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Use this page to learn about getting good survey response rates, get tips on survey design and compare different survey platforms.
Getting a good response rate matters when you want to report what numbers and percentages of people say certain things or have certain experiences. A good response rate means your results are more likely to be representative of the population you're surveying. If you get a 1% response rate your findings cannot really be trusted because you don’t know what the other 99% think. It’s also quite likely that your 1% are biased in some way. As the response rate increases, it reduces these risks and you can feel more confident.
People are being sent surveys all the time, so you have to think carefully and plan well to get a good response rate.
The main reason people don’t fill in surveys is because they don’t have the time at the moment they receive your request.
You see this clearly when you send out a survey and check your responses. Nearly all of your responses will happen within a day of sending it out.
After a couple of days, you will stop getting any responses at all. So the best way to get a decent response rate is to keep reminding people to fill your survey in – because eventually you'll reach them at the right moment.
It’s much better to directly contact the people you want to complete the survey, rather than hoping they come across it. This means email is the most successful method, as are other methods such as SMS or WhatsApp where you have direct contact details for the person.
You could send reminders to everyone you sent the survey to in the first place. But that risks annoying people who already filled it in.
To help with this some survey software has built-in 'respondent management'. You send emails out through the survey platform itself and it assigns unique codes to those email addresses so it recognises when people have responded.
This means you can send reminders only to people who haven’t responded. You can even set this to happen automatically. Respondent management also allows you to automatically link people’s responses to data you already have about them, meaning your questionnaire can be shorter.
If you are doing a small group survey (for example a ten person training course) you might be able to do personalised reminder management manually. But with larger surveys using respondent management is the only way to do this efficiently.
You can also use other methods to get your survey out, such as:
But expect much lower response rates from these methods.
Other good practices in survey design to increase response rates are to:
You can find excellent guides to how to write your survey questions. Use them to help you think about which features matter most to you when you choose the platform you want.
We have compared six leading survey platforms.
As you look through our table comparing what they offer, keep the following in mind.
Most of the information in the table below is self explanatory. Here are some reminders of important things to look for.
We tell you how many surveys, with how many questions, and how many responses per month. We tell you how many users (survey creators) a plan lets you have.
We tell you whether it is built in, and if it needs your survey respondents to do anything, or if it just works.
We give a sense of how much flexibility you get. Are there templates? Will you be able to add a logo?
We’ve listed the main question types most tools offer – look at these alongside guides to writing questionnaires to see which you need most.
Do you want to show people different questions based on their answers? We let you know if you can do this or not. It's called skip logic, question logic or branching logic.
Some packages run analysis for you on screen and let you download reports. Most packages download a CVS or XLS file (for Excel) to do your own analysis. Some free versions of paid-for tools don’t let you do that - so double check the table.
We try to give you a sense of what can be done on screen as well as what formats you can download.
Use the 'get the data' button to download the table as a spreadsheet so you can add comparisons of other survey building tools.
This page focuses on survey platforms used for formal surveys. You can also do quick quizzes and polls to get information fast. Social media offers a wide range of possibilities including:
But these are not suitable for serious, formal surveys.
Last reviewed: 02 March 2021Help us improve this content
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