What’s a Good Survey Response Rate?

Survey response rate is the percentage of invited people completing a survey. It is an important figure to monitor and track to ensure a timely and successful experience recruiting people to take a survey. A high response likely means things are working smoothly, and there should be little trouble getting the desired number of participants to complete your survey. A low response rate means fewer invited people are taking the survey. Additional steps may be needed to boost and encourage survey participation.

Figure 1. Response rate is the percentage of invited people completing your survey

Typical Survey Response Rates

Many factors, such as survey usability, differences in the target audience, frequency of survey deployment, and so on, can influence response rates. That said, through years of observing email survey invites using client-supplied contact lists sent through FocusVision Decipher, we’ve discovered interesting patterns in response rate outcomes.

A response rate of 50%+ or more is on the high end. For surveys with high response rates, we often see that there is motivation to fill out the survey or a strong connection between the email sender and the recipient. This makes sense as we would have a natural tendency to pay attention to an email when it’s from someone we know. An example of this includes an employee satisfaction survey. A customer satisfaction survey can also receive high response rates in service-oriented industries when there is a close person to person relationship between the customer and the supplier.

A 5%-30% response rate is more typical, however. Companies with little to no direct personal contact with their customers (e.g. online retailers) tend to be on the very low end of this range. Companies with more developed relationships with customers see survey response rates on the higher end of the range. Also, the frequency of survey invitation matter. Sending customers a survey more than once 1 per quarter will erode the goodwill of survey participants over time, and survey response rates will decline.

Expect response rates to dip to 1% or less when the recipient doesn’t know the sender of the email invite. An email from an unknown source tends to get ignored, especially when there is no incentive attached to taking the survey (read further tips on using incentives). This may be the case when using an unbranded email invite or a lesser-known third-party vendor to send emails on your behalf.

Expected response rate based on strength of the relationship between sender and recipient

Figure 2. Typical response rates for surveys using email invites

Maximizing Survey Response Rate

While the strength of the relationship between the sender and the recipient is one of the primary drivers of response rates, it isn’t something you can control. But you can maximize your chances of engaging survey participants by abiding by good practices in survey research:

  • Creating an attractive and user-friendly survey can provide a positive survey taking experience and minimize survey dropouts
  • Writing clear and concise questions helps avoid respondent confusion and fatigue
  • The use of mobile-friendly questions makes it easier for mobile users to fill out the survey and has shown to substantially improve survey participation
  • Reminders and a well-crafted email invite can further draw participants to your survey

Proper response rates are an important component of a successful online survey. It is a useful gauge on whether the desired number of participants for a survey can be achieved or whether additional steps need to be taken to boost survey participation. Regular monitoring of response rates also helps ensure a healthy survey-taking environment for your customer base. If overall participation is declining, that will signal the need for further investigation or a change in your survey research processes. Read our Definitive Guide to Effective Online Surveys for more details on improving survey response rates.

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