What causes survey fatigue?
There are multiple ways fatigue impacts your survey participants.
Bombarded with survey requests from a variety of businesses, people become reluctant to take surveys altogether. And that means they'll be more likely to decline your survey invitation with an eye roll and a heavy sigh!
Confusing and biased questions can ruin any survey. Muddy questions can compel participants to either abandon the survey midway or give dishonest answers.
Long survey fatigue:
Long surveys tend to get boring. The longer the survey, the higher the dropout rate. With a human’s average attention span being less than nine seconds, surveys longer than eight minutes are almost sure to lose your respondent's interest.
This type of fatigue creeps in more subtly. Participants disengage from taking surveys when they feel their opinions are not valued by the researchers. Surveys seem insincere when you ask opinions from your audience but never act on them.
How does survey fatigue affect you?
A few people quitting your survey is no cause for concern. But when the number multiplies, there are potential negative consequences for your organization. The long-term effects might materialize in the following ways:
Reduced respondent quality
When survey fatigue sets in, it can be tough to win back quality respondents, no matter how many incentives you offer.
- Deserters: They either avoid taking your survey altogether, or worse, abandon your survey midway.
- Straight-liners: When respondents lose motivation to answer your survey, they may plow through it by mindlessly clicking the same option for all the questions.
- Speed-runners: Their only motivation is to get through the survey, no matter how. So, they randomly rush through the options, providing useless data.
- Extremists: Largely zoned out, they answer your survey with either all positive or all negative responses.
Negative brand image
Bombarding participants with multiple surveys usually doesn’t bode well. Your brand might earn a negative reputation when you send respondents frequent and low-quality surveys.
When participants give less thought to their answers, the quality of the responses is reduced. Surveys you send out may fetch inaccurate information, which affects your data quality. When your data caliber decreases, so will your ability to make data-driven decisions.
Rolling out surveys costs money, and if you pay per survey, you might have to spend more to send out more surveys. But fatigued respondents give sub-par answers and skew survey results, rendering the survey ineffective. This wastes money and resources.
How to remedy survey fatigue
Improper survey questions can inadvertently cause survey fatigue. The irony is that researchers who cause survey fatigue by building skewed surveys are the ones who are most directly impacted by this phenomenon. Here are a few best practices you can follow to battle this out.
Cards on the table, people rarely love taking surveys. It’s important to be mindful of their time and efforts when they agree to give you their two cents. Build surveys that are precise and clear. Short surveys have high completion rates and retrieve quality data because they keep participants engaged. Surveys that take 3-5 minutes to complete are ideal.
If your questions are not relevant to your audience and the purpose of your research, consider the survey a no-go. Attempting to cover too many issues can confuse your respondents. Define your research purpose, stick to your goal, and don’t digress.
If your research requires opinions about various issues, build multiple surveys. This is better than dumping too many questions into a single survey. Consider using branching and display logic to help respondents skip irrelevant questions automatically.
There is no use questioning a high school student about college life. In the same way, sending feedback requests to people who have not used your product is futile. Appropriate surveys sent to the right people at the right time increase the response rate. Build customized surveys for respondents who have interacted positively with you to obtain informed responses.
User segmentation and personalization allow you to send targeted feedback requests to people who are likely to complete your survey without falling victim to survey fatigue. Analyze user interactions and response patterns to send surveys appropriately. Make sure you aren’t asking about the same subject more than once. Tailor the questions to your audience depending on their past behavior. You could also pre-populate answers you already know before asking the respondents to fill them out. Making things easy on your respondents has a big impact on reducing fatigue.
Surveys are effective only when they engage your audience. People lose interest when they are met with surveys at every turn. So, how often should you survey your audience? There are no hard and fast rules. It depends on your respondents, the number of questions on your surveys, and how often your audience interacts with you. It’s fruitless to send weekly surveys to customers who only interact with you monthly.
Track how often your competitors send surveys and avoid sending yours when they do. Check when other departments in your company send surveys and refrain from rolling yours out at the same time. An “employee engagement survey” can be sent every three months, while a “customer satisfaction survey” should be sent after every purchase with no more than four questions.
With too many surveys, you can damage your data quality, and with too few, you won’t get enough data. Balance is the key!
Disclosing to your participants that they are a part of a research study might induce bias and fatigue. However, there are certain details you should let your participants know up front. If you make it clear why you’re soliciting your customers for feedback, then you’ll likely see your response rate improve.
Meanwhile, ensure respondents' details are safe. It's extremely important to reiterate your stand on privacy when collecting data that can be identified as PIA.
You should also provide an estimated time of completion. Alert your respondents to the end time as well as the total number of steps required by the survey before they start. This helps respondents mentally prepare for the time they are going to spend. Be sure to be as accurate as possible with your estimate, and consider using a progress bar to keep respondents aware of their progress and encourage completion.
Let your respondents know that their opinions are valued. Give a brief introduction to the survey's purpose and what you intend to do with the data. You can prevent survey fatigue by reassuring your respondents that their comments will be heard. This helps them feel that their input is valuable and significant for enhancing their interaction with your business. You might be successful in persuading them to agree to participate in future surveys as well.
Be considerate of how you design your surveys. Survey fatigue can be exceptionally reduced when you avoid certain types of questions and certain methods of survey design.
Save the demographic questions for last: Questions that ask a participant's name, age, gender, etc. might make your respondents hesitant. It's better to place them at the end of your survey.
Be conscientious of question order: Make sure your questions follow a logical sequence. For instance, when assessing customer satisfaction after a purchase, begin by focusing on the purchasing process before moving on to delivery.
Limit open-ended questions: No one likes writing essays for a survey. Open-ended questions demand effort and time. Most respondents do not bother completing them.
Avoid loaded questions: When a question includes assumptions about the routines or viewpoints of the respondent, people may unintentionally agree or disagree with the implied message, which skews your data.
Say no to double-barreled questions: Double-barreled questions pose two questions in one, making it difficult for a respondent to provide precise and honest answers. Eventually, frustrated respondents may abandon the survey.
Avoid jargon: Keep the language in your customer survey questions straightforward and precise. Avoid using any slang, catchphrases, clichés, colloquialisms, or other potentially objectionable words. Jargon might confuse participants and they might leave your survey.
Try adding attention checks: Use questions that can serve as attention checks. These questions make sure that a respondent is paying attention while answering (i.e. Please select the largest number out of the response options listed or Please select the number 4). These questions can be placed in the middle of the survey, or distributed throughout at equal or random intervals. These sorts of "attention checks" can be used to filter out responses from individuals who are not answering thoughtfully.
Other ways to combat fatigue :
- Keep your audience in mind while making questions.
- Avoid asking too many questions. Don't ask just for the sake of it.
- Make it easy to answer questions.
- Repeat question variations.
Over to you
Survey fatigue poses a real threat to researchers who are looking for honest and unbiased data. We cannot totally prevent participants from becoming fatigued. But we can find ways to fight it. The most crucial thing is to distribute surveys from your company strategically and to avoid using them excessively. What matters the most is timing, relevance, appropriateness, and comprehension. Focus on these areas to combat survey fatigue consistently.
You can try Zoho Survey to create surveys with minimal bias and less fatigue. We have a 7-day free trial plan. See for yourself how easy it is to build effective surveys, or get in touch with our in-house experts for a walkthrough of the product.