How to Increase Your Survey Completion Rate

The survey completion rate is a key metric in determining the success of your overall survey campaign.

A prudent market researcher will check the status of their surveys, as a means of creating effective survey studies for their market research campaigns. Checking your survey status requires looking into more than just the amount completed. 

Instead, you should take your survey completion rate into consideration.

This article explains this metric, how it differs from the survey response rate and how to increase it so you can quickly gain all the necessary responses from your target population.

Defining the Survey Completion Rate

The survey completion rate, as its name implies, measures the rate at which your surveys are filled out and submitted by your intended responders. It is expressed as a percentage. 

Specifically, it alludes to the number of surveys completed in relation to the number of surveys your respondents started.

This means that the entirety of your targeted sampling pool isn’t a part of the survey completion rate, only the respondents who have entered and interacted with your survey count towards this rate.

As such, the more respondents that complete their survey out of those who began one, the higher your completion rate will be.

A low survey completion rate is a consequence of survey attrition, specifically dropout attrition. 

How Survey Completion Rate Differs from Survey Response Rate

The survey completion rate is often conflated with or used interchangeably with the survey response rate. Although they delve into similar territory, that of completed surveys, there is a notable factor that differentiates the two. 

Like the survey completion rate, the survey response rate measures survey completions. However, it refers to the amount of respondents who completed a survey in relation to the total sampling pool, i.e., all those who received the survey, or were prompted to take part in one — not just those who started one.

A low survey response rate is also a consequence of survey attrition, but that of nonresponse attrition

The calculation for the survey response rate is as follows:
# of completed surveys / number of sent surveys (via email, survey software, CRM, etc.) X 100

An example of the calculation:
Surveys sent: 500
Number of respondents who entered the survey: 240
Number of completed surveys: 229
Response rate = 229 / 500 = 0.458
0.458 x 100 = 45.8%
The survey response rate in this scenario = 45.8%

How to Calculate the Survey Completion Rate

The calculation for the survey completion rate mirrors that of the survey response rate, save for the differing variable. In this case, you aren’t dividing the total number of completed surveys by all those in the sampling pool, i.e., by the amount of sent surveys.

Instead, you must divide the total complete surveys by the number of surveys your respondents started. Below is the formula.

The calculation for the survey completion rate is as follows:
# of completed surveys / number of respondents who entered the survey X 100 

An example of the calculation:
Surveys sent: 700
Number of respondents who entered the survey: 380
Number of completed surveys: 300
Response rate = 300 / 380 = 0.78947
0.78947 x 100 = 78.95%
The survey response rate in this scenario = 78.95%

Why a Low Survey Completion Response is Disadvantageous for Your Research

As you can see from the differences in the calculations, it is critical to achieve a high survey completion rate. 

When your survey response rate is relatively low, it is understandable in that you are comparing the completed surveys in relation to the entire sampling pool, whereas in the survey completion rate, the completes are in relation only to those who already began taking your survey. 

Thus, a low survey completion rate points to dual survey attrition: both nonresponse and dropout attrition. This is because respondents with nonresponse attrition are always present, despite not being taken into account in the survey completion rate calculation.

A low survey completion rate compounds this in that nonresponse attrition is already present, yet exacerbated as those who have already started the survey declined to finish it. 

Here are some of the other disadvantages and consequences of a low survey completion rate:

  1. A poor survey experience
  2. Distaste with your brand (especially if the survey mentions it, whether directly or indirectly)
  3. The wasted opportunity of understanding key members of your target market/ population. 
  4. Wasted survey deployment (whether it’s via email or an online survey tool)
  5. Longer times to reach your target amount of survey completes.
  6. DIfficulty in receiving responses from all your audiences (some survey tools allow you to enter multiple audiences per tool).
  7. Incomplete data (especially if you use any method other than an online survey tool.

Methods to Increase Your Survey Completion Rate

A low completion rate can be unsettling for many market or general researchers. Fortunately, there are certain best practices that can increase your survey completion rate. These pertain specifically to the survey-taking experience, as the completion rate is contingent on the survey itself.

Here are a few critical methods that improve your in-survey experience.

  1. Keep your survey short, on-topic and relevant to your target market. You can go so far as to create multiple surveys that befit your different market segments. 
  2. Mention the point of the survey and highlight its benefits. Some respondents will be much more willing to finish a survey if they know its purpose. This will motivate them, especially if it is designed for some sort of greater good, whether it’s societal or concerned with the respondents’ own CX. Even if this won’t be a motivating factor, no one will want to finish a survey if they feel it is useless or done in vain from not knowing its basis. 
  3. Don’t create questions that are difficult to answer. For example, if you need to better understand your CX, conduct a customer experience survey and ask questions about a specific experience in a customer journey. Or get even more granular with a survey based on specific aspects of one experience. In short, simplify questions.
  4. Assure you don’t offend anyone of your sampling pool members. Although most surveys are anonymous, all cultures aren’t the same. The same goes with demographics; some won’t feel comfortable answering certain questions that may be based on topics sensitive to them. If respondents don’t leave a survey, this may cause them to partake in survey bias at the very least. 
  5. Only ask the questions you need — conduct secondary research. In keeping with the first piece of advice of maintaining relevance, avoid unnecessary questions. These will easily bore or irritate your respondents. That means you should only ask the most pressing questions, the answers of which you won’t find elsewhere. As a good market research rule of thumb, begin your research via secondary research. This will assure you steer clear of unneeded questions, unloading your question output.
  6. Test your survey among your team. There’s no better way at getting a feel of your survey experience than by taking the survey yourself — or having someone at your team test it out. Your team members can give you some of the quickest feedback that is both honest and actionable. Other ways to test your survey are via A/B tests; this is the most optimal method of testing variations of your survey and their corresponding performance.
  7. Create engaging elements. Boredom is a survey killer; keep respondents engaged with visually stimulating elements. This can include adding a few visual-ratings questions, questions with media files and those with various formats, ex: mixing Matrix questions with basic multiple-choice questions.

Elevating Your Research with a Healthy Completion Rate

Researchers ought to bear in mind that a healthy survey completion rate will vary between survey campaigns and the surveys themselves. With that said, you should aim for a high completion rate, as this is indicative of a well-built survey, meaning it will play a role in increasing the overall response rate.

The larger your completion rate, the larger your completed sampling pool is. A larger sampling pool signifies a greater representation of your study’s target population. Thus, it provides for a more accurate data set. 

The best way to take control of your survey completion rate is to implement a strong online survey tool. Such a tool will deploy surveys across networks, iterating repeatedly until all your survey quotes are filled. As such, you won’t have to worry about this metric as much as those using another survey distribution method, such as via email. Nonetheless, a strong survey platform should allow you to keep track of your survey completion tool, as it shows you how well you’ve designed your survey.