What is a good survey response rate


December 2019

What's a good response rate to customer surveys? And can I improve the response rate?

    These are two questions we're often asked - both at the start of onboarding a new customer and after a month or two as they assess their surveys.

    The response rates will vary (a lot) by the format and channel that you use to send out your surveys. For example, event surveys used by training companies see very high response rates, wheras the passive tab-based surveys (like the one to the right of this page) are generally low-level background channels to request feedback.

    In this post, we're looking at our view of what to expect on responses - and our top tips to help improve your rates.

    Typical response rates by channel

    For customer-facing NPS feedback surveys, we see response rates of:

      • 15-25% for email surveys 
      • 20-30% for pop-up web surveys 
      • 3-5% for the tab web surveys
      • 40-50% for SMS surveys
      • 85-95% for event surveys
      (Note: SMS surveys normally also have a very high unsubscribe rate, often >20%)

      These response rates are just for the score. The number of customers who then type in comments is lower and for this follow-up, we see around 10% of respondents provide additional (verbatim) comments and around 1-2% provide reviews or social mentions (the Social Posting feature).

      Optimise your surveys


      If your response rates to your email surveys are a lot lower than this, it's worth looking at your subject line, the number of other emails you are sending this group of recipients. Timing is important, with Mondays delivering lower response rates than the rest of week.


      Web surveys placed mid-way through a series of steps (eg mid-way through an e-commerce checkout process) will likely have low response rates as visitors are concentrating on the process. Similarly, surveys on the main homepage will have lower response rates than a survey behind a paywall as plenty of visitors to your homepage will simply 'bounce' (ie move on to another site) without engaging, since they are in browse mode.

      Changing format:

      Many of our customers experiment with different formats to find what works best for their customers.

      Two quick examples:

      • A large auto repair business started with email then switched to SMS. They got higher response rates but very high unsubscribes. They then adjusted the time of the SMS survey to early evening and reduced the unsubscribe.
      • A large online fashion retailer sends email surveys in two steps: one immediately after the purchase and one 8-days later when the parcel has been delivered. This gives a view of the e-commerce process and then the product itself.

        How to improve response rates

        One of the biggest problems when using customer feedback is how to increase the response rate. Increasing the response rate is important because a higher response rate will ensure you are looking at a statistically significant sample.

        Often, the first customers to respond will be the outliers - those who have had a terrible experience. You must capture this detractor feedback, but if you have a low response rate, your results will be dominated by detractors and could lead you to make wrong decisions.

        To get a balanced view across detractors, passives and promoters, you need to increase the sample size; unless you have a user base of millions, the most effective way of achieving this is to improve the response rate.

        We have been using NPS for many years and developed a range of techniques that we know improve response rates. We've built these into SightMill so you can benefit too.

        1. Make the email survey trusted and seamless. Make sure you setup SightMill to send using your company email address that the customer recognizes and use the default in-bedded surveys that will record a response without the user leaving their email client. Ensure that you have setup SPF on your domain so your survey emails are not classed as spam.
        2. Personalise your email survey to include your company or product brand logo and personalisation.
        3. Personalise the email surveys to the customer - you can add 'merge' fields in to the email itself and into the subject line to include the customer's firstname or last name.
        4. Make your NPS website survey experience is seamless. Edit the colors and text to reflect your website look and feel (and language - we support multiple languages).
        5. Don’t send too many surveys! Typically, it’s sensible to send an email survey once every one to three months. And display a pop-up on your website to the same visitor only every one to three months.

        Incentives - Caution:

        Many companies choose to incentivize to improve response rates. This could be a voucher, or a charitable donation. It normally works well as a way to increase response rates. However, once you start you must continue otherwise you are not comparing like-for-like.

        Watch out, though: We have seen several of our customers suffer significant drop in response rates when they take off incentives.

        Alternative suggestion 1:
        A discount coupon or link to an ebook or similar can work well as an unexpected thank-you. You can include a link or coupon code to this offer within the thank you page (edit this in the Email Verbatim Design page of Settings) 

        Alternative suggestion 2:
        Explain why you are sending surveys by writing in the survey email about a couple of problems and actions that have been fixed through feedback; this works well as a great way to increase engagement and so response rates. For example, under the survey note something like:

        Thanks to feedback like yours, in the last month we have:
        Improved our user design
        Added three new features
        Added new content

        Thanks and please get in touch with any questions or comments - we look forward to hearing from you.