Response Rate vs. Completion Rate: the difference, tips how to increase it

Feedback helps keep your finger on the pulse of clients’ attitude and needs. But to make decisions in line with the feedback received, you must be sure of data reliability. The response rate and the completion rate are key metrics tracked by questionnaires creators to control quality of the collected data. What do these metrics show? Let us look at them in detail.

What is survey response rate

The response rate is calculated as the ratio between those who have completed the survey to those who have been invited to take part in the survey. It shows the relevance of the survey to the audience.

How to calculate survey response rate

Let us consider an example of the response rate calculation. Assume that, as a result of the last survey, we have received the following data:

  • The number of survey invitations sent = 1,000
  • The number of respondents who entered the survey = 250
  • The number of respondents who completed the survey = 150

The response rate = Number of respondents who finished the survey / total number of survey invitations sent * 100%

In our case, the response rate = 150 / 1,000 * 100% = 15%

What is the average survey response rate

There are a lot of factors that affect the response rate. When conducting a survey in a survey panel where respondents are motivated by money incentive, the average response rate is a priori higher compared to ordinary brand surveys. At the same time, brand response rate can vary depending on whether the brand has established relationships or emotional bond with its clients. All these factors can affect clients’ readiness to take part in the survey.

Reasons of low survey response rate

Survey fatigue

Nowadays, people receive dozens of requests for feedback, that is why they are reluctant to accept another survey invitation. If possible, try to reduce the number of feedback requests.

Send NPS surveys no more than twice a year. Ad hoc surveys should be sent automatically after completing the desired action (order receipt or support request), but their total number should be reasonable.

Sometimes people choose not to participate in the survey as they do not believe that their opinion can influence decision-making. This type of survey fatigue is typical of corporate surveys, when employees have an opportunity to compare the content of incoming surveys to measures taken by the management based on the results.

Read How to reduce survey fatigue and design a likely-to be completed survey

Wrong time for sending invitations

The choice of time for sending invitations can affect the survey response rate. It is believed that you’d better not send invitations on Mondays, Fridays, or before official holidays. On these days, people tend to be more focused on their job or get sidetracked by planning their spare time.

No reminders

When it comes to completing questionnaires, not all people take them seriously. A tactful reminder will be helpful. With PeakPoll survey builder, you can resend invitations to those who have not taken part in the survey yet.

Low response rate consequences

The response rate is an indicator of collected data quality and data sample accuracy. Let’s consider what a low response rate can lead to.

Assume that we have 300 respondents in a sample of 1,000 people. Even if the response rate is 100%, we will get a sampling error of 5%. In a real-case scenario, the response rate of 100% is more of an exception to the rule, so let’s take a more realistic value, for example, 30%. In this case, a sampling error will increase twofold, up to 10%, which significantly reduces accuracy of collected data and quality of conclusions made.

Read How to create a questionnaire

How to increase survey response rate

Make a reference to benefits in the email subject line

When you email invitations to take part in the survey, try to make the email subject catchy, as it is your only chance to grab the respondent’s attention. The subject should include request for help, a reference to benefits for the client in the future, and promise of a bonus to those who complete the survey.

On some devices, the subject line is the only thing respondents see without reading the email itself. The subject must make a good first impression, be informative and persuasive.

If you conduct the survey right after the purchase or service, be sure to mention details for the respondent to understand that it is a target mailing and you are interested in their latest experience.

  • How can we make [service] work for you?
  • How was your recent airport experience?
  • Help us to deliver better service (and get your 25% off)!

Emphasize the importance of research to you and the client

People show little interest in surveys. And it is a pretty natural thing. So, one of the researcher’s tasks is to find ways to encourage respondents to participate in the survey.

Tell respondents about the goal of the research and that its results will help improve their customer experience. If respondents learn about the significance of the research and their contribution, they will be more willing to take part in the survey.

Thank you for your trust. We will appreciate it if you find 5 minutes to tell us about your door-to-door delivery experience. This will help us arrange delivery service so that the delivery person’s arrival fits your schedule perfectly. All survey respondents will get a coupon for a free delivery for your next order worth $50 and more.

Address respondents by name

No doubt, in most cases, clients are aware that addressing by name is part of an automated data substitution process. Despite this, people are still pleased to see their name. That is why this technique works.

If you mail the survey using your own client database that contains clients’ names, you can insert a special variable into the invitation body that will be automatically substituted with a corresponding name.

Recently, some companies have started sending emails not on behalf of the company, but on behalf of one of its employees. Such technique relies on the fact that people like dealing with other people rather than corporations. At the same time, it is harder to refuse a request from person rather than from a brand as a whole.

Indicate how long it takes to complete the survey

If you ask clients to spare you some time, you should specify at the very start the exact amount of time you ask for. Do not try to understate the required time: the respondent will be disappointed upon finding the discrepancy.

Subject: <Company Name> needs your feedback, got 5 mins? [Coupon for free delivery inside]

Think of a reward

To clients, participation in a survey is their personal initiative, not an obligation. Offer a bonus for taking part in the survey to show that you appreciate their readiness to help. It can be digital content (a guide, checklist, compilation), a discount, or an additional service when making a purchase. What matters most is choosing a bonus relevant and valuable to the target audience. To speed up data collection process, try to limit the coupon valid period.

Be sure to emphasize in the invitation that all respondents will get a gift. Insert a general promo code or upload a list of personalized promo codes on the survey finish page. PeakPoll survey builder will match the survey results to the promo code displayed. This data will appear in the survey results.

After completing the survey, you will get a coupon code to obtain the plugin free of charge. The coupon code itself is valid until March 31st, so act quickly.

Share results

If people spare their time for something or vote for some change, they want to see deliverables of their efforts. At the very beginning of your invitation, promise to inform respondents of the survey results. And make sure to keep that promise.

Survey results will guide decisions and policies that create a work environment where everyone feels like they can contribute, they are valued, and they belong.

We will share survey results with the campus in fall 2022. Your responses are confidential and will never be shared in a way that could identify you.

What is survey completion rate

The completion rate is calculated as the ratio between those who completed the survey to those who entered the survey. A low completion rate means that the questionnaire was drawn up incorrectly. This makes respondents tired quickly and drop it somewhere on the way.

How to calculate survey completion rate

Let us consider the same example to see how to calculate the completion rate.

  • The number of survey invitations sent = 1,000
  • The number of respondents who entered the survey = 250
  • The number of respondents who completed the survey = 150

The completion rate = the number of respondents who have completed the survey / number of respondents who have entered the survey * 100%

In this case, the completion rate = 150 / 250 * 100% = 60%

What is the average survey completion rate

Like with the response rate, it is hard to indicate the average completion rate. It depends on many factors. When conducting a survey in a survey panel where respondents are motivated by money incentive, the average completion rate is higher compared to general brand surveys.

Reasons of low survey completion rate

In the survey result analysis, low completion rate indicates the need to look more closely at the toolkit quality. Where to start? Let’s find out what causes low completion rates.

Too many questions

The most common reason for respondents outflow is too many questions. Today, most people practice multitasking and follow strict deadlines when every minute counts. That is why they pick more carefully how they what to spend their time. Some can indeed wish to give feedback on the company’s performance, but if it requires too much time, the cards will be stacked against you. The optimum number of questions should not exceed 10–15.

Too long questions

The questionnaire can consist of reasonable number of questions, but still tire respondents. This happens when it consists of long questions, for example, a multiple choice question with a long list of answer options, a matrix with a lot of lines to assess, or a series of open questions. Which is why it is important to control both aspects: the number of questions and the required time to complete the survey. It should not exceed 5–7 minutes.

Lack of logic connection between questions

If there is no logic in a questionnaire, the respondent gets the impression that their time is being wasted, and they are more likely to close the survey. For example, you ask visitors to rate the convenience of the kids’ playground, without first asking if they have children under 7. This will confuse respondents and negatively affect their trust in research significance.

Personal questions

Users are averse to sharing personal data in the online space. For someone, the need to disclose personal data in the questionnaire can become the reason for giving it up. That said, the researcher cannot completely refrain from requesting personal data as there should be the chance to analyze answers from the point of respondents’ gender, age, income. To minimize a share of refusals, do your best to ask for personal data that is actually required. You can enhance respondents’ anonymity by suggesting that they choose an interval (for example, the age) without specifying details. It is also a good idea to insert this block in the end, when the respondent has already answered to most questions and is motivated to finish the survey.

Too complicated questions

If questions are posed in terms understandable to researchers and not to common public, it can leave respondents’ heads spinning and tire them faster. The use of theoretical conceptions, terms of art, abbreviations, contractions, or slang can count against you. Respondents will have to google unknown words or answer randomly. This takes more resources compared to surveys where questions are clear from the get-go.

How to increase survey completion rate

There’s no easy way to get people into something they are not directly interested in. That is why we have prepared a few recommendations to raise the chance of respondents completing the survey.

Limit the number of questions

Ask only those questions that are relevant to the goal of the research. Follow the rule: one goal – one questionnaire. It’s no good analyzing the audience profile and measuring clients’ satisfaction within one questionnaire. You will just pump it up and confuse respondents.

Make questions simpler

Try to phrase questions as simply and briefly as possible. Refrain from using terminology, abbreviations, and contractions. If you can’t avoid it, provide clarifications in brackets. Also, there is no point in using clichés or abstract concepts (“many/much”, “little”, “often”, “rarely”, “common”); otherwise, the respondent will have to put their efforts in interpreting them. Try to remove all words without meaning from the text.

Personalize the questionnaire

Take advantage of a smart functionality of PeakPoll survey builder to customize the questionnaire and make it shorter.

Exclude unnecessary hints

PeakPoll functionality makes it possible to insert selected answer options into next questions. For example, you ask what types of cheese the respondent has purchased over the past six months. You set up an automatic insertion of selected answer options into the next question, where the respondent has to rate taste properties of each type of cheese.

Shorten the list of answer options

If you have a long list of answer options, check if you could combine some of them into one under a broader category. Later, by using a function of setting questions display, you will be able to clarify it with an additional question that will appear only to those who select that specific answer option.

Use the available client details

Assume that you mail the survey to your own client database, and you have already gathered some information. In this case, you can set up the display of certain questions or blocks of questions depending on additional parameters threaded into the link. With PeakPoll survey builder, you can generate personalized links for each respondent. For example, if you have data on the client’s latest order, you can ask them to rate not all the product range, but only the items purchased.

Read How to write good questions for a questionnaire