What's Survey Fatigue & How to Avoid It

Sheryl Green
Sheryl Green


If you grew up in the ’90s (or babysat someone who did), you probably remember the Animaniacs, a cartoon featuring the Warners siblings.

survey fatigue

In one episode, they went to the mall to buy a birthday present and were consistently hounded by two women asking, “Would you like to take a survey?” Everywhere they went, these ladies popped out of nowhere asking, “Would you like to take a survey,” driving the siblings to near-madness in an attempt to escape them.

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While it was just a cartoon, this episode echoed a feeling that many modern-day consumers have. Even though they want to be heard, they don’t want to be bombarded with survey requests or spend significant time completing them.

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

What is survey fatigue?

Survey fatigue is when respondents get bored or become uninterested in your surveys due to the large number of survey requests they receive or the number of questions and effort required to complete them.

Fatigue usually leads to low response rates, rushed completion, or abandonment, which can all affect your survey results.

The Negative Consequences of Survey Fatigue

While it may seem like no big deal if your surveys go unanswered, there are long-lasting consequences when you ask too much of your customers. Survey fatigue research shows some of the issues this can cause:

  1. If you pay by the survey, there will be financial drawbacks of sending too many.
  2. Your customers may begin to view your brand in a negative light. Rather than providing a quality product and excellent customer service (how you want them to see you), customers are likely to view you as intrusive, obnoxious, and a drain on their time and mental bandwidth.
  3. The surveys you receive may have inaccurate information if you’ve asked too many questions or asked questions not pertinent to that specific customer. We’ll talk about appropriate survey length in the next section.
  4. 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.

You work so hard to attract customers and provide them with the best possible product and service. The last thing you want to do is irritate them to where they want to run away screaming.

How to Avoid Survey Fatigue

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 the frequency with which you will survey customers.

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 2.

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

2. Carefully review the length of your survey.

While this can vary depending on what information you’re attempting to collect, the rule of thumb is that the more straightforward and concise a survey, the better. 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 essential, it’s also essential to understand how much of a time commitment you’re asking for. According to a Stanford University Study in 2007, survey time needs to be limited to ensure accurate responses. Ideally, this will be less than 5 minutes.

4. Pay close attention to your questions.

Yes or no or multiple choice answers are easier to respond to than open-ended questions and will take your respondents less time.

Depending on the software you use, you should have the ability to utilize branching or skip logic, so survey respondents only see questions that pertain to them. You can also ask a few broad or general questions and then ask if they have the time to answer more questions. You’ll want to skip demographic questions, which may frustrate your customers and lead them to abandon your survey or provide sub-par responses.

5. Follow up.

It’s important to thank customers for their time. However, you need to go one step further. Don’t just tell them when their feedback has been received. Tell them when it’s been put into action. Knowing that their input made an actual difference in how your company operates will make them more likely to respond to survey requests in the future.

Following these guidelines will help you collect better data and keep your customers happy at the same time.

Always create surveys with your customers in mind.

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 sweet spot for gathering information and data from your customers to provide a better experience and not annoy them to the point that they refuse to do business with your organization.

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Topics: Survey Creation

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