How to Maximize Email Survey Response Rates

Confirmit Team

Confirmit Team

Author Bio

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

Author Bio

Confirmit's survey design and delivery ebook with information on how to increase survey respondents

The following eBook gives you a taste of Confirmit Horizons survey capabilities from design to delivery.



Even the best-designed customer satisfaction survey won’t yield results if people don’t receive it, open it, and answer questions. To maximize your survey response rates (or diagnose a response rate issue), here are five areas to consider.

1) Sample: Who are you trying to reach and how frequently?

  • Make sure you’re sending your customer feedback survey to the right people. Don’t send a product or support survey to a billing contact, just because that’s the contact name you happen to have on file!
  • Prevent over-surveying by implementing touch rules that ensure no respondent receives survey invitations too frequently.
  • Be sure your email addresses incorporate the latest contact information from your CRM systems.

2) Structure of your survey invitations: The structure of your survey invitations may vary depending on what type of audience you’re trying to reach.

  • For B to B surveys, simple HTML invitations often work well, and leaving out logos can help you avoid the dreaded “Outlook hid images for your privacy” message if that is a concern for your audience.
  • For B to C surveys, including your logo in your survey invite can add legitimacy for respondents familiar with your corporate look and branding.
  • Customize your invitations where possible—including a reference to the date and subject of an interaction or customizing the invitation language where appropriate tells the customer you know them and won’t waste their time.
  • Send the invitation in the respondent’s native language.
  • Test invitations in a variety of email clients (including mobile!)
  • Consider experimenting with the time of sending—Tuesdays through Thursdays mid-day tend to be best for B to B invitations, while B to C invitations are often better outside of business hours. If you are sending reminder emails, you might vary the day of the week those will be received (for example, sending reminders 6 or 8 days after the invitation).
  • Keep email invitations short and sweet, and make sure the link to the survey is set apart so it is easy to find. A construction like “Please click HERE or copy and paste the following link into your browser:” provides extra insurance that respondents using a variety of email clients will be able to access your survey.
  • Include a name and email address for someone at your company the respondent can check with to verify the survey’s validity. If you have a call center, be sure your staff is aware of the survey in case they receive any calls to verify it.

3) Sender: Make sure you don’t fall into common spam filter traps:

  • Don’t spoof emails. Sending from a mail server you own (and have properly configured) helps ensure that you pass spam filter authentication tests.
  • Ensure that your sending mail servers are whitelisted where possible, and not on any blacklists.
  • Follow the requirements of the CAN-SPAM Act. This includes putting a valid physical mailing address in your email, and offering a clear opt-out link. (And of course, be sure to honor opt-out requests!)
  • Set up processes to handle complaints and opt-outs accordingly.
  • Monitor complaint rates, as well as response rates for your major ISPs. Many receiving domains now factor previous open and click rates into their overall sender reputation metrics.
  • Monitor hard bounces (email messages that are returned to the sender because the recipient's address is invalid) and put a process in place to stop mailing to them—some receiving domains may block your email if you’re sending to too many bad email addresses.

4) Survey design: Obviously, good survey design is a critical factor in boosting response rates. Avoid the following common response rate killers:

  • Asking questions you should know the answer to – when you ask things like “How did you contact us?” or “What product do you own?”, this tells the respondent you don’t know who they are (and aren’t concerned about wasting their time).
  • Asking every respondent every question (even with instructions to skip questions or answer NA when it doesn’t apply). Whenever possible, surveys should be customized to the respondent—ask billing questions to the billing representative, or product questions to the person who uses the product. Use screeners and customer data to keep the survey as targeted as possible.
  • Making every question mandatory. This will drive even the most patient respondent nuts.
  • Not monitoring drop off rates. Review drop off reports regularly to understand which sections of the survey may be confusing, boring, overwhelming, or not functioning correctly.
  • Not establishing logical page breaks within the survey—putting the whole questionnaire on a single page can make the survey feel very long, as can putting each question on its own page. Have colleagues take the survey as a respondent to gauge whether your survey length is reasonable.
  • Not offering a mobile-compatible survey. This will become more of an issue as the number of respondents receiving survey invitations on their smart phones continues to increase.
  • Assuming everyone speaks English. Be sure to offer the survey in respondents’ native language(s).

5) Support for your survey program: To encourage participation from your survey invitees, it’s important to increase the visibility of your survey and send potential respondents the message that your organization cares about customer feedback.

  • For relationship surveys, consider sending an advance communication from an executive the respondents will know, telling them to look for the survey. One word of caution though—be sure to include a specific ask (such as adding the “from” email address to their white list), otherwise respondents may feel annoyed that you are emailing them to tell them you’ll be emailing them.
  • Train sales and support staff who have frequent contact with your customers to mention your survey programs. Some of my clients even have internal competitions between regions and sectors to encourage employees to hype up the survey and drive response rates.
  • Incorporate mention of your company’s commitment to regularly collecting customer feedback in new customer welcome documents.
  • Close the loop by regularly telling customers what changes you’re making based on their feedback, in a newsletter or blog, for example.

We hope these quick tips will give you some food for thought as you try to maximize the survey response rates for your Voice of the Customer program.

Subscribe to Our Newsletter