What Is Survey Fatigue & How to Avoid It [Research]

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Mandy Bray
Mandy Bray


Your marketing team wants to do a survey about media habits. Customer service wants to do a survey about customer experience.

woman answering an online survey on phone

Your system may send an automated survey to customers after each purchase. What happens when you put these all together? Survey fatigue.

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In this post, you'll learn about survey fatigue, how it can affect survey completion, and how to ensure it doesn't happen.

Table of Contents

Confessions of Survey Quitters: What Research Says About Survey Fatigue

Yep, we did it. HubSpot surveyed 158 people about how they feel about surveys. Here's what we found out.

Here's how long survey respondents said they spend on a survey before becoming tired.

If your survey takes more than three minutes, you'll lose nearly 15% of those that start (3.8% make it less than a minute).

By the nine-minute mark, you'll lose more than 40% of your respondents.

What causes survey fatigue?

When asked about the last survey they abandoned, here are the top four reasons people said they quit before finishing it:

  • Too many questions (23.4%).
  • Weren't motivated to answer questions about the survey topic(s) (10.8%).
  • Unsure what impact the survey responses would have (8.9%).
  • Questions required them to think too deeply (8.2%).

Here are a few other reasons people listed for abandoning surveys:

  • The survey was taking longer than the original estimate.
  • Topics were too sensitive or irrelevant.
  • Confusing navigation or interface.
  • Requests for video recordings or follow-up interviews.
  • Screen fatigue.

survey fatigue data

The Negative Consequences of Survey Fatigue

While it's hard to see how a single survey request can have a negative effect, many survey requests can have a cumulative effect over time.

Here are the challenges caused by survey fatigue.

Low Response Rates

When over-surveyed, respondents either won't start or won't finish the surveys you send them, making it more difficult for you to gain meaningful feedback.

Respondent Fatigue

The surveys you receive may have inaccurate or rushed responses if you've asked too many questions or asked questions not pertinent to that specific customer.

We'll talk about appropriate survey lengths in the next section.

Survey Bias

Your data will fall prey to a phenomenon known as survey bias.

Customers who are extremely satisfied or highly dissatisfied will want their opinions heard, while others who feel less strongly in either direction may not respond.

This means your data will be skewed, missing the entire middle section of customers.

Brand Erosion

Your customers may begin to view your brand in a negative light and lose trust or unsubscribe from communications.

Rather than providing a quality product and excellent customer service, customers are likely to view you as intrusive, obnoxious, and a drain on their bandwidth.

You work hard to attract customers and provide them with the best possible product and service. Thoughtful surveying can open the door to gaining their trust and building community.

How to Avoid Survey Fatigue: 8 Tips for Better Survey Methodology

There is still valuable information to be gleaned from your customers, and surveys remain one of the best ways to get it.

There are, however, several steps you can take to ensure that your customers don't fall victim to survey fatigue.

1. Consider your survey frequency.

To determine the best possible timeline for your organization, you'll want to take a few things into account:

  • Are other departments in your organization administering surveys? If so, how often?
  • How often do your customers interact with you?
  • How often do your competitors send surveys and when?

For B2B companies, you can send customers surveys quarterly or consider how often they interact with your company, and then divide that by two.

If they interact monthly, you can send a survey every other month. If they interact weekly, you can send out a survey twice a month.

However, if you send transactional surveys (checking in after they make a purchase), you can send a (short) survey after every purchase.

Keep it to four questions or less to make it super easy for your customers.

2. Watch the number of questions in your survey.

While this can vary depending on what information you're attempting to collect, the general rule is that the more straightforward and concise a survey, the better.

Consider the Net Promoter Score (NPS), for example. Part of its enduring appeal and success is that it asks customers to answer just one question.

To analyze this, pretend to be your customer and take the survey yourself. Is it dragging on? Asking redundant questions? Asking unnecessary questions?

If you're getting annoyed, you can be sure your customers are as well.

3. Be cognizant of the time a survey takes to complete.

While the number of questions is relevant, it's also essential to consider survey completion length since different types of survey questions take different amounts of time.

Multiple choice questions are quickest, while open-ended questions can add significant time.

Ideally, your survey should take less than five minutes to complete. Give people an estimate of how long the survey should take them for better response and completion rates.

For example, "Take our three-minute survey to help us improve our member experience!"

4. Communicate why you're sending a survey.

When sending a survey request, be sure to give a concise reason why you're asking for feedback.

Remember, 8.9% of survey respondents drop out of surveys because they don't think there's a purpose or don't think their response will have any impact.

Turn the benefit back to the person, for example, so we can add or adjust new features to enhance your experience.

5. Ask the right questions.

This might seem obvious, but writing good survey questions can take a little time to perfect.

Here are a few tips:

  1. Avoid double negatives in questions to avoid confusion.
    • Example: What don't we currently offer that would make you less likely to cancel your membership?
    • Better alternative: What else could we offer that would add value to your membership?
  2. Avoid ambiguity to gain more powerful insights. Writing specific questions to get you more specific feedback.
    • Example: How do you feel about your purchase?
    • Better alternative: How satisfied are you with the quality of the product you received?
  3. Share only relevant questions. Since extra or irrelevant questions can lead to abandonment, design your survey so that people only see questions most applicable to them.
    • Example: For the question, "how satisfied are you with the quality of the product you received?" you can jump to different branch questions based on whether customers were satisfied or dissatisfied with their purchase.

6. Don't request personal information.

In our research, "asking for too much personal information" was a recurring reason that survey respondents dropped out of a survey.

There are a few reasons this might be happening.

The first is that it adds length to your survey. Answering basic demographic questions can add several minutes to your survey and we've already covered how that leads to survey fatigue.

The next reason is a matter of trust. When providing sensitive or negative feedback, customers or employees may not trust that their identity will remain anonymous. They also may not see how their age, race, or income is relevant.

Asking demographic and personal questions can frustrate your customers and cause them to abandon your survey. If you want to ask for demographic or contact information, include it in optional questions at the end.

If this information is crucial to your survey (eg. seeking feedback about DEI initiatives), explain this upfront in your survey prompt.

7. Add visuals.

Of those surveyed, 70.9% of respondents said that surveys involving photo or video viewing are more energizing than simply text.

You can do this by incorporating image choice questions, for example, or by asking customers to click emoji faces instead of numbers on a scale.

8. Test your survey before sending it out.

Invite a few people outside of your immediate team to test out a survey for you before you finalize it. Ask them to share how long it took to complete and to identify any questions that weren't clear.

The Benefits of a Well-Designed Customer Survey

Surveys remain one of the best ways to interact with your customers and gain insight into their experience with your brand.

With some research and some effort, you'll find the survey sweet spot for gathering information and data from your customers to provide a better experience and boost revenue.

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Topics: Survey Creation

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