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Improve Your Customer Survey Response Rate with These 11 Must-Have Strategies

  • Conversion Rate Optimization

Customer surveys are pound-for-pound one of the best ways to put yourself in your customers’ shoes. The feedback you acquire lets you know your strengths and weaknesses so you’ll know what needs fixing and what’s fine as is.

But in order for customer surveys to be effective, you need people to actually complete them.

Unfortunately, the average response rate is only 24.8 percent.

Though by no means abysmal, it’s a number that could certainly use some improving.

The encouraging thing is that optimizing some key areas and properly executing a survey can raise your response rate to more than 85 percent.

That’s a huge leap!

But what exactly does it take to maximize the percentage of people who respond and participate in your survey?

I’ve identified what I feel are some of the top strategies.

So let’s dive right in.

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Keep the Number of Questions to a Minimum

The more questions you ask, the higher the drop-off rate will be.

It’s really that simple.

SurveyMonkey performed a study where they analyzed the response and drop-off rates across 100,000 surveys that demonstrate this phenomenon in action.

Notice how the drop-off rate is quite minimal at only five questions. It’s just under two percent.

But that steadily rises as you hit 10 questions.

Once you get to 15 questions, things start getting ugly.

So the bottom line is that you should only be asking the essential questions and avoid those that offer little value.

In other words, keep it short and sweet.

I would personally try to keep it at 10 questions max if at all possible.

Most brands find that this is usually adequate for getting the necessary data without annoying participants with excessive questions.

And as SurveyMonkey eloquently puts it, “The incremental value of each question should be worth the possible drop in response rates.”

Keep that in mind when deciding which questions to include.

Use Skip Logic

But what if 10 or fewer questions just won’t cut it and you absolutely have to include more?

In this scenario, you will want to consider using a feature called skip logic, “which is a feature that changes what question or page a respondent sees next based on how they answer the current question.”

Here’s a simple diagram that illustrates how it works.

This allows participants to skip irrelevant questions and helps move them through the survey more seamlessly.

It also provides you with more accurate data. Why?

If someone encounters an irrelevant question, they’re likely to give a random answer simply because none of the answers are applicable to them.

But skip logic is an effective solution to this problem.

So it’s smart to see if a survey platform you’re considering offers this feature before using it.

Keep it Under Five Minutes

We’ve already established that less is best when it comes to the number of questions you ask.

But what about the actual amount of time it takes to complete a survey?

According to research from SurveyMonkey, Gallup and others, surveys should take five minutes or less to complete.

They point out that 6-10 minutes is generally acceptable, but drop-off rates increase significantly after 11 minutes.

But the way I see it, there’s just no reason to tempt fate and risk a higher abandonment rate.

Just keep it under five minutes and you should be in good shape.

If possible, it’s nice to let potential participants know roughly how long it will take.

For instance, this particular survey explicitly states that it will only take one minute, which should quell the concerns of those who are busy.

To be certain that you’re hitting this number, go ahead and time a few people before sending it to your actual customers.

Use a Progress Indicator

When taking a survey, most people like to have some idea of how far along they are and how much longer they have left before it’s completed.

A progress indicator (or progress bar) is a simple yet effective way to let them know.

Here’s an example.

A quick look at the progress indicator, and you can tell that this survey is approximately 75 percent done and the end is near.

This is something that’s extremely common these days outside of surveys.

You see it on every single video on YouTube.

You even see it on our blog.

So it only makes sense that you’ll want to incorporate it into customer surveys.

It should make participants happier and decrease the number of drop-offs considerably.

Fortunately, this is a feature that can be painlessly enabled on many platforms.

Just search for “progress indicator” or “progress bar” for details on how to set it up.

Make Sure it’s Optimized for Mobile

Recent research from Adesta found that 62 percent of global emails are opened on a mobile device.

That’s well over half.

So it stands to reason that fully optimizing your customer surveys for mobile should be a priority.

Luckily, many of the major platforms will do this automatically and adjust the sizing to accommodate the respondent’s exact screen size.

However, there are some additional steps you can take to ensure an even more fluid experience.

One is to opt for multiple choice or yes or no questions rather than open-ended questions.

This allows participants to respond with a single tap rather than having to type out a response, which as you might imagine can be quite arduous on a smartphone or tablet.

Another harkens back to my first strategy about using a minimal number of questions.

Limiting the number of questions reduces the amount of scrolling required, which should increase the response rate.

Finally, I suggest avoiding any unnecessary images or graphics simply because they can take up a large portion of the screen.

Although you could argue that this type of media may actually improve the experience for desktop users, it’s probably not going to do you any favors with mobile users.

Use an Identifiable Sender Name

Did you know that “43 percent of email recipients click the spam button based on the email ‘from’ name or email address.”

It’s true.

This proves just how important it is to let people know exactly who the survey is from when sending it via email.

This overlaps with general email deliverability best practices and is integral to boosting your open rate, and in this case the response rate as well.

To avoid any confusion, I suggest using your name (Emil Kristensen), company name (Sleeknote) or a combination of the two (Emil from Sleeknote).

This way recipients can instantly identify you, and your survey is far less likely to wind up in the spam folder.

Here’s a nice example from Airbnb.

Optimize the Subject Line

Even more important is getting the subject line just right.

In fact, “35 percent of email recipients open email based on the subject line alone, and 69 percent report email as spam based solely on the subject line.”

So what are some best practices for nailing the subject line for customer surveys?

Customer feedback/experience management provider Genroe offers some solid advice.

  • Avoid using spammy words like “free”
  • Avoid using all caps or exclamation marks (this can be annoying and seem spammy)
  • Be specific about the email containing a survey
  • Emphasize that it’s easy to complete “e.g. ‘How are we doing—a 5 minute survey’”

Here are a couple examples of recent surveys I’ve received that I feel really hit the mark with their subject line.

Both are simple, to the point and aren’t the least bit pushy.

Send a Reminder to Those Who Don’t Initially Respond

Like the old saying goes, “The squeaky wheel gets the grease.”

While you certainly don’t want to send reminder after reminder to complete your survey, sending a single reminder where you politely ask for customer feedback again should have a positive impact on your response rate.

Genroe even found that sending a simple reminder after a few days resulted in an average lift of 50 percent in survey completions.

I’d say that’s significant!

They also make a good point that you shouldn’t include the word “reminder.”

Instead, you should say something like “We really want your opinion” or “Another chance to provide your feedback.”

Be Conscious of Privacy

We’re living in a day and age where data breaches are the norm.

Just look at how many data records have been lost or stolen since 2013.

It’s well over 9.7 billion and growing.

So it’s understandable that some people are a little wary about forking over their personal information.

Accenture even found that over half (55 percent) are concerned about sharing their personal data on the Internet.

On top of that, recent laws like the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) places limits on the types of data you can collect.

One way to put participants at ease and protect yourself from a legal standpoint is to create a privacy disclaimer where you clearly state the personal data that you’ll be collecting and what you intend to do with it.

Ideally, this will be included in your invitation email and contain its own link that potential participants can click on to learn more.

Like this.

Consider Making Your Customer Surveys Anonymous

Here’s another idea.

Collect your survey data anonymously.

Many people find this appealing, and it can potentially be the defining factor that gets them over the hump so that they go ahead and participate.

This also kills two birds with one stone because A) you’re more likely to maximize your response rate and B) you’re more likely to get honest answers.

If you do go this route, you’ll obviously want to let participants know beforehand.

Offer Incentives

Last but not least, there are incentives.

While some people will feel compelled to lend you their time merely out of loyalty, for others it’s all about getting something in return.

Let me go ahead and preface this last point by saying that I typically suggest executing customer surveys without offering any incentives initially.

In many cases, you’ll get the responses necessary to generate adequate data without having to offer anything in return.

But if you’re finding it difficult to get a sizable number of people to participate, experimenting with incentives should be beneficial.

How beneficial?

One study found, “Prepayment of $1 to $5 increased response rates from 2 -12 percentage points over no incentives.”

I would say that’s substantial and is often enough to generate the volume of feedback you’re looking for.

And that’s just $1 to $5.

The same study also found that larger incentives led to higher response rate.

So theoretically offering an incentive as high as $25 would lead to a significant increase in your response rate.

But here’s the thing.

Promised incentives don’t have nearly the same impact as prepayment.

In fact, “Promised incentives of $5 and $25 did not increase the response rate; larger incentives sometimes did.”

Separate research found, “A prepaid incentive provides an almost 3x (59 percent vs 22 percent) increase in response rate.”

So a bird in the hand is worth two in the bush when it comes to offering incentives.

They don’t always have to be monetary, of course, as there are other rewards that can give customers the motivation needed to complete a survey.

For instance, you could always give away a free download of an eBook, whitepaper, etc. that typically costs money.

It really just depends on your budget and what you’re willing to do to get people to participate.

Which Questions Should You Ask?

There’s one last topic to tackle and that’s the actual questions to include in your survey.

These can run the gamut and really just depend on the areas of feedback you’re looking for.

But as an online retailer, there are four key areas that you’ll want to focus on.

  1. The value of your products
  2. The user experience of your website
  3. How your company stacks up against the competition
  4. Overall customer service

As for specific questions, this post from Unamo provides some great examples that you could incorporate into a customer survey.

Here are some that I think work well across the board.

  • Compared to our competitors, is our product quality better, worse, or about the same?
  • How likely is it that you would recommend our company to a friend or colleague?
  • How easy is it to navigate our website?
  • Were you able to find the information you were looking for on our website?
  • How would you rate our customer service?

Free Downloadable Bonus

Want More Conversion Rate Optimization Strategies?

Get access to our free CRO toolkit and skyrocket your organic traffic, on-page conversion rate and more (includes resources not found in the blog post).


Unbiased customer feedback is important for every business.

Even massive juggernauts with insane brand equity devote time and money to obtaining feedback.

For example, Apple uses Net Promoter Score (NPS) surveys to optimize their retail store experience—something that helps them generate an additional $25 million in annual revenue.

So it’s easy to see why customer surveys are so advantageous.

They serve as a critical catalyst to improve the customer experience and fine-tune your business as a whole.

But they’re only effective when people actually participate.

Therefore, you need to do everything within your power to maximize the response rate.

As you can see from the strategies I’ve covered here, there are a lot of different ways to go about this.

Everything from including only essential questions and keeping it under five minutes to optimizing the subject line of your email and sending friendly reminders can have an impact.

And this isn’t to say that you need to follow every single strategy I’ve outlined.

But hopefully, this will supply you with enough ideas to get you going.

And with a little experimentation, you should be able to find a formula that works for you.

What’s the number one factor that motivates you to participate in customer surveys?

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