Tips to Guarantee Survey Respondents go to the Last Question

Tips guaranteed to take your survey respondents to the last question – Alan Weaser of VIRTUATel reveals how to guarantee survey success.


Recruiting and persuading customers to answer your survey is just stage one of the survey process. You want the completion rate of your survey to be as high as possible. We’ve spoken previously about how to maximise the chances of someone taking your survey in the first place, but how do you go about making sure that respondents stay in the survey all the way to the end? We’ve got some tips on the best practice for your surveys.

Preparing questions: Keep It Simple, Stupid

Surveys are not the place to wax lyrical about your product. Keep your survey language direct and to the point, so that no time is wasted by the participant, and you minimise the risk of the message being lost in translation.

Keep It REALLY Simple, Stupid

Bear in mind that some words can mean different things to different people. Asking someone if they called the customer service center ‘a few times’ could mean three times to one person, and six to another. Be specific, so the respondent isn’t faced with having to make a judgement on the meaning themselves.

Also bare in mind the differences in language between different survey channels.  For example, an online survey is read – and can be re-read if it is unclear.  A telephone survey needs to be clear first time as the information is imparted aurally.

Take the mountain to Mohammed

Different customers will be found on different platforms. You’ll find that a millennial is much more likely to complete a web survey than your typical babyboomer, who is likely to prefer a phone survey.  We advocate multichannel surveys, so that you can make sure that your results aren’t skewed by a bias by a certain type of customer to complete a survey on a particular channel.

Don’t let options overlap

People get frustrated with questions that don’t have a clear answer. Never have overlapping options – an age will either be 21-30/31-40/41-50, and never 20-30/30-40/40-50.

Keep the options limited

Long survey scales or lists of options will often result in someone choosing ‘I don’t know’ or worse, choosing at random. Ideally, survey best practice is to also randomise the list of options, to account for list position bias.

Ask the right questions

Make the questions as relevant as you can. At VIRTUATel, we use tools such as page jumping and skip logic to remove all questions that are not relevant to the respondent. After all, if someone has already told you they don’t have a cat, there’s no need to ask them their views on leading cat food brands!

Manage expectations

Communicating with the respondent before they answer the first question is key. They should be aware of the purpose of a questionnaire, the number of questions, the expected length or time it will take, what you will do with the results and the privacy policy of your company before starting. We’ve also found that indicating how far through the survey a respondent is will greatly increase completion rates.

Take your own survey

It’s crucial that you time how long it takes to complete the survey – ideally, it shouldn’t take more than 5 minutes to finish. If it does take longer, consider whether you need an incentive to get people to complete it.

The lesser known KISS: Keep it short, stupid

Long surveys are becoming more and more common and people have less and less time available.  Therefore, unless  you want responses from retired people with plenty of time, get known for offering short surveys.  After all, if your customers know your surveys are short, they are more likely to complete them repeatedly.

Survey design and survey best practice can seem like minefield, but we have over 15 years in crafting them to get the most high quality and high quantity of data possible.

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