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A 5-Step Plan for Increasing Customer Survey Response Rates


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You probably already use surveys to track your company's performance or to analyze your market, but are you really getting the most out of them? Today, most surveys are overlooked by consumers, with low completion rates preventing companies from getting the information they need. There are ways to change this, however, and create effective surveys benefit both you and your customers.

Surveys not only allow you to track your progress, but they also help you retain current customers and increase customer satisfaction. When a customer receives the chance to give feedback, they feel that the business actually values their opinion. This doesn't mean, however, that they are willing to complete the survey. If you want to create surveys that will provide you with the important information you need, and also actually get completed, consider these five simple tips: 

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1. Keep your surveys short

While sometimes asking 50 questions in a survey may be critical to achieve the responses desired, keeping your survey short and concise is the best way to improve the completion rate. Further, with a shorter survey, you should blatantly state-- to set the expectation--how long the survey is expected to take, and shorter time commitments are better. The longer your survey takes to complete, the higher your chances of people dropping out and not completing the survey. You must keep in mind that while you may have a lot of questions you really want to ask your customers, they all likely have busy lives and can't—nay, won't—spend long taking a survey. Most survey participants are only willing to spend up to 10 minutes completing a survey, and SurveyMonkey research shows that significant abandonment rates will occur after 11 minutes. A one- to five-minute long survey is recommended and likely to generate the most responses.

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2. Make your questions clear and concise

The wording of your questions is one of the most important aspects of the survey. If a customer taking your survey can’t understand a question, they will likely skip the question if you offer a skip option, quit the quiz altogether, or answer the question and provide incorrect data. To avoid this, keep in mind the audience of your survey. Don’t include jargon or terminology in the questions that isn't universally familiar; stay away from long, wordy questions; and, don't assume that your survey respondents are comfortable and knowledgeable with acronyms. Keeping your questions as specific and direct as possible will improve your completion rates and provide you with more accurate data.

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3. Avoid open-ended questions

Open-ended questions allow survey participants to answer a question in their own words and can be great supplemental questions, providing useful qualitative information, but keeping those to a minimum and sticking with closed-ended questions will improve your survey completion rate and provide you with easier results to analyze. Closed-ended questions include yes/no, multiple choice, or a rating scale, and are typically easier to understand, quicker to respond to, and provide quantitative results. In turn, your customers will be more likely to actually respond to your survey.

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4. Offer an incentive 

Some people believe that if you offer survey participants an incentive, they will take the survey, but not answer honestly; answer in the way they believe the company would want; or, just choose random answers to get the survey completed to claim their prize. This assumption, however, has proved to be untrue. Offering your survey respondents a small incentive will increase the amount of responses you get, and it will also provide you with honest feedback. According to SurveyMonkey, 94% of survey takers who complete feedback surveys because of an incentive, actually give honest answers. Keep in mind, your incentive offer doesn't have to be large. Sometimes items as small and simple as a coupon or free trial can help boost the completion of your survey.

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5. Follow up with a thank you

After a customer completes your survey, it is important to follow up with a thank you message. A simple email thanking them for their time and input will make the customer feel appreciated and increase the odds that they will take more of your surveys in the future. Your customers do not have to take the time to complete your surveys, especially if you are not offering an incentive for completion, and recognizing their efforts to do so will improve your relationship with your customers and increase your future survey completion rates.

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Has your institution had success conducting surveys? What are some tips and best practices you would share to improve customer response rates? Let us know in the comments below!

This post was originally featured on SWBC's LenderHub blog on July 15, 2015; revised for content on September 30, 2015.

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