Survey length—Big punch, small package

Franci Erdmann | Aug 24, 2017 Franci Erdmann 08/24/17

Once your customers have started your survey, you want them to stick around ‘til the end. A huge factor in getting a good feedback sample is survey length. And with so many people completing surveys on mobile devices, it’s even more important. Here are some ways to ensure your surveys are short enough to encourage good customer participation, while still getting the deep insights you need to inform better business decisions.

6 minutes or less

Long and complex surveys only frustrate your customers. That’s especially true on mobile devices. We tested a number of different survey lengths to find out where the threshold for completion among customers lies, and found that surveys shorter than 6 minutes had the lowest abandonment rates. For mobile users especially, surveys that took 7 minutes or more had a huge increase in abandonment rates. We recommend reducing your survey content to ask only core questions (Overall Satisfaction, key drivers, loyalty, open-end) to get the best insights and response rates from your mobile users.


Incentives + length

To maximize your response rates even further, our research shows combining high-value incentives and short surveys encourages the best participation. We also know many brands are rarely in the position to do both—so we looked to find out how long a survey should be, given the incentive provided.


The chart above shows how likely customers are to take a survey when we vary the incentive, length, or industry. That helps us understand how to design surveys that get great insights for our clients—while still making the customers feel like their time was valued and lead to a payoff. For quick service restaurants, customers were more willing to stick around for 6-7 minutes if they were rewarded with a free item, but only 3 minutes for the chance to win a sweepstakes. Retail clients saw their customers would complete an 8-10 minute survey if they were promised a free item, and 4 minutes for the chance to win a sweepstakes.

That shows customers who are guaranteed an item at the end of a survey are more willing to spend time doing it. Incentives with prizes that seem harder to win in customers’ eyes, like a sweepstakes, aren’t as worth their time. Understanding the tradeoff can help you ask the right questions with the right incentive so you can still get the deep insights your brand needs to make better decisions.

Every question counts

When choosing which questions to include in your surveys, it’s important to know that survey elements require different time investments. The chart below shows a breakdown of how much time each aspect of the survey takes to complete.


This helps us understand which combination of invitation, incentive, and question type can yield the best results for what you want to learn. Email invitations are great for mobile surveys, since they take no time to get into and your customers expect it to be quick and easy. Sweepstakes require time to submit your information at the end of the survey, so it’s important to use them in the right application.

Bottom line

Take a look at your current survey to see if there are any areas you could pare down to save your customers’ some time. Here are some key things you should consider when determining what content is worth keeping:

  • Are you only asking questions relevant to the customers’ experience?
  • Should every question appear in both mobile and desktop surveys?
  • Are you getting enough information for your team to take action?

When your customers feel their time is valued and will pay off in incentives, they’re far more likely to give you great feedback. Understanding the relationship between length, incentive, and content is critical for getting the best possible sample that will lead to the best possible insights. That’s what keeps your brand growing and making decisions that matter.

Want to learn more about you can supercharge your survey to get the best insights for your brand? Check out our ebook 6 tips for keeping your CX survey on pace with other customer touchpoints here.

Franci Erdmann
VP, Client Insights

Customer Experience Update