• December 29, 2010
  • By Leonard Klie, Editor, CRM magazine and SmartCustomerService.com

Americans Receive 7 Billion Survey Invitations Per Year

According to a study by Vovici, a  provider of survey management and enterprise feedback solutions, American adults  are invited to take surveys 7 billion times each year and claim to complete 80 percent of the surveys they start, for a total of 2.6 billion survey responses a year.

Based on the following results, Vovici advises companies conducting survey research to strive for surveys that are as short as possible. Vovici outlines 10 for shortening surveys on its blog, Voice of Vovici, http://blog.vovici.com/blog/bid/50909/How-To-Shorten-a-Questionnaire.

When questioned why they take surveys, 24 percent of respondents said it was simply because they were asked to. Among other reasons given, 14 percent said it was to be helpful, 14 percent said it was because surveys are interesting or fun, 9 percent said it was to share their opinion, and 7 percent were curious about what a given survey would be about.

“The survey industry has rightfully been concerned about demonstrating respect for the respondent,” said Jeffrey Henning, founder and vice president of strategy at Vovici, in a statement. “It’s easy for survey authors to forget what it is like to be reading or listening to a long sequence of questions. We wanted to give voice to the respondents’ point of view so that survey researchers would do a better job about meeting their needs.”

Regarding the topic of making surveys more engaging to them, 18 percent said simply that surveys should be short: “Keep them brief and to the point”; “Keeping it short and sweet, that’s about it!” Another 13 percent said they should be offered incentives: “A promotional incentive”; “A discount coupon for the product they are endorsing”; “Reimburse the people you're questioning with a coupon, token or cash.” Ten percent  said surveys should be interesting: “Make them relative to something I'm interested in or concerned about”; “It has got to be about something interesting to me.”

Respondents to the study did not see a big change in the number of surveys they were being invited to: 24 percent reported they were being invited to take more surveys than a year ago, 22 percent reported fewer, and 48 percent reported the same. Seven percent didn’t know.

The most common complaints about surveys were related to time management. Twenty-one percent of respondents said  surveys are too time-consuming or they are too busy to take surveys: “I don't like them; they are ‘time invasive’”; “If I have time for one, I will do it. If I don't have time, then I don't.” Sixteen percent said survey requests, especially by phone, came at inconvenient times: “They call when I’m fixing dinner”; “The calls come at a bad time.” Other complaints were that surveys ask too many personal questions (16 percent), are too long (12 percent) and can’t always be trusted (7 percent).

For customer satisfaction questionnaires, one of the key techniques to shorten survey length is to embed already collected personal information from CRM systems within the survey without asking the questions again; this also addresses respondents’ disquiet with requests for personal information. Such information should be used to branch respondents to the appropriate section of a questionnaire automatically, making the questionnaire more relevant—addressing another common complaint about surveys, which often make it clear that a company doesn’t really know its customers.

To extrapolate to the U.S. population, Vovici surveyed 400 American adults by telephone using a Random Digit Dialing sample of landline households. To keep this survey on surveys short, no single respondent had to answer all of the verbatim questions.

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