Help! Another Survey in My Inbox! – Part 2, The Business Side


At first thought, many businesses and organizations may feel like they know who their customers are – whoever receives or buys my goods, products, services, or resources, including my employees, board or advisory committee members, and community partners.  But not so fast! That’s just identifying them. But what exactly can you say about your relationship with each one? More importantly, what do your customers tend to say about you? The only sure way to learn what your customers think is to solicit their feedback. There are many ways or opportunities for businesses to do that through focus groups, phone interviews, personal testimonies, open forums, blog posts, or even town hall meetings – just to name a few.  But the most commonly used method for collecting customer feedback is through surveys.

Unfortunately, even though surveys are widely used because they are low cost, time efficient, and can reach a broad spectrum of people fast, the reports show the average response rate may range between 10-15%.  In other words, if you send a survey to 2,000 customers expected to only receive approximately 300 responses.  Now sure, of course, there are a number of factors to consider which will cause response rates to vary from one occurrence to another. But here are few things to consider to increase your business’s response rates. To start, ask the following questions.

  1. 1. Is my survey too long? While there is no golden rule for how long a survey should be, consider your audience. In my professional opinion, I say don’t burden your customers with surveys that may take more than 5-10 minutes to complete, or 3-5 minutes for some of audiences.

  1. 2. Are my customers experiencing survey burnout? While customer relationship management (CMR) software are great tools for collecting consumer feedback, offering customers a survey too often minimizes interest. No one wants to keep filling out your survey week after week or month after month. They gave you their feedback once already, so why do you need it again, so soon?

  1. 3. Am I being strategic in the format and method I choose to administer the survey? There is a technological gap between Generation X, Y, and Z and the Baby Boomers. Again, consider your audience.  While some people sleep with smartphones in their hands, there is still a whole community of consumers who just do not want to be bothered so an online survey is not for them.  The format and method should be chosen according to what would best maximize the highest rate.  The old paper method at the end of a workshop as the ticket out the door will guarantee a high response rate versus an email to click on a link later.  Unless of course completing the survey online is somehow part of the requirements, but that’s usually not the case.

  1. 4. Are my questions clear and concise? Have you ever heard the saying, “less is best.” The same holds true with survey questions.  For each question remember to keep it simple, narrow the focus to one thought or concept at a time, and eliminate extra, unnecessary wording.

  1. 5. Do my response choices make sense? There is nothing more unattractive than to be asked to select from response choices that do not fit the question. Make sure your response choices are reasonable and customers are not forced to respond to choices that don’t make sense and/or choices that don’t fit their situation.  If a customer feels like they can’t answer a question they are left with no choice but to either select anything, skip the question, or in the worst case scenario, quit taking the survey. Either way, the reliability and validity of your data is now at risk.

Keep these 5 tips in mind to help maximize your rate of responses and quality of feedback!