Don’t Get Dumped By Your Survey Respondents


There are some very real issues facing the market research industry due to the less than stellar relationship we’ve had in recent years with respondents. I want to address three areas where we can build a strong, long term relationship with the individuals we rely on for key insights in the industry.

From making a strong first impression to building strong rapport and maintaining high levels of engagement, let’s look at the three areas that should be focused on to address the very real concerns growing in the industry.

First Impressions

It’s easy to focus solely on numbers – the number of people in a panel, the representation of key audiences, and the accessibility of the demographics needed for a given survey. However, we need to make a strong first impression that engages and activates our respondents, building trust for the future. This means:

  • Use Feedback to Get Better – Iterate and learn from your respondents by asking them for feedback. More importantly, use that feedback to do better.
  • Set Expectations – Set clear expectations with FAQs, a privacy policy and terms of service.
  • Keep It Simple – Your language should be short and concise – don’t overburden them with long processes during signup.
  • Build an Engaging UX – The UX should be simple but also engaging and visually pleasing.
  • Use Data Effectively – Use data to streamline the process based on the information that has already been provided.
  • Communicate Constantly – Communicate clearly so your respondents know what to expect and when.
  • What Can You Offer Them? – Make your value proposition clear, and in terms that speak to the needs and desires of your respondent audience.

The Survey Stage

SurveyStage.pngOnce a respondent has been on boarded, they will start engaging almost immediately through surveys that match their profile. This is a key stage – akin to the first date – because it will set expectations for what’s to come, reward them for their efforts, and give a sense of what working with you will be like. That means:

  • Avoid Question Redundancy – Avoid asking the same questions multiple times throughout the process. Use prescreening wisely to better inform future surveys.
  • Use Non-Leading Questions – Avoid leading questions that will condition respondents and create confusing non-qualifications.
  • Write for a 5th Grader – Keep language accessible and direct. Check the reading level of your copy and questions.
  • Mobile First – In a mobile-heavy world, design for mobile devices first and desktop second. That applies to both UX and survey design and length.
  • Are Questions Necessary? – Ask yourself if a given question is necessary for the specific study being developed. If not, trim where necessary to ensure a streamlined experience.
  • What Is the Reward? – Are respondents being rewarded properly for the time spent?

What Comes Next

Nextsteps.pngFinally, what happens after the survey. What does the ecosystem look like for survey respondents after they’ve taken time out of their day to answer those questions? Are they satisfied with the rewards and the communications process or are there gaps? That means:

  • What Is the Follow-up Procedure? – How are respondents contacted after a survey or between surveys? Are you communicating often, clearly, and with their needs in mind?
  • Rewards Are Key – Rewards are the bedrock of a good community. Avoid sweepstakes and keep to direct rewards that match expectations.
  • Listen and Engage – Listen to feedback from your respondents, engage with them whenever possible, and build an ongoing relationship that is two way.
  • Manage the Entire Lifecycle – Be active throughout the lifecycle, from first time respondents to veterans who are highly active in the community. Communications strategies will vary depending on who you are contacting and when.
  • Social Engagement – Social engagement is another powerful resource at our disposal that can help build that sense of community and a relationship that improves the value of what you are doing.

Your goal is to build a strong relationship that will last not just for a handful of surveys, but for months or even years to come as your respondents fully engage with the surveys presented, eager to provide honest feedback and be rewarded for it.

The right balance of speaking to those needs and the targeting necessities of your surveys will ensure a good relationship with respondents that doesn’t hurt your research efforts.

I sat down with Rick Kelly, VP of Client Services at Fuel Cycle to talk about this very topic in a recent webinar. You can watch the whole webinar here as we discuss these very issues and some of the changes that are already being made and can be made to address them.