Proven Methods to Improve the Response Rate for Surveys

Interaction between people, either in the professional or business sphere, is usually bi-directional. When it comes to business, companies are communicating with their existing and potential customers. As for the professional sphere, it is more about the cooperation of the employers and employees.

To better understand each other or find out the points for improvement, surveys are usually conducted. One of the major factors characterising their effectiveness is the response rate for surveys.

There are different types of surveys that are used depending on the situation and circumstances.

Some could be conducted to discover the target audience preferences before the production starts. Others are aimed to evaluate the customers’ experience and their satisfaction with the quality of the products or services.

When it comes to the professional sphere, surveys are usually created to discover more about the employees’ interests and preferences.

In any case, the response rate for surveys is the factor that grabs lots of attention. It helps to define whether the sample was representative enough to consider the survey results as credible.

What is the response rate for the survey?

The response rate for the survey is used to estimate the results of the questionnaire-based market research or commercial analysis. Together with the completion rate, this index helps investigators to evaluate the subject of interest.

It is often considered that the response rate is the ratio between the number of people who completed the questionnaire and the total number of addressees. However, this formula stands for the completion rate – another parameter helping to assess the survey results.

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To calculate the response rate for the survey properly, it is necessary to take two variables into consideration.

The first one is the total number of people who have received the questionnaire and were asked to answer several questions. The second variable stands for the number of actual respondents – people who have at least started to answer the survey questions.

In fact, it considers all those people who have fully completed the survey and those who have just started to answer questions but have quit without submitting it.

Types of surveys

The variety of surveys can be mainly classified into several categories depending on their purpose, structure, and the channel of their distribution. Subsequently, the combination of these parameters also influences the response rate for surveys.


While most surveys are created for marketing purposes to evaluate the quality of services or products provided, there are also many other popular types.

For instance, a guest posting survey is made to assess the blog article and the information it provides for the readers. There are also short surveys on web pages aimed at exploring the users’ feedback as for the adequacy of the information provided.

Another purpose of surveys is to inspect the well-being of employees of either a small company or a big enterprise.

In that case, so-called pulse surveys with several short questions are used on a regular basis. There are also bigger surveys conducted within the company for defining the employees’ opinion regarding a certain occasion such as a corporate party, for instance.

In fact, the major part of surveys is dedicated to exploring and analysing customers’ experiences. They help to understand better the expectations of the target audience and the reaction of the customers towards new products.


When recalling any survey, a bulk of questions comes up at the top of one’s head. Those are usually questions either with multiple choice or open answers.

Depending on the purpose of a survey, its structure may vary from one company to another. In some cases, it might contain only a couple of questions with predefined answers. In others, it could comprise dozens of open questions, each requiring several sentences in response.

The structure of the survey and its visual representation usually have a high impact on the response rate for surveys. In case there are so many items in the questionnaire, this will seem rather challenging to complete.

Channels of distribution

As the times change, new channels of distribution evolve, some are left behind, while others remain. To reach as many people as possible, the companies need to select the channel for conducting surveys properly.

These days, online surveys are the most common owing to the implementation of modern technologies. This is the fastest way to reach the customers and also analyse their feedback.

Even though online surveys are prevailing, paper-based questionnaires and phone calls are still present. The former type is often used in instances when confidentiality means much either for the company or for its customers.

The importance of the high survey response rate

Given that this world is full of uncertainties, surveys, especially anonymous ones, help to reveal them. That is why the response rate for the survey should be preferably high in order to better analyse the dynamics of the things happening.

Even though people might have different opinions of the same thing, those could still be classified. As a result, many surveys include questions with multiple choice answers rather than open answers.

By analysing these answers, companies can make deliberate conclusions and further plans. Meanwhile, the high response rate ensures that there are plenty of people who have answered the questionnaire. As a result, the sample could be considered representative in such a case.

Many experts also emphasise that it is important to pay attention to the completion rate index along with the survey response rate. Even though both these parameters might seem similar, there is one significant difference between them.

The response rate is the ratio between all people who have received the survey and those who have at least opened it.

Ideally, this index should be around 50 percent. However, everything might depend on a variety of factors, including the structure of the questionnaire and the distribution channel.

The completion rate is the correlation between the total number of respondents and those who have completed the survey.

In fact, it would be perfect if this index results in 100 percent; however, this is not usually so in real life.

When analysing the response rate, it is also very important to consider the total number of questionnaires completed.

Even though both response and completion rates might be high, the total number of completed questionnaires could be 30, which means nothing in fact. In other cases, the survey response rate might be even below 30 percent, while the total number of the questionnaires completed could surpass 5000 even, which is really good.

In any case, the importance of the survey is obvious as it shows the subjective opinions of respondents. Meanwhile, a high response rate has lots of advantages for the companies as it helps to understand whether the results could be considered convincing enough.

Reaction of employees

When talking about corporate surveys, there are various types ranging from those aimed to investigate the ambiance inside the company to those that help to discover the core of the problem, if any.

For instance, when the staff turnover rate is rather high, detecting the reasons for employees quitting their jobs would be necessary. Thus, companies create surveys asking their ex-employees to answer several questions. Very often, such surveys are conducted in person or via phone calls to develop a personal approach.

Customers’ expectations

Getting feedback from current and prospective customers is crucial for the companies. Those could be surveys regarding the future product line or the recent experience of a consumer with the company.

By conducting such surveys, businesses align with the principles of social responsibility as an integral part of the brand image.

Further strategy development

Companies develop their products and services for their target audience, so getting feedback is obligatory. That way, companies would be able to align their strategy development correspondingly. Otherwise, the target audience showing no interest in the products does not make any good for companies.

When it comes to organisations, surveys help much when establishing core corporate culture. They also allow detecting the aspects that employees are not satisfied with and the things they adore about the company. Based on the responses of employees, the human resources department would be able to implement appropriate adjustments.

Better results

The most important thing about any conversation is the ability to listen and to hear other interlocutors. This concept could be applied to any sphere of life, including the professional and business ones.

While it might be sometimes impossible to talk to customers or employees face-to-face, a survey appears as the right means to establish this bi-directional conversation. In case both parties understand each other well, then the outcome of this interaction would be great.

How to increase the response rate for surveys

While it is clear that surveys are very important for getting the proper feedback, the response rate might not always be that high as desired. This depends on a variety of factors, including those that a company could not influence.

However, there are things businesses can do to improve the response rate for surveys as much as possible.

Use rewards

It happens that your current and prospective customers do not have enough motivation to fill out the survey. That is why they might simply skip your survey email or refuse to answer questions over the phone.

To make the surveys more exciting for your target audience, consider using rewards and incentives. Those could be discounts for the products and services of the company or some special offers that might interest customers.

As for the corporate surveys, the same principle could be applied here. Offer some bonuses such as a cup of coffee, an extra day off, or other incentives.

Ask for an immediate response

This aspect is mainly related to the post-purchase experience of seasoned or recent customers. Right after acquiring products or services, the consumer is presented with a short questionnaire.

This practice is common in both online and offline environments right after the purchase is made. Asking for an immediate response is crucial because a user has the most recent impressions. Meanwhile, sending a survey even after several days would not make much sense.

Choose the right channel

Selecting the right way of communication with the customers or employees appears to be one of the main factors influencing the response rate. Preferably, it should be the channel you used to communicate with the customer during the purchase.

In the case of the offline purchase at the physical store, it would be nice to give a paper form with a set of questions to the customer at the cashier desk. If the purchase was made online, using email as a communication channel would be great.

When it comes to market research surveys, those should preferably be done using survey tools available online. Those applications help to create user-friendly surveys and analyse data gathered based on the answers.

Adjust the number of questions

The structure and the components of the survey have a great impact on the desire of people to take it. When people see lots of questions, they might not even understand why they need to answer them.

That is why it is recommended that you create a questionnaire that contains only the most necessary points. Exclude any unnecessary questions that might frighten respondents and keep only the relevant ones.

Make it personal

Once people feel they are special, they would most likely react to the survey. Develop a personal approach when creating a questionnaire for the survey.

This is now possible owing to the modern tools for online survey creation. For instance, you might insert a special token that would insert the personal details of the respondent automatically in the questionnaire.

Send a reminder

When seeing a survey letter in the email box, customers might sometimes skip it. That is why you might consider sending a reminder for a survey so the customer would perceive it as important. This might be, however, more challenging to send a reminder in the offline environment.

In Summary

As you can see surveys are an inseparable part of modern communication. They have become a powerful tool for companies from various industries and of different sizes.

Surveys can help you make your products better, know more about your customers or employees, and make an overall positive impact on your business.

Of course, it’s truly vital to have high response rates to make those positive improvements.

That’s why we shared various methods – from rewards to personalisation – that will help you achieve better results.

Apply them to get higher response rate for surveys from your clients or employees, and make changes that will help your business grow.


About the Author

Mary Hunter is a successful American freelance lifestyle blogger with advanced writing skills. She had experience in editing, marketing, and her works appeared in different publications and website articles. Her main goal in life is not to set up any goals and keep working every day.

Team 6Q

Team 6Q