As a fun experiment, I’ve kept track of all the chances I’ve recently had to complete a survey.  In the past two weeks I’m up to six (conservatively counting).  This includes a few invites from research panels, a student’s class project, a mail survey, and a customer feedback form.  This doesn’t count “fun surveys” such as online polls, website pop up surveys, and even new music surveys from a local radio station.  It seems there are surveys waiting for us everywhere we turn, and, of course, we’ve talked about some of the surveys we’ve run across in other posts (auto dealers, checkout, and airlines).

So, here is my question: how does this impact our ability to survey?  Are people becoming numb to surveys? Perhaps more importantly, how do we cut through the clutter to get noticed and to get people to participate?

Sending surveys to a larger sample and/or offering larger incentives certainly seems to be the trend, but both of these are self defeating.  The more surveys you send, the more people receive them, and the more numb they’ll become.  Offering larger incentives, only causes you to offer yet higher incentives the next time.

So what else can we do to keep people participating?  A few ideas include…

  1. Break out of the mold. Make surveys people want to do.  Create surveys that look interesting.  Write questions that are different.  And, of course, make surveys look short and simple.
  2. Make survey modes novel. People pay attention when something is new or different.  New survey modes like mobile phone research are currently receiving high cooperation rates, as is technology that allows researchers to intercept online survey takers in real time to follow up with additional questions (iModerate).  Of course, once the novelty wears off, you’re back to the drawing board.
  3. Use the human touch. Add humans back to the equation.  While some cases dictate a person not be involved to ensure honest response or even cooperation, in many cases dealing with a human can be refreshing in our technological age.  Perhaps we’ll return to more intercept surveys to gain cooperation, or more phone interviewers instead of interactive voice response technology.
  4. Show that you care. How many times have you filled out a survey, pretty sure that nothing would change as a result of your feedback?  Customers don’t just want to give feeback, they want to be listened to.  Show – don’t tell – that you value their input.
  5. Use other metrics. Maybe surveying a certain population is just too hard, or maybe you don’t feel you’re getting accurate feedback.  Luckily, there is a lot of digital communication out there, and you can monitor those conversations (through online monitoring of forums, etc) for many uses.

How many surveys do you have an opportunity to respond to in a week?  What else do you think can be done to keep people engaged?