Surveys are an effective tool, there is little room to doubt that. However, if they are to reach their maximum effectiveness then one of the key areas to focus on is the survey response rate. In the prior installment, we reviewed the basics of response rate calculation, the importance of knowing your target audiences and the benefits of a focused and well-designed survey.
It cannot be understated that it is critical to maintain your contact list and to keep it up to date. Bad addresses equate to lower response. If you are working with a panel then it is advised that you periodically ask panelists to update their contact information. This is less of a concern if you are working with a sample provider as they bear the burden of keeping names and addresses current.
Pilot tests, also known as soft launches, are important for they can give you a rough estimate of response rate and completion time. This technique will also identify any issues in your survey logic and potentially any pain points where respondents abandon the survey. This information can be re-routed back into revising the survey.
Keep an eye on your watch and your calendar. We have learned from our marketing colleagues that there are better times to launch than others. Tuesday through Thursday are best for driving B2B survey response. Day of week is less of an issue for consumer-based surveys. Still it is best to avoid major holidays, and periods when respondents may be on vacation. What point during the day is it best to launch an invitation? This is a subject of debate with some saying it is best to launch overnight while others are 8 – 5 focused. In my practice, I stagger the release times from mid-morning through mid-afternoon, avoiding the start and the end of the work day. You may consider testing different time and day of the week combinations to see what works best.
Pre-notifying potential respondents gives them a heads up that something important is about to hit their inbox or mailbox. Notifications can be sent along with bills, newsletters or invoices. The communication should stress the nature of the survey and its importance, from the perspective of the respondent.
The invitation, like all good direct marketing copy, has to ask for the sale. In this case, we are asking respondents to give up a few minutes of their time. A survey invitation should have a compelling subject line that should be tailored to the group you are sending to. For example, new customers might see a subject that says “Thank you for becoming an Acme member.” A service call follow-up might have a subject line like “Regarding your service call on March 9th”. Frequently, larger organizations that have multiple units or divisions may address the invitation from an appropriate executive such as the VP of customer service or director for a specific product line.
The content of the email invitation should stress the relevance of the survey to the target audience as well as asking for their open and honest response. It is best practice to include a reasonable time estimate for completion (which should be verified by your soft launch). Creating a sense of urgency, by including a respond by date, will help increase motivation to respond. Always provide contact information so if a respondent has questions they know who to reach. Lastly, ensure them their data will be held in confidence, and if they so desire they may opt-out. Keeping their confidence is vital regardless if the survey is anonymous or if you are tracking respondents.
Increasing survey response rates is a moving process with many levels. Both this post and the prior in this series offer tested real-world tips for moving the response needle in the right direction.