“How can we get more customer feedback survey responses?” It’s the question we get asked the most. Let’s face it — everyone running a Voice of the Customer program wants to increase their response rates.

There are various things you can do to get customers to click on your surveys, but what about survey abandonment? That pesky phenomenon where a customer clicks on your survey, and then doesn’t go on to complete it. They can close the survey either straight away, or answer several questions then close it. Either way, it isn’t being completed and recorded and it isn’t serving its purpose in your customer feedback program.

Abandonment rates can vary from 10% to a whopping 80% (source: CustomerSure). It’s one of the most frustrating statistics to read, knowing that the customer has the survey in front of them but, for whatever reason, doesn’t complete it and submit it.

So what are the most common reasons for survey abandonment? And, crucially, what can you do to mitigate these?

Survey length

This is really obvious, but so often overlooked. We’re all busy people. Why should we give you 5 or 10 minutes to tell you what we think? It’s way too long.

A bugbear of ours in CustomerSure HQ is when we read, “Please complete our short 5-minute survey”. Five minutes is not short - especially in these increasingly busy and demanding times.

Surveys should be completed in 20 seconds. That’s it.

If you’re not sure how long your survey takes to complete, test it. Get your colleagues to test it and time them. If they choose to type lots of comments and take longer, that’s fine, but if they don’t, they should be able to read the survey, answer the questions and click submit in 20 seconds.

If it’s taking longer, look at your questions, and you’ll probably see quite a few which are not relevant or just reiterate another question. Take them out.

A survey which takes minutes to complete will most definitely suffer from a higher abandonment rate.

The survey length should also mirror the text on the survey invitation. Don’t have a survey invitation email which says the survey takes 20 seconds or has 5 questions, then the customer is faced with something different. It immediately erodes trust and increases abandonment before they have even started.

Oh, and your survey must fit on one page. This is vital! Multiple survey pages result in “death by next page”, which will push abandonment to the max.

Don’t say we didn’t warn you!

Survey relevance

We see a lot of surveys which contain questions which are simply not relevant to the particular experience on which customers are being asked to provide their opinions. For example, if the survey is to understand and measure satisfaction with a recent help desk or service centre experience, don’t start asking questions about the website or product deliveries.

Customers get frustrated with questions which are irrelevant or concern topics they have had no interaction with.

If your survey contains questions where most customers will answer ‘N/A’, they are irrelevant and will bump up your abandonment rate. Take them out.

Mandatory questions and “please keep typing”!

There will be some questions you want to be mandatory. We recommend these are the key scoring questions, perhaps NPS, customer effort and overall satisfaction. But try to keep mandatory questions to a minimum. And definitely don’t make open questions mandatory!

Don’t force your customers to give a comment if they don’t want to. It’s another factor which turns customers off and increases the risk of survey abandonment.

Another aspect we (and more importantly, customers) don’t like, is the ‘please keep typing’ prompt you sometimes see next to comment boxes. As a customer, I’ll tell you how much I want to tell you — good or bad. Don’t start telling me I haven’t typed enough and the robot wants more.

It reduces comment quality and is a bad customer experience which, you’ve guessed it, increases abandonment rates.

Difficult-to-understand questions

Questions should be easy to understand and answer. We’ve seen questions which you need to read three or four times just to understand. Avoid double negatives or questions with too much jargon. Keep them simple.

Show your questions to someone unconnected with your business, like a friend or family member. You’ll know if they understand them quickly. If they read them a few times or look a little puzzled, it’s time to reword them.

A really bad question to ask is “Please explain your score”. We see people get stumped here and it takes all momentum out of the survey. A better question, which is easier for people to understand, is “How can we improve our service to you?” Not only will the answers be more useful and actionable, but you also put the customer at the heart of this, and want to know what will make things better for them - not better for you.

Difficult-to-understand questions or questions which require too much thinking power to answer will result in more customers closing the survey rather than seeing it through.

Too many conditional questions

Many of the surveys which run on CustomerSure contain conditional questions. Conditional questions automatically appear as a result of a previous answer the customer gives. They definitely have their place and can be very useful.

They also help keep surveys relevant as some questions may only appear if the customer says they have experienced that area, for example.

However, please use conditional questions sparingly, or abandonment will increase. If customers feel they are being ‘punished’ for answering honestly by being presented with lots more questions, they will begin to wonder where the end is and many will abandon it.

Remember the 20-second rule above, even with conditional questions.

Inconsistent scales

Whilst this has a lower impact on survey abandonment than the above points, it most definitely contributes to the overall survey experience. Whatever survey scale you choose to use - 10-point, 5-point, 5-point verbal - keep it consistent throughout the survey as much as possible.

My colleague Chris is going to provide further insights on this very topic — soon — so do keep your eyes peeled for that if scales are confounding you and impacting response rates.

Chopping and changing scales stops the customer in their tracks and can cause some frustration. To keep the survey flow, keep scales the same. When a change in scales is necessary, make that change permanent, don’t do it for one question then jump back to the previous scale.

Need help with your own Customer Feedback Program?

At CustomerSure, we’re fanatical about helping our customers drive tangible business benefits through their customer feedback process.

Our software is used by customer-centric organisations looking to gain real-time, actionable feedback from their customers, which they use to drive real change and improve performance.

If you want to know why the likes of Philips, Barchester Healthcare and Covéa Insurance trust us, why not sign up for a free demo?

We’d love to show you around.

Darren Wake
Darren Wake

Darren is the Senior Account Manager at CustomerSure. He has a lifetime of experience working in both market research and customer experience improvement. He is responsible for working with our clients to make sure that their VoC programmes respect the customer and deliver measurable results.

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