Survey Fatigue: Impact and Prevention

What is Survey Fatigue?

Survey fatigue is where respondents become disengaged with a survey. It is also referred to also referred to as ‘Respondent Fatigue’ or ‘Participant Fatigue’.

There are two types of survey fatigue:

Survey Response Fatigue: This type of fatigue concerns respondents who become disengaged from surveys before they start to complete them. This is due to participants being overloaded with requests and results in lower response rates

Survey Taking Fatigue: This occurs during the survey taking process. Respondents become disengaged and begin to provide ‘dishonest’ responses or leave your project altogether. I.e. a lower completion rate.

Problems Caused by Survey Fatigue

A few respondents leaving or ignoring your survey may seem like a benign problem, but there are some notable consequences.

Negative Brand Perceptions: Plying your contact list with surveys can damage what they think of your brand or organization. If you need feedback, ask for it sparsely.

Low Data Quality: As motivation and engagement drop, so does the quality of responses. Respondents will attempt to finish your survey quicker and pay less attention to their answers.

Non-Response Bias: The respondents who most want their voices to be heard are less likely to be affected by survey fatigue. This seems like a positive, as you’re still collecting results, but in-fact can lead to data set filled with extreme opinions.

How it Manifests in your Results

Asides from lower response and completion rates, survey fatigue can cause response bias.

Here are a few examples of these:

  • Speed Runs
  • Straight Lining
  • Non-Differentiation
  • Acquiescence Response Bias
  • Neutral Answer Selection
  • Extreme Responding


Tips for Preventing Survey Fatigue

Unfortunately, it would be impossible to eliminate all occurrences of survey fatigue, as some factors are beyond your control. However, these tips will help you reduce the effects of survey fatigue:

1. Shorter survey length

Surveys with an excessive number of pages and questions is a big red-flag to respondents. Make your surveys as short as possible and demonstrate that you value their time and effort.

Our advice is to always test your own survey. If you find it to be mentally-taxing, you can assume that respondents will feel the same way.

2. Faster completion time

Although closely linked to survey length, the time it takes to complete your survey is arguably more important in avoiding survey fatigue. It is often determined by the complexity of questions, which should be easily understandable and contextualised by respondents.

The perfect survey will take no longer than 7 minutes to complete, if it takes longer than this you’re probably demanding too much from respondents.

3. Better subject lines (for email surveys)

Avoid cliche phrases like “Please Complete this Survey” in the subject line of your email survey invitation. Respondents have seen this all before and so will only be deterred from responding.

Instead, try something more conversational like ‘is there something we should know?’.

4. Don’t send surveys too frequently

There are two things to consider when deciding how often to distribute surveys. Firstly, how often other departments in your organisation survey your contacts. Secondly, how often your competitors do.

Tip: Run some tests to determine what frequency of surveys results in a higher quantity and quality of responses.

5. Use page logic

Use page logic to create personalised paths for respondents. Then they only answer questions relevant questions and are less likely to become disengaged.

6. Save demographic questions for the end

Only include these types of questions where necessary, and don’t place them at the start of your survey.

Many respondents are reluctant to hand over sensitive information and are more likely to leave if a survey opens with them.

7. Keep respondents updated

By giving respondents an update after your survey has closed shows you value their time and effort.

It will also go some way in building respondent relationships, which is essential if you intend to send them more surveys.

For example, if your survey was gauging customer satisfaction. You should follow up with those customers about how you’ve implemented their feedback.

8. Be transparent

By being upfront, you’ll improve your relationship and the quality of responses.

Here’ a few things respondents appreciate being informed on:

  • The purpose of your survey
  • Why they’ve been asked to complete it
  • How long it will take
  • How you intend to use their data
  • Whether their response is anonymous

You could include this information in an email along with the survey or on a welcome page.

9. Clear and concise questions

All your survey questions and answers should be clear to respondents, i.e. they should be able to understand their context.

You should also keep questions as short as possible, ensuring you’re only asking one thing at a time.

Learn how to write good survey questions.

10. Mobile friendly surveys

There’s no way you can predict what device your respondents will be taking your survey on. so it’s always best to use software that is optimized for mobile devices.

All surveys, forms and quizzes are mobile friendly on KwikSurveys.

11. Thank respondents

Show appreciation for their time and effort. And if the survey was collecting feedback, assure them their voice has been heard.

12. Don’t make every question required

Requiring too many questions can lead to a higher non-completion rate or cause response bias.

Tip: Do not make sensitive questions required. Give respondents the choice of whether to provide personal or sensitive information.

Save this feature for the most important questions that contribute the most to your research aims.

13. Avoid sensitive questions (where possible)

There’s a simple rule to remember here; if you don’t need the data, don’t ask the question.

It’s easy for survey creators to see questions as impersonal or objective, but this isn’t the same for respondents. These types of questions include: contact information, salary, location, and demographic information (race/ ethnicity).

However, respondents will answer if they think it’s relevant to your project aims. It’s on you to emphasise their importance and relevance to your research.

Final Thoughts

Those who are invested in the topic/ subject or those won’t be affected by survey fatigue. But that’s only likely to be a very small pool of your respondents.

However, you must be critical of these respondents too. The people who go most out of their way to have their opinion heard, usually have the most extreme opinions.

The most pertinent advice we can give you it to keep your respondents in when creating a survey. This will allow you to construct a clear, unbiased, project that engages participants from start to finish.

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