Successful Surveys in a Time of Consumer Fatigue


The proliferation of customer satisfaction surveys is taking its toll on me. Once I was inclined to answer them. Now, I immediately dismiss the many requests for my feedback. According to an article in the NY Times, the exponential growth of the satisfaction survey is annoying consumers world wide. In the past, these surveys were an expensive proposition. Market research firms charged a lot of money to define, craft, and administer polls and to find a good representative sample of the target group. There is a lot of science and experience that goes into good quantitative and qualitative research. But with the advent of easy-to-use survey tools like SurveyMonkey, anyone can create a quick one and throw it online. What once was viewed as a privilege is now seen as a nuisance.

survey fatigue

So should you give up on getting feedback from the stakeholders in your organization? Of course not; but when doing so, consider the following:

Keep it short. I mean short. What’s the essential information you must get? Most surveys are designed to get information to help shape a decision. You must decide the minimum required and make sure that’s the first thing you ask. While I, in responding to a survey, might  decide to answer three questions, I will not click through multiple pages. We no longer have the luxury of “warming people up” to the place they will give us what we need. If you fail to get to the heart of the matter soon, you might not get what you need.

Incentivize. The busier and higher compensated your target audience is, the more you will have to pay for their opinion. Drug companies pay hundreds of dollars for medical doctors to give them feedback. Discount codes, coupons, and ebook downloads are all cost-effective ways to incentivize your audience to engage in a survey longer than a few simple questions.

Feedback. I have never seen this done, but I would love to know what happened with the results of my survey. I once did a long survey for the marketing firm working on a Coca Cola ad campaign. It would be great getting a simple email back saying something like, “Thanks for being a part of our focus group. Click here to see how you helped shaped this campaign.” If organizations were to start this trend, I, for one, would consider answering surveys again.

How often to you participate in a survey? Have you found yourself ignoring them more and more?


  • Shari

    Is it just me or are customer surveys too often thinly disguised spam? I stopped answering any telephone surveys years ago when some companies used a survey to get around the Do Not Call list. Now answering an online survey typically results in spam, in my experience.

    • So true, Shari. Disingenuous sales tools disguised as surveys have further discouraged consumer participation.

  • I tend to ignore surveys, unless they are short and don’t take much time. I rarely send out surveys myself, but when I do, I make sure they are short and explain why they are important. I’m sending one out soon about the Lent book we put out for Ignite, and explained that the results from the survey will help us in crafting next year’s version.

    • I like that you’re attaching a clear outcome with the survey. That would compel me to give it another look.

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