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12 Reasons Why You Get Low Survey Response Rates (& How to Fix Them!)

Clare Zacharias

Last Updated:  

31 May 2024

6 min read

Experiencing poor survey response rates? Looking to find reasons for low response rates in surveys?

Well, you created an awesome survey. And, you spent hours phrasing questions the right way, exhausted your resources digging up the ‘expert’ survey questions, and poured in two hours of research on the ideal survey length in your niche.

You’ve gotten your insanely long email list ready. And you hit Send.


And then, nothing!

Research suggests that as many as 75% of online surveys fail to garner the minimum expected survey response rates.  The survey makers believe that they tried everything, but did they really?

We’ve narrowed down the reasons for low response rates in surveys. Better bookmark this checklist because, next time you run a survey, you wouldn’t want to feel like all that effort, time, and resources went down the drain.

12 Reasons for Low Survey Response Rates & The Remedies

Reason #1: You Don’t Understand the Big Picture

Even good marketers struggle to come up with questions that will get them the actual data they want. Generic questions and advice you might find online just don’t cut it. Only when you understand the big picture can you create a survey that will help you achieve your desired results.

Before you zero in on the questions, decide on your objectives and outline your goals. Establish the purpose of the survey, clarify the target audience relevant to your survey, platforms that best suit your purpose, and decide on how that information will be used. Why do you want to run this survey? Which are the areas that you need to identify? How do you plan to use the findings?

understand big picture

Reason #2: You Let Them Forget About You

Need a better response rate on surveys? Reminders work. Gently nudge your respondents and partial respondents to complete the survey as the close of your survey draws nearer. Take care not to sound overly demanding.

Use online survey tools that let you automate the reminders to go out at scheduled intervals in order to maximize audience participation.

Studies suggest that following up can boost your survey response rates from 20-30% to over 85%. You wouldn’t want to miss out on such great odds!

Reason #3: Your Email Sounds Plain Rude

This sounds obvious but is often overlooked. Your audience is under no obligation to respond to your surveys. Your best bet would be to make them want to help you with their feedback. When your email invites and share requests sound obstinate, you leave ample room to walk away.

Draft polite requests and even offer a thoughtful incentive to ensure that your offer is compelling to your respondent. A well-written invitation can skyrocket your response rates for surveys.

Be nice. Be nice always. Always be genuinely nice. Especially when you are asking them a favor. Click To Tweet

Reason #4: You have a Bad History with Surveys

Do you make a habit of running surveys and forgetting about it? Have you failed to take action based on your prior survey findings?

Is this all a charade to you? This might come as a surprise to you, but people remember.

What is the point of taking time to answer a survey if your respondents know fully well that their opinions don’t matter? Your respondents will have a hard time offering you truthful advice if they know that little is going to change.

At no cost should you thus damage your credibility. Make it a point to let your respondents realize that actions are taken based on their feedback. We can all agree that mistakes are expensive.

survey mistakes are expensive

Reason #5: You Don’t Ask the Questions that Matter

Stuffing your survey with unfitting questions is more run-of-the-mill than you would think. Check, double-check, and triple check to ensure that your survey doesn’t include inappropriate questions that your audience aren’t keen to respond to.

Only ask questions that are relevant to your study. Else, your survey stands the risk of suffering from an unpleasant length, not to mention the skewed responses.

Don’t ask them questions that they don’t wish to answer.

You know what they say. If you don’t want a sarcastic answer, don’t ask stupid questions! Click To Tweet

Reason #6: You Chose the Wrong Question-Type

Often, complexity leads to partial responses or no-response.

An abundance of open-ended questions or a questionnaire with 50 questions that start with ‘On a scale of 1 to 10…’ can be incredibly dreary. Make your survey exciting and lively with a choice combination of various question types and easy choices.

Wrong question types in survey

Reason #7: You Didn’t Use the Right Platform

It is important that you distribute your survey via platforms that best fit your target audience.

Embedding surveys onto your product/websites and social shares can maximize the survey reach. Sharing surveys via social media has been proven to garner wider participation and deeper insights.

If your audience tends to spend a liberal amount of time on social media, it makes sense to share surveys through those channels. Moreover, it makes a refreshing change to take a survey shared on Facebook!

If your audience loves Twitter, let them take their survey there! Click To Tweet

Reason #8: Your Survey is Awfully Long

Ideally, the best performing surveys are those that should take 5 minutes or less to complete. Unsurprisingly, longer surveys have lower completion rates because the demands on the survey taker’s time go up.

Long surveys and low response rates

Studies suggest that while a 10-question-long survey has an 89% completion rate on average whereas 40-question-long ones show a completion rate of only 79% or less and this means extremely low survey response rates. And this difference is not something you might want to ignore.

Don’t use too many words when a few will do! Make your survey questions short and simple. Click To Tweet

Reason #9: You Ask Biased Questions

If only survey makers realized what a turn-off this really is!  Asking biased questions is a pathetic attempt to steer the respondents to a direction you favor. And a move that your audience can see right through.

Surveys are primarily a tool to collect feedback and gain insights into the opinions of your audience. It goes against this objective to ask biased questions and manipulate the responses. Furthermore, your audience is bound to detest your surveys and lose their trust in you.

Unmotivated respondents and low response rates

Reason #10: You Didn’t Arrange Questions Logically

Experts recommend using an ‘inverted pyramid’ approach to arrange your questions. It is best to start with screening questions, move through the general questions, and then wrap things up with the demographics questions to help you with profiling.

Getting concrete and actionable, conclusions from your customer insight is only the start of the battle. Your goal is to let them continue to do that until the end of your survey.

By keeping your survey questions logically ordered, you give yourself the best possible opportunity to receive higher response rates.

Reason #11: Your Surveys have a Dull UI

A staggering majority of surveys are reportedly boring, redundant, and frustrating for the person taking the survey. Does yours belong to this overwhelming majority?

Most surveys have a miserable response rate of between 5% and 10%. And when the survey UI is extremely boring, you are left wondering if the people who bailed out along the way have left you with biased results.

Survey responses are precious. Don’t push your chances with a dull UI. The old-fashioned forms have given way to exciting chat-like interfaces that can do wonders for your engagement rates.

A good UI is also great for your business

Reason #12: Your Surveys Aren’t Real-Time

When your surveys aren’t real-time, you lack real-time feedback too. This is one of the prime reasons for low response rates in surveys.

Are you asking for the event feedback two weeks after the said event? Chances are, people already forgot what you are talking about. Run timely surveys that should matter to your audience and make it known that you value their opinion.

Wrapping Up

There are many reasons for low response rates in surveys. If your survey fails to inspire your audience to respond, it is probably in poor taste. The response rates will be at a miserable low and whatever feedback you manage to get shall be mediocre at best.

Next time you plan to run a survey, steer clear of these 12 mistakes that’d cost you. When in doubt, ask an expert. You could always rely on efficient online survey tools for this.

Talking of survey software, why don’t you check out the SurveySparrow stash of well-crafted survey templates, and the engaging UI that promises to raise your completion rates by 40%. Sign up for a free trial now!

Clare Zacharias

Content Marketer at SurveySparrow.

A sort of Jill-of-all-trades! Enchanted with storytelling, fascinated with startup life.

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