rate is 107/185 or 58%.
Predicting Response Rates
It is difficult to predict the level of survey participation you will receive; survey response rates vary widely and depend on a variety of factors. With a better understanding of what influences response rates you may be able to estimate or even increase your response rate.
Response rates can be influenced by factors such as customer loyalty, brand recognition, incentives, invitation wording, perceived benefit from participating in the survey, demographics and how actively respondents are engaged in the improvement process, among other things.
For survey respondents, an important participation incentive is that their opinions will be heard and some action will be taken based on their feedback. If respondents believe that participating in a survey will result in real improvements, response rates increase, as does the quality of the feedback.
Internal surveys (i.e. employee surveys) generally have a much higher response rate than external surveys (e.g. customer satisfaction surveys). 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. Those email surveys you seem to always get after you make a purchase get 1-5% response.
Response rates can soar past 40% 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 to respond.
What Can You Do to Improve Survey Response Rates?
Manage Survey Length – Research has shown that surveys should take 5 minutes or less to complete. Although 6 – 10 minutes is acceptable, longer than 11 minutes will likely result in significant abandonment rates. On average, respondents can complete 5 closed-ended questions per minute and 2 open-ended questions per minute.
Provide Value – Offer a copy of the final results (when practical), and offer a relevant, worthwhile incentive
Send Reminders – Limit yourself to no more than two reminder emails, change the time of day and the day of the week that you send them out
Make Survey a Part of Your Process – Having salespeople tell all new customers that you send out a quarterly customer feedback survey which they must fill out because you value your customer’s opinions and consistently make improvements to your products and service levels based on your customer’s feedback.
Order Questions Logically – By keeping your survey questions logically ordered, you give yourself the best possible opportunity to receive higher response rates. Start with screening questions, move through the general questions (and open-ended if you must have them), then wrap things up with the demographics questions to help you with segmentation.
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