Combating Survey Fatigue, One Question at a Time



Customer feedback is an integral part of any organization's customer experience program because you cannot improve customer experience without knowing how customers feel about recent transactions, products, or employee interactions. However, it is this continuous need for feedback that toes the fine line of tipping your customers toward survey fatigue.

How many times this week have you been invited to provide feedback to a company with which you've recently interacted? Customer experience professionals must compete for time and attention with surveys from many sources received on different devices, some promising the chance to win a gift card, and others just requesting a respondent's time.

Organizations conducting these surveys are struggling with declining survey response rates and low engagement. This makes it critical to create surveys that are fun and engaging, and above all, relevant, to reduce mid-survey fatigue. Effective management of customer experience requires an innovative approach to overcome survey fatigue, avoid frustration, and ensure the integrity of the data collected. It's important that survey designers have the tools they need to create highly engaging surveys, quickly and easily.

Survey Motivation

Customers are sophisticated buyers, and a one-size-fits-all approach to requesting feedback simply won't work. For example, web surveys perform very well, but what if they are opened on mobile devices and lead to frustration due to tiny buttons and hard-to-read scales? What if you're catching respondents at the wrong time for them to respond?

Understanding your customers and what motivates them will ensure you have a clear, all-encompassing picture of your target audience. The more you know about them, the better you can shape surveys to their needs and particular tastes, therefore increasing the likeliness they will be motivated to take part in them.

There isn't a simple, cookie-cutter answer, as people have different motivations for taking part in surveys. These motivations can be either extrinsic (incentive-driven) or intrinsic (information or power seekers who want to influence the company). Once you've pinpointed where your customer segments fit, you can tailor surveys to target their specific motivations.

Survey Creation

There are a few key tips for voice of the customer professionals to keep in mind when creating surveys, including the length, design, and formatting of questions.

With regard to length, surveys are getting shorter. For online and mobile, the majority are between three and eight minutes which, at least for market research surveys, is the sweet spot. However, for some customer experience surveys, it's best to aim for even shorter than that. Open text responses, particularly using dynamic text that prompts respondents to provide more detail as they write, can replace several checkbox questions and deliver much richer insight. These questions do, however, require more thought from customers, so use them sparingly and only at key touch points in the customer's particular journey with your company.

As for design, you're asking respondents for a favor (to offer their feedback), so you must make it enjoyable for them. Consider the design and formatting of the questions and how complicated it might be (or appear to be). If the question looks difficult or time-consuming, it's likely they will stop all together. Also know that overly complicated matrix questions can look different on mobile devices and, therefore, lead to higher dropouts and lower data quality. Look for other options.

Don't ask questions to which you already know the answer. Being asked to provide a name and email address when a company has just emailed you a personalized survey request shows a lack of consideration and immediately wastes valuable time. Get your IT systems connected to pre-populate basic information held in your CRM database.

Last, but certainly not least, leverage multimedia and gamification. Whether this is implementing audio and video questions or using drag-and-drop method, it'll keep respondents engaged.

Deploying the Survey

Once you've created the survey and tailored to your business needs and respondents' motivations, it's now time to deploy the survey. But there are many factors that must be considered before you start hitting the send button. These include the following:

  • Time of day. Establish the time of day best for different customer groups so you can schedule your invitations at the right time for their time zones.
  • Email versus SMS invites. This can vary depending on the country. Regionally speaking, American and Western culture is different than Asia. SMS invites tend to have a higher opening rate in Asia.
  • Email subject line (if sending via email). You don't want participants to think it is spam, or for it to get caught in spam filters . Think about the wording in your titles carefully.
  • Consistency. Respondents are creatures of habit. Using the same template means respondents will get used to your invites.
  • Reminders. Send out at least one reminder. After three reminders, people might dropout or complain, so there is a careful balance to strike.
  • Value respondents' time. Make it clear that you value their time and willingness to complete the survey.

After going through these tips step by step and deploying targeted, engaging surveys, will we be any closer to a world in which survey fatigue is a thing of the past? Probably not entirely, but sticking to these methods and best practices will ensure you can better engage your customers and gather actionable, insightful data to enhance their customer experience and your business initiatives.


Shelly Chandler is vice president of customer experience consulting at Confirmit.