The Dangers of Survey Fatigue

Stu Perlmeter

Why Associations need to be wary of this alarming trend

It’s a trend we all experience. Each day your inbox is carpet-bombed with survey appeals, “Tell us how we did” or the old-school appeal, “Give us your two cents”. It’s almost comical, but sadly is not funny – it presents a major challenge to your feedback loop with members. The more survey requests they receive, the less likely they are to respond to yours. What’s Driving the Issue?

Associations fielding important and much-needed member surveys are seeing serious falloff in response rates. This can be attributable to many reasons, including survey fatigue, but there are other factors involved:

  • Your own Email glut: Since different groups within your Association are funneling messages to members in a way that may not be well coordinated, you could be creating your own over-Emailing problem.
  • Multiple surveys from your own organization: Many Associations are siloed to the degree that members are surveyed by different groups or departments who are not coordinating with one another.
  • Playing defense to a fault: Since many email survey invitations are really “Would you recommend us” Net Promoter Score (NPS)surveys in disguise, there is a tendency to play along with this game, by offering a “short” survey.

Unfortunately, the typical NPS survey generally doesn’t provide actionable information and is ill-suited to the intricate and complex relationship you have with your members. Unless you are measuring something very specific with comparable benchmarks, such as attitudes about a recent conference event, NPS scores can be highly misleading.

What Can You Do?

The important thing to remember is that you are getting feedback from YOUR MEMBERS, people who are likely to be highly committed to your organization. You don’t have to tiptoe in, asking for feedback. Also, you have many communication vehicles to prepare members for surveys to come.

There is a place for occasional “spot” surveys, with one quick question. Let members know in advance through other communications why those are important, and emphasize they really are, ONE QUESTION.

But for your annual tracking survey, where you are tracking member satisfaction and staff performance across many dimensions, you need a longer form survey, with about 15-20 questions. You can imbed the NPS question within that, knowing that the additional diagnostic questions in the survey will provide the needed context to interpret your NPS rating. 

For your big, seldomly-fielded tracking studies, emphasize importance, but be upfront – if it’s going to take 15-20 minutes of their attention, boldly ask for that. You deserve that much of their time, since after all, it is THEIR association you are asking them to support with honest ratings and feedback.

Another important aspect that can help increase response rates over time is to demonstrate that your organization values and listens to member input.  This can be done by sharing appropriate survey results and by referencing member survey feedback as rationale and support for new or revised programs and offerings.  These types of communication are proof points to your members that their input makes a difference.

Bottomline, when Associations communicate well around the survey experience, they get much better response rates and members who participate in these well-packaged and pre-announced queries feel fulfilled that their input was truly valued.

About the Author

Stu Perlmeter

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Stu brings 30 years of marketing and research experience to 1st Resource, which he founded in 1996. Stu’s primary expertise is in understanding the market insights that tie to success formulas for companies seeking to grow their business in strategic ways.