Do you know what’s worse than throwing a party and having nobody show up? Having one where guests are bored and unhappy.
Same thing applies to surveys. Once participants start your survey, you want them fully engaged—not holding up the walls. You want their active participation, so that they carefully read your questions and answer options, and give you thoughtful answers.
Survey Respondent Engagement
What are some strategies for keeping people fully engaged while completing your survey? Here are three.
Tip No. 1: Avoid Scary Starts. Make sure your first few questions are not so onerous that participants are scared off. If the first one, two, or even three questions seem too intrusive or boring, they’ll simply drop out. After all, at this point participants haven’t completed many questions, so they don’t have any real investment. If you do have questions that are a bit more cognitively difficult or lengthy, place them toward the middle or end of your survey instrument. At that point, there is a sense that, “I’ve already invested five minutes in this survey, so I might as well just finish it up.” In any case, we should keep such content to a bare minimum.
Tip No. 2: This Is Not a Test. Avoid questions that sound like you’re quizzing people. Few people have fond memories of tests like the SAT, so make sure the tone of your questions is friendly and simple. For example, examine your word choices. Change the word “utilize” to “use.” The word “enable” often can be “allow.” You get the point. Select words you would use in a real conversation. Avoid sentences that will need to be re-read three times to get the point.
Tip No. 3: Ask for Opinions. People don’t like to simply report what they do; it starts to feel a little intrusive. For example, asking too many questions in a row about what they’ve purchased recently or how much they spent on a recent grocery store trip gets boring and lacks emotional engagement. To keep them involved, include questions that ask for their opinions. Opinion-oriented questions might ask what brands they like best, or what they would like to see in a new product, or “What could this company do to improve your satisfaction?” Such questions are much more interesting. Sure, you may need some of the boring stuff—but mix it up.
Is Your Survey Boring?
Before you send out that survey, and we’ve mentioned this in other AYTM blog articles, have somebody read it out loud to you so you can hear how somebody else would actually read the questions, the instructions, and the answer options. If you find yourself zoning out after a couple of questions, that’s a good clue that your survey guests will be unhappy.