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How to Improve Customer Survey Response Rates | Superorder

Written by
March 12, 2024

Ways to Make the Most Out of Your Customer Surveys and Maximize Response Rates

Customer surveys are a fantastic way to understand what people think of your restaurant business. The days of going on gut instinct and hoping for the best are long gone. Today, restaurants can obtain mountains of data through surveys, using those insights to take action and maximize customer satisfaction (CSAT).

But one major hurdle to all those changes and benefits stands in your way: Getting people to complete your CSAT surveys! Low response rates can negatively impact your findings, giving you a skewed perspective on what your patrons truly think. When you don't have enough survey respondents, you could have glaring data gaps and incomplete information that steer you in the wrong direction.

Fortunately, there are many ways to improve survey response rates and get the results you're after.

Calculating Response Rates

Before you change your approach to gaining customer feedback, you should calculate your survey response rate. This metric reflects the percentage of customers actively responding to your surveys and providing the data you're after.

Calculating your response rate is easy with the following formula:

Divide the total number of responses you receive by the total number of people you send the survey to. Then, multiply that figure by 100 to get your current response rate.

For example, say you send surveys to 250 customers and receive 35 responses. After performing the calculations, your survey response rate would be 14 percent.

Keep in mind that this metric isn't the same as your Net Promoter Score (NPS) or survey completion rate. Instead, it reflects the percentage of survey responses you receive compared to how many you send out. If a customer responds in any way, it counts toward this metric, even if they don't complete the entire survey.

Why is it Important?

Restaurants live and breathe through customer feedback. The industry continually evolves, and the needs of diners frequently change. Pair that with new competitors to compare you to, and you need to collect surveys to maintain a push toward success.

It's important to aim for a good response rate. A lower rate means you have a smaller sample size of your customer base. The insights you obtain may only reflect the thoughts of certain demographics, leaving entire customer populations out of the mix. That could result in bias in the data you collect.

The goal of customer feedback is to collect as much information as you can about your target audience. The more responses you get, the more accurate insights you can gain.

Factors that Affect Your Rate of Success

Countless factors can impact the number of respondents who participate in your survey. Every small detail counts.

Low response rates could be a product of the survey itself. For example, the type of surveys you send and the core survey design may turn some people off. The same goes for the wording of individual questions, total length, the flow from one question to the next, etc.

How you deliver the survey makes a difference, too. Some customers aren't keen on receiving emails, and those survey emails may go to a spam folder, making customers miss out on survey links entirely. Others hate phone surveys or avoid taking a paper survey.

The type of respondents you send surveys to can also impact your response rate. Customers all have different motivations and interests. They may also have established feelings toward your restaurant, making them more or less likely to respond.

Many factors will affect a person's willingness to respond to a survey. Your biggest challenge is to consider as many factors as possible to maximize participation.

Best Practices You Need to Follow

Market research hinges on good response rates. If you're constantly struggling with low customer participation, we have some best practices that can make a huge difference. Learning how to employ these techniques can lead to significant improvements in your survey strategy.

1. Audit Your Contact List

Want to maximize open rates and get higher survey response rates? Start by scrubbing your contact list.

It's a simple change that can have a huge impact. You want to make sure you're sending surveys to active customers. If someone hasn't been a patron at your restaurant in several months, there's a low chance they'd be willing to complete a survey.

Focus on your active customers. Not only will you increase the likelihood of participation, but you will also get more accurate data on your restaurant and the current customer experience.

2. Offer Rewards & Incentives

Incentives and rewards can transform your survey strategies. While some people have a genuine interest in providing feedback, most will need to see what's in it for them. Consider offering rewards to those who are willing to complete your survey.

Set expectations from the jump, let customers know what they have to gain and reward people for their time. There are many ways to incentivize potential respondents.

You could:

  •  Offer rewards that customers can redeem for discounts or free food
  •  Put respondents into a raffle
  •  Provide free digital goods
  •  Offer time-sensitive freebies
  •  Give discounts or free items for the first 100 respondents

The sky's the limit for incentives, so don't be afraid to get creative and think outside the box.

3. Invest in a Survey Panel

Survey panels are groups of pre-selected respondents. Think of them as a captive audience for your market research! Building panels often requires some incentive or payment, but the investment is worth it if you can guarantee a good survey response rate. Experts and professional marketers use this technique frequently.

When building panels, you can segment your audience into specific demographics. For example, you can create panels involving certain age groups, income brackets, lifestyles, etc. This approach will give you a well-rounded response and accurate statistics about your larger customer population.

4. Adjust Timing to Obtain Quality Feedback

Timing makes a big difference. It affects the quality of the data you receive and overall engagement rates. Timing will vary based on the type of information you want to collect.

However, it's generally better to reach customers when their experiences are still fresh. For example, say that you aim to learn more about the customer service patrons receive. You could send a survey link through your app shortly after a customer interacts with an employee.

In that scenario, customers may be more willing to provide their thoughts through their smartphones while waiting for order fulfillment.

5. Utilize Relevance Toward Customers

Another way to boost survey engagement is to make the experience of providing feedback relevant to your customers. This approach works by tapping into the psychological theory of cognitive dissonance.

To encourage participation, you can craft your survey to appeal to a person's values. For example, wording a cover letter to express how valuable a customer's involvement would be is a great way to appeal to those who value being a helpful person.

It's relevant to them. By not completing the survey, you create cognitive dissonance. The customer would then alleviate that dissonance by completing your survey. This is a unique trick that expert marketers often use to boost survey response rates.

6. Keep it Short and Direct

No one likes to complete lengthy surveys. That's especially true if they're not getting anything from the experience. Keep things short and focused.

Sticking to a handful of questions your customers can respond to in five minutes or less is the best approach. People are more likely to engage when the survey looks easy to complete. Set the expectations on your survey's cover letter, and let people know how long their experience will last.

7. Personalize Your Customer’s Survey Experience

Here's where using customer data can come in handy. By this point, you likely have basic information about the people you send surveys to. Use that data to your advantage and make things personal!

Even subtle personalization can dramatically increase participation. For instance, you can address respondents by name. It feels warmer and more personal. Personalization adds a human element, making customers feel more valued.

8. Use The Best Distribution Channel For Your Customers

There are countless distribution channels you can utilize to reach your customers. When sending surveys, use channels that make the most sense. Use demographics and market research to understand what people prefer.

For example, younger diners are less likely to complete phone surveys. Instead, they prefer receiving survey links via text or directly on your restaurant's app. Meanwhile, older customers may like to do phone, email or paper surveys.

9. Offer Preferred Languages

Your customer base is diverse, so why limit your surveys to one language? Offering different language preferences makes your survey more inclusive. Plus, you can provide various options to optimize readability and question clarity.

10. Don’t Bombard Customers With Surveys All at Once

Survey fatigue is a real thing. Sending too many surveys at once will make your customers less likely to provide feedback. Most won't mind one or two. But once you overstep your reach, you could find people leaving less-than-stellar responses or opting out of your mailing list.

11. Test Different Survey Cadences

One great way to avoid bombarding your customers with survey links is to be strategic about your cadence. Survey cadence refers to how often you send surveys and the timeframe between each one. It's important to consider survey cadence because it can affect the type of information you receive and impact a customer's willingness to participate.

If you're looking to obtain information about long-term feelings about your restaurant and the relationships customers have with your business, consider doing a long-term survey cadence. You could send surveys every 30 days to keep track of evolving opinions.

Alternatively, more frequent transactional cadences can help you catch customers when experiences are fresh and relevant. For instance, choosing a cadence that sends surveys 24 hours after a transaction can get information about the customer experience, food quality, etc.

12. Follow Up!

When you follow a great customer experience survey cadence, you should follow up and reach out. The same applies to one-time transactional surveys.

When you follow up with customers, you tell them their opinions and feedback matter. It's an excellent way to build a great relationship with your customers. Furthermore, following up can also increase the likelihood that the customer will complete another survey in the future.

It's a small reward that makes a big difference in how customers see your restaurant business and brand.

13. Send Out Reminders

Don't be afraid to send out reminders when you don't receive a response. Some customers will see the survey opportunity but hold off on completing it until it's most convenient. People forget, and a gentle reminder can increase participation.

Of course, don't go overboard. You don't want to spam people with reminders. Otherwise, your efforts could have the opposite effect. A gentle reminder is key!

14. Make Sure to Stay Consistent to Your Branding

Consistency is key for customer experience surveys. You want people to know what the survey is for and what business it's about. Consider your survey strategies as an extension of the overall customer experience.

Branding should be consistent across the board. Use similar language, art styles, etc.

15. Set Time Frame Expectations

One of the worst mistakes you can make is not letting customers know how long a survey will take to complete. If someone expects your survey to take only a few minutes but lasts much longer, they'll be less likely to participate in a future questionnaire.

Be upfront and set expectations from the start. Let customers know the average time it takes to complete a survey so they understand what they're getting into. If you keep things short and provide that transparency, there's a greater likelihood of participation.

16. Utilize Self-Perception Theory

Here's another psychological theory you can tap into. Early, we discussed cognitive dissonance and how you can use it to improve survey response rates.

Self-perception theory can also be impactful. As the name suggests, this theory revolves around self-observation and how people perform certain actions because they believe they support their perception of themselves. So, how can you use this in your surveys?

One technique is to tap into values like generosity and helpfulness. Buzzwords like “helpful” or “kind” can make a big difference. People want to be helpful and kind, so they'll complete your survey to remain consistent with their self-perceived characteristics.

17. Ensure User Interface Works on all Devices

Choosing a survey design that looks and performs great on any device is important. People use various desktop and mobile devices. Some customers may see your survey link on their smartphone, while others will see it later on a computer.

You want your user interface to be smooth across the board. Poor design and functionality are huge turnoffs, and people are less likely to participate when things look off on their devices.

18. Make The User Experience Seamless

Last but not least, do everything you can to ensure that the survey experience is smooth and pleasant. The goal is to iron out all kinks and remove any hurdles that may cause a customer to opt out of your survey.

Avoid jarring transitions and disruptive flows. Each question should flow in the next while maintaining a highly accessible user interface. Prioritize a friction-free survey experience.

Get Started With Superorder Today

You don't have to settle for low survey response rates. Try these tips and best practices, and you'll see a significant improvement in the total number of people who leave their feedback. The better your approach is, the more valuable and actionable insights you can gain!

When you want to improve your survey strategies, check out Superorder. Superorder is an all-in-one restaurant management platform with a powerful survey and feedback feature. Create stunning surveys, consolidate data and take advantage of strong analytics tools to take your restaurant to the next level. Get started with Superorder today to realize the full potential of customer feedback surveys!

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