As anyone who’s been in a relationship can attest to, sometimes, it’s not just about what you say, it’s about how you say it—or when you say it. With surveys, sometimes sending at the right time or through the right channel can meaningfully affect the way respondents engage with it.
Here are 5 ways that you can time and send your surveys for optimal results.
1. Be clear about your purpose at the start of the survey.
When you’re asking people to take a survey for you, it’s best to include a little bit of background about what you’re asking for and why. You can do this in the copy of your email invite or an introduction in your survey itself. In general, it’s a good idea to do both.
Telling people why you’re asking for their feedback has the potential to help you in several ways:
- It incentivizes more responses. For example, explaining that event feedback will inform the speaker you’ll choose next time gives attendees a reason to share their opinion—especially if they plan on coming back. The same goes for product feedback, employee feedback, and more.
- It makes the rest of your survey clearer. Respondents are less likely to be confused if they understand what your ultimate goal is. If someone knows researching popular vacation destinations, they won’t waste time telling you about their work trips. They’ll be less likely to misinterpret or misread questions, and might be inspired to elaborate more on their answers.
- It sets expectations: People will get an idea of what they’ll be asked and how long it will take, which makes the prospect of taking the survey more appealing.
You should explain the general ask in the email and use the survey introduction space to establish the goal. Don’t repeat information unless it’s absolutely crucial, since you can lose people’s attention.
2. Send surveys at the best time.
If your survey is asking about a specific engagement—a customer service interaction, product purchase, feedback on an event the person attended—then you don’t want to wait more than a day to get the survey sent. Generally, the sooner the better. It’ll be fresh in the recipient’s mind and they won’t confuse it with other interactions or events.
Besides the common wisdom of “the sooner the better”, we also have some data points for when people tend to actually sit down and take surveys. In general, most people take surveys on Monday-Friday, with peaks in responses around 10a.m. and 2p.m. That pattern holds true across almost all demographics, regardless of age, location, etc. So, if you really want to optimize your sends, make sure your survey gets out right before one of those windows.
3. Embed the first question in your email.
Building your first question into your survey invitation can boost response rates by as much as 22%. Here’s how to embed a question in your email invite using SurveyMonkey.
Why is this simple step so effective? It draws people into your survey, causing them to feel more invested and therefore more likely to finish it. Generally, if you can get people to start your survey, you are likely to get them to finish it—it’s the first step that matters most.
4. Meet people where they are already.
More than a third (35%) of respondents to SurveyMonkey surveys are filling them out on mobile. That’s up from about 18% in 2013, and the trend will probably continue. With that in mind, you want to make your survey mobile-friendly, and even consider other platforms besides email.
Here are a few you can do on SurveyMonkey:
Other ways to keep your surveys nice for mobile users:
- Keep your surveys as short as possible. This is a good best practice for all surveys, but it’s especially important for mobile surveys. To give you some context, surveys with 1 question tend to have a 95% completion rate, 6-question surveys tend to have 90% completions, 16 questions is 85%, and 40-question surveys have a 79% completion rate. And this includes all surveys—some types of surveys (like customer-facing ones) will have much lower rates.
- Limit open-ended questions: you know how long it takes to write something on your phone compared to using a computer keyboard. Your respondents are much more likely to drop off if there’s a lot of writing on your survey. Aim for no more than 1-2 open-ended questions if possible.
- Eliminate matrix-style questions: These questions, which usually ask respondents to evaluate a list of things (or attributes, like quality of service, cost, value, etc.) according to a scale (like 1-5) take a long time to complete. They also can take longer to load and lose their formatting on mobile interfaces. Unless you really need them, it’s best to cut them out if you think your respondents might be taking your survey on mobile.
- Be careful with images or videos: These can take a long time to load on mobile, leading to a frustrating or even deal-breaking survey experience for your respondents.
5. Use reminders—but use them responsibly.
Sending a reminder for people to take your survey can make a big difference when it comes to final response rates—on average, an additional 10% of respondents will take a survey when sent a reminder. But there are limits to the effectiveness of this strategy. With each subsequent reminder, the percentage of people who respond will decrease, and the likelier it gets that you’re annoying your audience rather than engaging them.
One or two reminders, beginning a few days after your initial survey invitation, is probably your best bet for maximizing your results without straining your audience’s patience. Reminders are easy to automate, and won’t be sent to people who have already taken your survey.
Bonus: Take advantage of the thank you page.
Just like the intro, you can also add a page to the end of your survey, thanking respondents for taking it. Besides being a nice way to show your appreciation, this is also a good place to establish a next step or call to action for respondents. You can include important links, messages, or even videos.
A few simple changes can get you more feedback, more enthusiasm, and more clarity.