5 Steps to Improve Your Survey Response Rate

Hand a customer a receipt with the request to complete an online survey and you’re likely to get a ‘yeah, sure’, which translates into ‘yeah, never.’ Having a customer ignore your request is one thing, but asking them to do something they dislike is harmful to your relationship. According to OpinionLab CMO John Levitt, “our research shows that surveys can actually damage your brand.” To understand why we need to put ourselves in the customer’s shoes. The task is to bring the receipt home, type in the survey web address, type in a long survey code, then participate in a survey that usually doesn’t respect the customer’s valuable time. This process serves the needs of the business, not the needs of the customer.

This puts retailers in a tough spot. Businesses need to hear from their customers in order to make smart business decisions but are unable to receive relevant feedback in a convenient way. So, what’s the solution?

Here are five best practices to achieve higher survey response rates:

1. Communicate with your customers the way they want

How do your customers like to communicate? Technology platforms have led to big changes, most notably with mobile. In your store customers are text messaging, posting on Facebook or Instagram, and reading Twitter. Why not communicate with them the way they prefer, and make it as easy for them to give feedback as it is to tweet? 85% of consumers said they would provide feedback to a business if they made it easier to deliver. Surveys over SMS, Facebook Messenger, or other mobile messaging platforms generate significantly higher response rates.

2. Identify clear objectives and stick to them.

It’s tempting to ask your colleagues for feedback on a survey and to have every department chip in a couple of questions that are ‘critical’. What you end up with is a 10+ minute survey that drags your customer through every department of the business. This is why 80% of consumers have abandoned a survey halfway through. Instead, keep a clear focus on the one or two areas you want feedback on, and resist the temptation to keep piling on detour questions.

3. Use open-ended questions.

One of the challenges of any survey is the questions you ask can dictate the feedback you get. Open-ended questions have the advantage of receiving more personalized feedback, providing insights that can drive entire business strategies. But open-ended feedback at scale is unstructured, requiring manual review of what can be tens of thousands of responses. The good news is that advances in Artificial Intelligence and more specifically Natural Language Understanding can apply structure to the responses to help categorize the data and organize insights.

4. Context is key

Hearing from more of your customers is a good thing, but hearing from them at the right time is even better. People are more willing to share their observations about their experience with your brand while it’s still fresh in their minds. Plus you have the added bonus of not having to rely on a customer’s recall several days later. Imagine if you could ask for and receive feedback as your customer leaves a store, pays a bill at a restaurant, or checks out of a hotel. This clear context will deliver higher quality data and a better response rate.

5. Be action focused

Your customers have taken the time to share their opinion with you. What do you do about it? Do you build a PowerPoint with charts, email it around the office, and look for an insight or two that you can implement next quarter? It’s certainly a disappointing result for a customer who had a real issue and lives in a world of instant replies. As far as they’re concerned, participating in a survey with no response is a waste of time, which further decreases survey response rates.

Implement an alert system that lets you know when there’s a customer response that merits immediate attention. Think of the survey as the beginning of customer dialogue, not a one off. That way, if you solve a problem, you can let that customer know. Remember the goal for any business is to get better — your toughest customers can be your most important.

Let’s turn the tide on survey response rates. Let the ideal customer experience lead your customer intelligence work, and you will build a stronger customer relationship and true competitive edge.