Two Survey Best Practices You Might Be Neglecting

By: Guest Blogger

September 28, 2015

By Koren Stucki, Vice President CEM Consulting

It’s hard to get people to respond to surveys. Response rates for the typical customer survey have been dropping over the past 20 years. That’s frustrating for businesses that want to have a customer focus, because surveys are a great way to get specific, solicited feedback on your brand.

There are many survey best practices that can help boost your response rates. Surveys should be short, targeted, and provide an optional space for write-in text. But there are a couple of important considerations that are often overlooked: branding your survey and being careful with your response scale.

Branded surveys can garner higher response rates because people are more willing to complete a survey when they know who it is from. However, organizations may neglect this step because of time, cost, or a mistaken belief that an unbranded or blind survey comes across as more official.

The opposite is actually true. A well-designed branded survey does better because of its familiarity and its implied credibility. Customers like knowing not only who is sending them a survey, but that the survey is an extension of the brand. The implication is that the customer can trust you with their information and that you are sincerely interested in taking action based on their opinions.

When using branded surveys, there is a possibility of introducing acquiescence bias where the respondent has a tendency to agree with questions regardless of their true feelings. For customer and employee surveys, they are commonly branded because you want to leverage the relationship the respondents have with you. Blind surveys on the other hand may be used when you want to know how you compare to another company and you want unbiased feedback.

Branding your survey is a straightforward project:

Make it look like you.  Use your logo, your colors, your fonts—all of the visual signifiers of your brand. Your survey should look, as much as possible, like an extension of your website and other online properties.

Make it sound like you. Your corporate communications should already have a consistent voice; your survey should be written in the same tone. Refer to your products and services in the same way that you do on your website or in your product collateral, so that it doesn’t seem like strangers wrote all of the questions.

The second way to improve your response rates is to think carefully about the choices you offer in your multiple-choice rating scale.

When creating rating scales, it’s usually best to use common scales where possible and to set the top of the scale where 5 is generally “completely satisfied” and 4 is “very satisfied”. The thinking is that it will help avoid bias that could inflate your results.   It’s also best to label your scales for clarity leading to more reliable results.  In addition, use a smaller scale where possible to keep it straightforward for the respondents, such as a 5-point scale which has research behind it to show it produces reliable results.

While there are several considerations for improving response rates and the accuracy of the results, these are two areas that will make a difference.