Improving Survey Response Rates Through Incentives

By David Ensing

From time to time customer experience managers will hear the following questions from their internal clients: “Is our response rate too low?”; “What can we do to increase our response rate?” or; “Should we provide an incentive for people to respond?” Like many things in research, these relatively simple questions have somewhat complex answers.

When faced with these questions, the first thing to address is what issue is really being raised. Is the question really about increasing response rates (the percentage of people who respond to a survey invitation), or is it about increasing the total number of responses at a given level of the organization (e.g., dealerships) or is it about improving the representativeness of the responses obtained? Improving the response rate is often not the most effective way to increase the total number of responses and/or improve representativeness.

Increasing the Number of Responses and Improving Representativeness

To increase responses at the unit level and improve representativeness, the first place to look is the sampling scheme. Is the program sampling only a small percentage of customers in an attempt to control costs? If so, it is often more economically feasible to sample more customers and not use an incentive than it is to provide an incentive to increase response rates of a smaller sample.

Another aspect of the sampling scheme to examine is whether important segments of customers are being excluded from 
the sample frame. For instance, in the automotive industry it has typically been the practice that customer-pay (as opposed to warranty) customers are excluded from dealership service experience surveys, even though most dealerships do much more customer-pay service work than they do warranty work. This practice started because of difficulties getting access to customer-pay records. Now that mechanisms are in place for most manufacturers to obtain customer-pay records, these customers should be included in the sampling frame.

Obviously, inclusion of these customers will increase representativeness of the returns because an important part of the dealership’s business will now be included in
the responses.

Improving Response Rates

If the question is indeed about improving the response rate or if improving the response rate is likely to be the best way to improve representativeness and/or the number of responses, providing an incentive to customers to respond is often not the most effective tactic to use. The choice of whether to respond to a survey invitation is a cost-benefit decision for the customer. How much will completing the survey cost
the customer versus what benefit will he/she receive? At 
first glance, one might think that there is no cost to the customer to respond. However, there are many costs and these costs have been increasing over the past few decades. These include:

  • Time–People are now more pressed for time than in years past and they are more often solicited for research than previously.
  • Effort–Many surveys are long and complicated.
  • Hassle/Boredom–Some customers feel “duped” by agreeing to take what they think is a short survey and then finding out it is quite long; many surveys contain boring and repetitive questions.
  • Potential Go to the full article.

    Source:: Business 2 Community

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