In the past, we’ve talked about how important the use of surveys are in order to provide you with the data you need as a business to measure how you are performing, and also allow you to make important decisions for the future. Any business should thrive on feedback, and so it’s important to seek it wherever possible.
As a training company, you’ll have a large pool of people you can ask to participate in surveys – current students, past students, members of staff, other businesses you deal with (such as vendors) , and maybe even leads that you haven’t closed the deal with yet, if applicable.
To get the best results from a survey, and ensure that the data you’re working with provides a realistic picture of how the group you have surveyed actually feels, it’s important to get as many responses as possible. Obviously, this can sometimes be out of your control, as you probably can’t make it compulsory for someone to complete your survey, but there are things you can do to make sure you get the largest responses rate possible.
Another part of getting the most responses possible for your surveys is making sure you're asking the right questions, and in the best way! Keep reading to get our guide to 'The Questions You Should Be Asking to Effectively Measure Your Training' below!
Make the Move to Online
The first way we would suggest improving your survey response rate is to make the move to online surveys instead of using paper-based ones. There’s a number of reasons why we think you will benefit from using online surveys:
- They can help keep your costs down. Think about how much money you might spend printing multiple copies of your survey, especially as these will need to be reprinted every time you make even the smallest change. With online surveys, these changes would be updated automatically, so any future students receiving your survey will always get the most up-to-date version. Also, if you are currently having to mail paper surveys, you will save even more money on envelopes and stamps.
- They can save you a lot of time. As well as costing you a lot of money, all the things we’ve mentioned above will use up a lot of your time as well. From printing, to addressing and sealing envelopes, to having to physically mail the surveys, all of these tasks can be removed with the use of online surveys. Also, if you set a closing time for your survey, it may need to be quite far in the future to account for the next time your students are going to be in class, or the amount of time you want to give people to reasonably post something back to you.
So how can moving to online surveys specifically benefit you in terms of increasing your survey response rate?
Send Surveys to Anyone That is Relevant
If you chose to send out paper surveys, you may decide to only send them to a cross section of the group you want to assess for a number of reasons. Only sending paper surveys to a small chunk of a specific group would save you money and time, as well as translating to less work for your staff when the surveys were returned, as obviously all the responses would have to be recorded somewhere so they could be analysed.
With online surveys you don’t have to worry about that at all, as not only will it take the same amount of time to send it to 10 people as it would to send it to 100 people, but all the responses will be automatically recorded online, so you won’t have to spend hours inputting all the data.
You may as well ask as many people as are relevant to a particular survey, as the more surveys you send out, the more likely you are to get a larger number back, thus providing you with lots of data for you to analyse and report on.
Set a Quicker Closing Date
As we mentioned above, online surveys are more time efficient because you don’t have to allow as much time for people to get back to you. Replying to an online survey takes an instant, so you can easily cut your response time down from possibly weeks to just a few days. Not only does this mean you will get the data on this particular survey back quicker, but it means you will then be able to issue follow-up surveys, or surveys on different topics once your first survey has closed.
You probably never want to be running more than one survey at once, as it could get confusing on your side, and as you may be trying to survey the same group of people multiple times, you don’t want them to get survey burnout from trying to complete a lot of different surveys at the same time.
Having a shorter closing date, and being able to start the next survey quicker, means you will be able to complete more surveys in a shorter time period than if you were using paper surveys, which means more responses than you usually have in a set time period for you to analyse.
Timing is Everything!
You may be keen to send out a survey as soon as you’re finished creating it, but you really need to be a little more careful when it comes to planning and timing.
First of all, you want to create a plan for yourself. Think about when you need the results by and work backwards from that. How long will it take you to analysis the data you’ve collected? How long are you going to give your students to respond? You need to take all of this into account to make sure you’re giving yourself an accurate amount of time to actually get the survey sent out and completed.
You’ll also want to consider any periods of time which you want to avoid when you’re planning on sending your survey out. If you’re sending it to students or staff, you’ll want to avoid things like term holidays as chances are a lot of people won’t even login to their email account. It’s also important to plan around things like exam dates or revision periods, as students and staff are likely to be too focussed on their revision to have the time to spare to complete a survey.
Finally, you may even want to consider what time of day you send the survey, as this is when it will be popping up in people’s inboxes. If you know what time students and tutors will be involved in classes, you may wish to avoid these times to give them the chance to open the survey and complete it straight away. Also you may want to avoid the start of the day, as it may get lost in all the messages people have received overnight. Consider what time of day you would most like to receive a survey email, and when you would most likely have a little bit of time to set aside to actually complete it!
Taking the time to plan the ideal time to send your survey out will give you the best chance of getting the maximum amount of responses, and allow your respondents to be fully focussed on completing the survey when they receive it.
Check, Check, and Check Again
This may seem like an obvious one but it’s really important to check and double check all your surveys before you send them out to your participants. A little extra checking time can save you a lot of hassle down the road, so make sure you make the effort.
Obviously you want to proofread your survey first and foremost – not just for spelling and grammar mistakes, but also to sense check it. Send it to different employees in your team to make sure everything is as it should be and it all makes sense. A few different pairs of eyes on it, especially from people who weren’t directly involved in creating the survey, are perfect to catch any mistakes you may have missed yourself.
From a technical point of view it’s also important to make sure any elements such as links or survey elements such as tick boxes are working correctly and as expected. For example, if one particular question says "choose as many as apply", but the tick boxes only let a participant select one answer, this will need to be fixed as you will not get the results you were expecting if people are only limited to one answer.
Making sure your surveys are functioning and error free is not only important for you when you are collecting data, but it can also really affect your response rate. If a survey is full of mistakes, or certain sections of it are just completely broken, respondents are probably quite likely to just abandon it and never complete it, even if they are really keen to take part. If a mistake is noticed too late, you always have the ability to fix the mistake and send out the new, correct version, but chances are any respondents who tried to take part the first time will not want to waste their time completing a second survey when their first attempt got them nowhere. The trust between you and them may also have taken some damage, and you may have trouble getting those same respondents to complete future surveys.
It may not always be possible, but you may want to think about offering some sort of incentive for respondents who complete your survey. You may want to save this for surveys that you really need as many respondents as possible for, such as an end of year review of all the classes you’ve run that year, instead of just using it all the time.
Think about what would be a good incentive for your participates, and what would be easy to organise and cost-effective from your side as well. It may be something like gift vouchers for a select amount of participants, or a discount on an additional class for everyone who responds. This is particularly handy as not only does it incentivise the survey for your respondents, but it also encourages repeat business!
You obviously don’t want to have a lot of additional financial outgoings on every survey you run, but using an incentive every now and again to make sure you get the amount of responses you need will be invaluable to your data gathering and reporting.
Use Reminders to Encourage Further Responses
According to The Effect of Reminder Intervals on Response Rates for Web Surveys by John S. Lemon, “people respond to emails quickly, or not at all” and “the majority of responses (come) within 36-48 hours of the initial invite or a reminder.”
When you are checking your email inbox for new emails, chances are you scan through them, and if they are interesting enough you will action them right then and there. Emails that aren’t dealt with right away are likely to sink to the bottom of your inbox, never to be seen again! The best way to ensure this doesn’t happen with your surveys is to send a couple of reminders, spaced a few days apart, to jog people’s memories about your survey.
As John S. Lemon mentioned above, the respondents they tested replied quickly after the initial email, and after the follow-up reminders. The follow-ups should have the same effect as the first email had, and will remind people who genuinely forgot about the survey that they actually wanted to complete it.
You’ll want to make sure you limit the amount of reminders you send though, as the people who have no interest in completing the survey are never going to do it, no matter how many reminders you send, so you don’t want to waste any of your valuable time.
Reminders are an extremely helpful tool, as just think how many more responses you would get if you got another two or three rounds of instant responses like you do when you first send the survey. By not using gentle reminders, you’re missing out on a large chunk of people who are willing to respond, but maybe just misplaced the email the first time around, or forgot about it.
It is important to ensure that you set up your survey so that it can only be completed once by each person to make sure you don’t get lots of duplicate answers. A respondent may see a reminder, forget they completed it in the first place, and then complete it again! Now this may give you more responses than you’ve gotten in the past, but the data won’t be accurate if the same person is completing a survey multiple times!
On that note, you may want to make sure you only send reminders to those people who haven’t completed the survey just to be on the safe side. If a respondent completes the survey after the first email, but still gets another 4 or 5 emails from you, they may get annoyed and ignore any future emails from you, or even worse – direct your emails straight to the spam folder!
Using Administrate’s Communication Triggers to Send Automated Reminders
If you’re an Administrate customer, then you’re in luck, because you can use our communication triggers to send automated email reminders to your survey participants to make sure you get as many responses as possible but with very little legwork on your part!
- Create a communications trigger for each reminder, so you can decide exactly how many you want to send, and how far apart you want to space them. This also means you can use a different template for each reminder, allowing you to customise the content your respondents will receive in their reminder emails.
- Target audiences from all your events, particular events, specific learning tracks, or you can use the scheduled option to send an email periodically to a list of recipients who are not related to a specific event. This means you can tailor your content so it’s specific to which events or courses you respondents attended.
- Target exactly the people you want to email, whether that’s students, all staff, administrators, instructors, or booking contacts. This means you can create different reminders for different groups of people, which may be handy if you have a different survey for students and staff, even if they attended the same event or course.
You can also use our SurveyMonkey integration to send out the survey in the first place, as well as track all the responses from your participants, so all the important data is stored in one place!