Survey Fatigue, Response Rates and how Market Research Issues became Everyone’s Problem

Confirmit Team

Confirmit Team

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Confirmit’s dedicated teams work to deliver world-leading customer experience, Voice of the Employee and Market Research solutions. 

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Until a few years ago, survey fatigue was a term used almost exclusively by the Market Research industry. While self-explanatory as a phrase, it wasn’t something that troubled the minds of many executives or managers at the majority of most enterprises. After all, how fatigued could a customer be after a single annual survey?

But things have moved on, and as more and more businesses embrace the Voice of the Customer and start building mission statements about “putting customers at the heart of everything we do”, customer surveys are becoming more and more popular – and in many cases, customers are getting correspondingly less and less inclined to reply.

The thing that really made this hit home for me was a comment made at an event I attended last month. It was an employee engagement seminar in which a number of HR executives explained that many of their employees were sick of surveys that came from their own employers. Response rates even for these surveys were declining, and that’s from a group with a definite vested interest in providing feedback.

I’m not going to get into a list of ways to prevent survey fatigue or a series of tips to encourage people to complete surveys (though I feel some blog posts in that direction may be in order soon). But it just struck me as interesting, that in the space of a very few years, something that was relatively niche has become an issue for almost every business, whether in talking to their customers or their employees.

For me, the obvious step forward for most businesses is to tell your respondents what you’ve done with their feedback. One of the most successful employee engagement programs discussed at the event I attended was succeeding because the company was going back to staff honestly and openly with comments about what was being said by employees. This made a huge difference to response rates and in fact to engagement itself. The same is true with customers. Demonstrating that you’ve listened and are taking action is far more of an incentive than entering a draw for an iPod (your customers all own 3 already anyway!)

There are many ways to deal with survey fatigue, but for those managers and executives who are genuinely trying to build better businesses by listening to their customers and employees, and who are watching in horror as response rates decline—it really seems as if no good deed goes unpunished.

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