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Survey Tips

Your respondents want you to start treating them like human beings

Your respondents want you to start treating them like human beings

Your survey respondents want to tell you something: You’re being kind of rude.

Those surveys with pages and pages of questions? The ones where you can’t progress until you write in an open-ended response? Those surveys are hard for your respondents to take—in more ways than one.

Look, not everyone is an offender. You might not be.

But even if you’re not, you can see how it’s easy to forget your respondents aren’t just numbers on a bar chart or email addresses to send to.

It’s easy to forget they’re people.

We’ve got to start talking to them that way. But first let’s take a look at some of the most irking—and easily avoidable—ways people are inconsiderate to their respondents.

  • Surveys with an awkward flow. Just like in a conversation, abrupt subject changes or awkward jumping from topic to topic in your survey is confusing and disruptive.
  • Surveys with too many interruptions. A few interruptions (like page breaks) can be a good thing in a conversation. It can break topics up into manageable chunks that are easy to understand. Too many are distracting.
  • Surveys that demand too much. You can’t expect to go on and on and expect people to care.

Aside from common courtesy, we still haven’t talked much about why it’s a good idea to treat your survey respondents well. After all, you don’t know these people and you’ll probably never ask for their responses again.

That might be true, but you should still care because the experience they have can alter your data—significantly. How?

Dropouts: If your surveys are too frustrating to complete, your respondents will abandon them. Some dropouts in a survey are common and natural, but too many can be a problem. Losing too many respondents might mean you won’t be able reach a viable sample size or it could damage your data with nonresponse bias. That’s when the people who respond are different from the ones who don’t, and it means you’re getting incomplete data.

Satisficers: Even if people complete a bad survey, that doesn’t mean they were paying attention. Some respondents simply don’t try very hard on their surveys, whether they’re answering without fully considering the options or just outright skimming the questions. Frustrating surveys will cause more of your respondents to act like satisficers. The data you get from these respondents can actually be worse than getting too few responses—you won’t even know if your data is good or bad!

It doesn’t have to be this way. In fact, it’s pretty easy to keep your respondents happy.

  • Put yourself in your respondents’ shoes. Is this a survey you’d want to take yourself? If not, you’re probably asking too much.
  • Start treating your surveys like conversations, because that’s the best way to make sure you’re being courteous.
  • Download our guide for treating your respondents like a human being using 3 simple conversation techniques.

Download our guide for tips and tricks—backed up by data—for getting better responses from the people taking your surveys.