According to a study published in The Journal of Extension, online survey response rates can be 10-12% below mail and phone surveys. Surely there must be more to engagement than efficiency alone.
Over the past three years as an online platform provider, we’ve learned some lessons in survey design and public consultation methods that can help you boost your online completion rates and provide insights to drive effective decision making.
Online Platform Design Basics
Make sure that your survey starts on the right footing;
- Use an authentic email from your own organization – Relying on a third-party organization, or an “info” email account, to forward your survey link. This thwarts a personalized approach, reducing response rates.
- Keep it simple – Don’t begin with a long or confusing introduction.
- Keep it honest – Say what the survey’s actually for, and why their input is essential. Lacking transparency (and brevity) as to what is the information is going to be used for, and why it is important for the person to complete the questionnaire.
- Make it quick – Include an accurate estimation of the total time required for completing the survey.
- Update your address book – Needless to mention, keeping an out-of-date mailing list will thwart your efforts.
In addition to avoiding (and reversing) these mistakes, consider these survey design practices.
Be Better than the Rest
- Build quality at the start – Pilot test it first to spot problems, browser compatibility, mechanics, and also to obtain general feedback.
- Get personal (and professional) – Write emails with short subject lines that have the person’s name in them. And note that iPhones cut off subject lines after 35 characters in portrait view and 80 in landscape view, while Android limits are 33 characters in portrait view and 72 in landscape view.
- Get familiar – Personalize the email using messages that include organizational logo and brand colours. (And a digital signature never hurts.) Familiarity breeds confidence and confidence breeds responses.
- Have gravitas – The “from” field is also important. Emails should be sent by a respected and well-known leader, for people will more likely respond to an authority figure. (Administrator reminders generally cause a noticeable bump in responses; however, make sure to send no more than 2 reminders.)
- Respect Participants – Allow for the possibility of anonymity, and, regardless, guarantee confidentiality. This will give people assurance to say what they need to say.
Consider these ten insights and you should be on your way to a more effective online engagement experience. And here’s a bonus one: Offer some sort of gift certificate, discount, drawing, or reward in exchange for completion. People will more likely respond when there’s something in it for them.
By Eduardo Sasso, Engagement Process Optimizer at Ethelo Decisions