Response Rate

What Kind of Response Rate Should You Expect for a Survey

How do businesses understand what their customers want? How do companies know when to discontinue or offer new products? One of the most valuable sources of information is a survey with good results. Unfortunately, surveys don’t automatically follow the rule, “if you build it, they will come.”

We’re going to take a look at what you can expect in terms of a response rate from your survey. Is it always necessary to get a high response rate percentage? Then we will point out a few ways to increase the quality of the data you receive.


Response Numbers

You want the responses to pour in. Many results mean better data. There are different factors that will affect the quality of your responses. One of the biggest factors is whether the audience you are polling is internal or a random selection of strangers unfamiliar with your brand.

Internal Versus External Audiences

A loyal audience or one that at least recognizes your brand will generally give you a higher response rate (30-45%), often three times as many as a sample of the general population (10-15%).

If you sample a much wider demographic sample and a large number of people, it isn’t as important to see a low response rate. A survey that isn’t targeted might get you a response in the single digits. However, that isn’t always a bad thing. If you are sampling tens of thousands of people, a small number can have value. The audience may not see the value in responding. Getting you their answers to your questions may be low on their priority list.

Response Rate Myths

Those numbers mentioned above are simple references. There is no national reliable average response rate. It is also important to note that the value in your response is not linear. The size of the population and percentage of respondents must both be considered together.

Sufficient Response Numbers

Here are some general, simplified guidelines for understanding this relationship. A larger population that you are polling, enables you to have confidence in a lower response rate. Of course, you want more responses because the more reponses you receive, the more accurate your results.

It is important to not get too hung up on one particular result number. If the email open rate is 15-20%, which is considered a good rate by most standards. It doesn’t imply that is the percentage of your audience that completed the survey. Only a portion of those email readers will follow-through to complete the survey.


Ways to Improve Response Rates

If your business needs better data, there are ways you can adjust your survey to get a better response rate. In many cases, there is a large investment depending on good data. If you can make a few adjustments and get better data, you will be able to direct your business more effectively.

Good Survey Design

A short, clear, well-designed survey will usually get the best response rates. Ideally a survey should take 5 minutes to complete. You can also design optional sections that can extend the survey for respondents who have more time or are more committed members of your audience.

Clear Value

Audiences will simply ignore your survey if they don’t see their feedback as being valuable. If it appears that the purpose is fishing for ways to sell them more stuff, they will only respond if they really love buying from you. If they care deeply for your cause, they will dig deeply and provide a surprisingly rich amount of information. The good customers who care about your mission will see your pole as valuable. Make sure that you appear appreciative and recognize that their responses will aid that effort.


Your audience is made up of busy people with their own full lives. A gentle reminder can double or triple your response rates. Telling participants that there is a deadline approaching can bring them to action. Changing the times of day and day of the week may ensure that you reach your audience during a time when they are able to pause to respond.

Stop Worrying

These factors help you understand the quality of the data you receive. Sometimes your audience may be accurately measured by a very small number of responses. Here are three times when you can still be confident in your data, even when the replies are few:


  • The responses are consistent, with little fluctuation in the responses
  • The population you are polling is very small
  • Or if you are gathering feedback and ideas and accuracy is not critical


In those cases, it should not be a stress when your response is low. Appreciate the replies you get and learn what inspires your audience to respond.


IMAGE: Andreas Breitling / CC0 Public Domain

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