Editor’s note: Dan Rangel is director of research solutions at Chicago-based market research firm Survox, and president of the Great Lakes Chapter of the Marketing Research Association. This is an edited version of a piece that originally appeared here under the title, “How to reduce respondent fatigue and improve response rates.”
I don’t think I’m going out on a limb when I say that taking surveys is probably not on most people’s bucket list for life achievements. Nonetheless, as a career market researcher, I find today’s diminishing response rates and overall public apathy for surveys very disconcerting.
But best practices in combating low participation do exist. Through years of field experience spanning multiple industries, I have learned that success today starts with offering what people expect: choice, convenience and a positive experience.
Phone-based surveys – live interviews (CATI) or automated (IVR) – reach all demographics including seniors, rural and select socio-economic groups – and provide a convenient means to engage respondents. Research shows that IVR is particularly effective for experience measurement programs where phone contact information is readily available, target respondents are less tech-savvy and/or Web access is problematic.
I’m currently working with a national retailer that is monitoring quality of service delivery and overall customer experience via an outbound IVR program. Of the 170,000 customers serviced monthly, the retailer has been able to collect 25,000 completed interviews each month, achieving a 13 percent engagement rate, proving IVR to be an effective tool to measure customer satisfaction.
Minimize sample to maximize results
A second best practice is to target who you recruit to the survey. If your goal is to collect feedback monthly about each of your stores or each of your agents, then you only have to invite enough customers to provide a representative distribution of respondents. You can minimize the requests and still get the valuable insights without overusing the same folks time after time – making the experience fresh.
Make it easy
Offering respondents choice and convenience leads us to a third best practice: give them a choice of Web + phone – live or automated. In order to take convenience a step further, respondents can start a survey on the phone, and if necessary, stop and later complete the survey on the web.
Antidote to respondent fatigue
Making it easy and convenient for the respondent to participate can also contribute to a better overall experience. For business, surveys done properly can be a positive branding touchpoint, in addition to being a source for collecting valuable customer insights. It’s important that the survey experience does not overwhelm the respondent, thus contributing to respondent fatigue.
Which brings us to another best practice: implement contact frequency rules to eliminate over-surveying of the respondent.
Choice. Convenience. A positive experience. People have come to expect this as the norm – whether in purchasing products and services for home or office, in-person or on the Web. We should not be surprised that they expect no less when it comes to participating in surveys.