You’ve probably had it drilled into you for years. People don’t respond as well to long surveysanymore. You’ve heard it time and time again – it is the first rule ofsurveys. Isn’t it?

Indeed, there’s a strong case for using shorter surveys. 

But there is a time and a place for longer surveys.

Sometimes, in order to make the most educated decisionpossible, a more detailed survey is required. Sometimes you have a strongrelationship with the respondents, and you know that they are willing toparticipate in longer, more complex studies or answer more numerous questions.

There are times whenyou can get away with sending out a longer survey.

Longer Surveys: Removing the Objections

Research shows that the longer a survey, the lower theresponse rate, the higher the abandonment rate and the more likely the datawill be diluted by ‘satisficing’, when respondents select answer optionswithout thinking, just to get the survey over with.

To be clear, the length of a survey isn’t measured by thenumber of questions, but rather the length of time it takes to complete it. Itmakes sense that in today’s short-attention-span world, the more time it takesto fill out a survey, the more respondents stop paying attention and drop out.

But the number of questions does have an impact on surveyparticipation. Research shows that the more questions thereare, the less time respondents spend answering each question. Average timespent per question declines with each added question, and for surveys longerthan 30 questions, the time spent per question nearly halves when compared tosurveys with fewer than 30 questions.

Your Respondent Relationship Impacts Your Success

Relationships matter when you’re considering the length ofyour survey. The stronger your relationship to the respondent, or the strongerthe relationship between the scope of the survey and the respondent, the longerthe respondent will stay engaged with the survey.

If your company has a strong relationship with the respondent— for example, the respondent is internal to the company or is a very loyalcustomer — there is an increased likelihood that they are willing toparticipate in a longer survey.

If the respondent has extensive knowledge about the main topicof your survey, the more interested they will be and the more likely they willbe to fill in a longer survey.

If you’re sending out a survey to a generalized audience witha low likelihood of familiarity with your topic, a long survey is probably nota great idea.

Surveys With More Focused Objectives Can Be Lengthier

You should always have a clear purpose in mind when creating andsending out any kind of survey. This will help you focus your questions on the right topics and avoid wasting your, andyour respondents’, time.

Focused, well-written surveys flow better and are easier forthe respondent to fill out. They also make your objective clearer to the respondent.

When a respondent can identify the purpose of the survey, theycan tell how useful the information they are providing will be to the company.This helps maintain their interest and give them a sense of ownership over theresults of the survey — and both are key to getting better results from longersurveys.

How much time does a long survey take?

Some sources say 20 minutes is considered a long time tocomplete a survey. Others say 10 minutes should be the most time you ask from asurvey respondent. But certain groups of respondents, such as those intechnical fields, are known to have even less tolerance for lengthy surveys,and experts say five minutes is all you should ask of them.

The answer to “how much time is too much?” can only beanswered by knowing whom you’re surveying. A CEO won’t have as much time for along survey as a college student might, for example.

No Matter the Length, Be Up-Front About the Time

No matter if you’re creating a five or a 30 minute survey, be honestand upfront about how much time you’re asking the respondent to use to fill itout.

Take the survey yourself, filling it outat a reasonable pace, and time it. Then let respondents know in advance howlong the survey will take. You can give them this information in the emailinvitation or the survey introduction page — wherever it makes the most sensein your process. Then respondents can plan to set that time aside to completethe survey. This should help improve your survey completion rates for longer surveys.


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