How to deal with high survey drop out rates

Drop Out Rate

Before we get into today’s post it is probably useful to start with a brief explanation of the difference between response rate and completion rate. The response rate is the number of people who completed your survey divided by the overall sample size. Research varies but 10-15% response rate is considered average for external surveys. There are lots of ways you can improve this. In some scenarios, you may not have a sample size as your survey may just be available for anyone to take. If this is the case, then you should be looking at your completion rate.

The completion rate is the number of people who completed your survey divided by the number of people who actually entered it. Average completion rates vary hugely depending on a number of factors but you would normally expect anywhere between 25% and 50% completion rate.

When it comes to surveys, companies often focus on the response rate. This gives you a good idea of how many of your customers took the time to actually sit and take your survey. This can also tell you how many of those invited didn’t bother to take the survey at all. However, these metrics are forgetting about a large, but important group of people.

Let’s say that your standard, traditional online survey produced a completion rate of 50%. So, ignoring those that didn’t even start your survey you have a remaining 50% that didn’t finish the survey. Now 30% of those that you invited you could write off for reasons like they got disconnected, the kids distracted them, life got in the way etc. which leaves you with the final 20%. These are the respondents that started taking the survey and then just got bored or sick of the questions and quit.

This 20% could be the difference between a good campaign and an awesome campaign. This is a group of people that you don’t normally hear from whose voice could give you a much more complete picture. Dropping out of a survey is a terrible experience for the respondent and equally bad for the company. You are not learning anything and you may even have provided a negative experience for the respondent. From their point of view, they have wasted time taking on the survey and then haven’t even got the satisfaction of completing it and feeling their voice is being heard.

How to Keep Respondents Engaged

These forgotten feedback folks are often neglected so what can you do to engage these ‘active rejecters’ and turn them into completers. Well the first thing you could do is look at when they are dropping out. Is there a consistent point in your survey that seems to put customers off? Are you asking for personal information? Is survey fatigue starting to kick in? Perhaps your questions are too repetitive or they just don’t feel relevant to the customer?

Does Size Matter?

There is often a view that the longer the survey the lower the response rates and data quality. While this may well be the case in some scenarios, it could also be argued that you simply aren’t doing enough to keep your respondent engaged. We thought we would put this point to the test in a large-scale project we worked on. A large transport agency was struggling with engagement from customer feedback. They had problems with low response rates and lack of insight. Using Wizu we utilised a different approach that was more about creating an interactive, engaging survey experience designed to collect customer stories. Utilising a range of question types, multiple question routes and bot responses we achieved a 70% completion rate and average engagement time of 10 minutes. This was a huge improvement on previous traditional survey campaigns the company had run and proved that it was more about the engagement of the survey than the actual length.

Create a Personal Experience

If you can offer personalized conversations that put the questions in context, refer to previous responses they gave, that include customer specific data or that provide different follow up questions depending on how the customer responds, you will keep them engaged for longer. They will also be more willing to provide a deeper insight into how they feel giving you more actionable information to work with.

Variety Is the Spice of Life

Asking the same type of questions over and over again is boring. Rating 1 to 5 or choosing from a list of satisfied to unsatisfied is ok for a couple of questions. But if you keep using the same question type over and over again people will get bored. Try mixing things up, ask more interesting questions and do it in different ways. Get them to pick from a list of emoji’s, insert some images or videos into your survey or just vary the input type to keep them engaged.

Looks Are Important

If you are not making the effort to make your surveys look good, then why should a customer make the effort to complete it? Ensure your survey displays correctly across all devices and that it is easy to navigate and select answers. Fat fingers syndrome should not be ignored! Add some branding to your survey and keep the visuals coming throughout. Adding the odd image or emoji can bring the conversation to life and ensure you maintain your customer’s attention.

Hop, Skip and a Jump

Do your customers really need to answer every question in your survey? Utilise routing to allow respondents to navigate to questions relevant to them. This will not only make the experience shorter for them but will help you focus on the important data rather than collecting redundant information.


If you are struggling with low completion rates, then this could have a number of negatives. Not only are you missing out on valuable data, you are giving your customer a bad experience. It also might be that a certain demographic is more likely to drop out which can cause your results to paint a slightly narrower picture. Also, those that are completing might be proving poor responses as they will be experiencing the same frustrations as the drop outs. However, it is not all doom and gloom. There are lots of ways you can improve your survey experience and increase your completion rate, resulting in a better experience for your customers and better insight for you.


Please login or register to join the discussion.

There are currently no replies, be the first to post a reply.