As with most things in life, manners matter quite a bit when it comes to survey design. Even a simple “please” or “thank you” can help improve the survey taking experience for your respondents. But there’s so much that can be done in the way of incorporating basic manners into your research that can have a positive impact. Adding opening and closing texts lets you connect with your respondents more deeply, and inputting a kind, authentic message can go a long way. In this article we’re going to dive deeper into the different ways you can show your respondents that you appreciate their time and effort—we’ll even talk about how you can customize your text based on what type of survey you’re creating. No matter the survey type, it’s important to always remember that survey engagement means more than just writing interesting questions, it means empathy towards those participating. So with that in mind, let’s jump right in.
Embrace human-centric survey design
Human-centric survey design is a great place to start our conversation. It’s an approach that focuses on the user experience and aims to create surveys that are engaging, easy to understand, and respectful of the respondent's time. It’s about realizing that your respondents are human beings—that they have their own unique perspectives, preferences, and limitations—and seeking to design surveys that are sensitive to these factors.
Empathy is important here—so really consider respondent experience. Use clear and concise messaging, steer clear of technical terms or industry jargon, and strive to make the language accessible and easy to understand. Similarly, strive to create a survey-taking experience that is visually appealing and easy to navigate. Respondents usually prefer clean and simple layouts—ones that are free of clutter, but still manage to provide visual aids where appropriate.
Finally, think of time—it’s the one resource we’re all truly limited by. Show your respondents you respect their time. You can do this by optimizing your survey length or length of interview (LOI). Keep the survey as short as possible and avoiding redundant or irrelevant questions. Remember, you aren’t going to get top-notch responses at the end of a 40 minute survey. You can also do this by providing clear instructions at the beginning and explaining why the survey is being conducted in order to engage and encourage them to provide thoughtful and honest responses.
Believe in the power of customized text
Customized text is all about leveraging the power of language that’s uniquely tailored to the particular audience you’re targeting with your survey. Let's say you're conducting a survey about a new fitness app, and you want to target individuals who are interested in staying active and leading a healthy lifestyle. You could start by using a personalized greeting such as "Hello fellow fitness enthusiast!" or "Greetings, health-conscious friend!' By tailoring the verbiage to align with something you already know about the respondent, you’re already speaking their language.
You can also use customized text to help illuminate the purpose of the survey—providing additional context for your respondents as they make their way through the questions you’re asking. To go back to the fitness example, customized text could be used to acknowledge the respondent's previous response, and set them up for what’s next. This could look something like this: "Thanks for taking the time to answer our previous questions about your fitness routine. We're now interested in learning more about your goals and how we can help you achieve them."
These captivating and personalized messages can make for a better respondent experience—bringing you higher response rates and improving the quality of your data. By using language that is relevant and specific to the respondent, you’ll be able to design a more engaging survey that resonates with your audience and leaves them with a sense of value and appreciation.
Always consider survey fatigue
Some surveys are more of a commitment than others, and survey fatigue is a real thing. It takes place when respondents are asked to complete too many surveys in a row, or are asked to answer too many questions within a single survey. After a certain point, this can lead to a variety of negative outcomes, including lower response rates, decreased data quality, and respondent burnout.
In order to not fall into these pitfalls, here are some tips for minimizing survey fatigue:
Keep surveys short
One of the best ways to avoid survey fatigue is to keep surveys as short as possible. Consider limiting the number of questions you ask and focusing on the most important information you need to collect.
Use skip logic
Skip logic is a feature in many survey tools that allows you to automatically skip questions that are not relevant to a particular respondent. This can help to reduce the number of questions each respondent is asked and make the survey feel more streamlined and efficient.
Be mindful of frequency
If you’re conducting multiple surveys within a short period of time, be mindful of how often you are asking respondents to participate. Consider staggering your surveys or sending them out at different times to avoid overwhelming respondents with too many requests.
Providing incentives for completing surveys can help to motivate respondents and reduce the likelihood of survey fatigue. Quick note, at aytm, we built a proprietary panel based around this—providing fair, transparent, compensation in cash for our respondents’ time.
Test your survey
Before sending out your survey, look at it through the eyes of your respondents. Make sure it’s easy to understand and easy to complete. Consider asking a small group of people to complete the survey and provide feedback on any aspects that felt particularly long or difficult.
Ok, now that we’ve talked about some basic manners for better survey engagement, let’s get a little more specific and talk about a couple of different types of surveys you may be looking at launching. The idea here is to walk you through how some of these manners could play out in these different contexts. Check it out.
Customer feedback surveys
In this type of survey, you are speaking directly to your existing customers. So your welcome text could say something like, “Please complete this brief survey. Your honest feedback will help us make improvements so we can continue to serve you in the future.” This brief statement lets the respondent know why they are taking the survey and, in essence, what’s in it for them – better products or services from your company in the future.
Depending on the nature of your survey, you could even take it one extra step and use your welcome text to encourage your respondents to be candid with their responses. “We are going to ask some questions about your recent experience with our company. We appreciate your honest feedback.” This simple statement can help let your customers know that you care what they have to say, and aren’t just looking for polite, positive answers.
Some example questions and how you could frame them include:
- How likely are you to recommend our company to a friend or colleague?
- How satisfied were you with your recent experience with our company?
- Did you encounter any issues while using our product or service? If so, please describe them.
- What could we have done differently to improve your experience?
- Is there anything else you'd like to share about your experience with our company?
When it comes to adding a closing statement, a simple, “Thank you for your feedback. We really appreciate your time.” will let your customers know that you are thankful. But you could also remind them again why they are taking your survey by saying something like, “Thank you for taking the time to complete this survey. Your answers will allow us to better serve you in the future.”
Product concept testing survey
Suppose you’re thinking of introducing a new product to your target market, so you need to ask them questions about what features they’d like to see. In your opening text, you’ll need to let them know the purpose of the survey. You could say something like, “We’re going to ask you several questions about possible features for a new product we’re developing. We appreciate your honest feedback. There are no wrong answers.” This statement is short, but to the point. It lets your respondents know why they are taking the survey and gives them instructions on how to answer questions.
Some example questions and how you could frame them include:
- Which of the following features would you be most interested in for our new product?
- How likely are you to purchase our new product once it becomes available?
- How much would you be willing to pay for our new product?
- How often do you currently use a product similar to our new product?
- Which of the following brands do you associate with high quality products?
Towards the end of the survey, perhaps even in the last sentence, you could simply say, “Thank you.” Or you could personalize your text by telling respondents who sent them the survey and how they can get in touch for more information. Since your respondents spent their time giving you valuable information, you need to make sure they feel appreciated. “This survey was sent to you by John Doe of X Company. For more information about this survey and how the results will be used, feel free to contact John at [email protected].” This will help them put a face to the survey and let them know how they can learn more, if they so choose.
Now it’s your turn!
We just went over a bunch of different ways you can use basic manners to boost your survey engagement. And if we were to sum it up, we’d just say that it’s important to treat your respondents with the utmost respect. This means empathizing with their situation, and working to facilitate a survey-taking experience that meets their needs.
At aytm, we prioritize the respondent experience and we’ve built those best practices into our automated platform. We even care about our respondents so much that we built our own proprietary panel, PaidViewpoint, just so we could ensure they’re treated with the respect they deserve. This global community has continued to provide our clients with top-quality responses—they’ve even rated us #1 in survey-taking experience on sites like SurveyPolice year after year.
Oh, and if you’re still curious about building the best possible survey for your respondents? We’ve got a great resource just for you in the link below!
Editor's note: This post was originally published in 2011 but updated in 2023 for relevancy.