Survey Fatigue and How to Avoid It

Philip Cleave
October 6, 2022
Man losing focus working through a long survey

Alarmed about a recent drop in your survey’s response rates? Worried how this might affect the quality of your data and the insight you’re able to glean from it?

Well, this could be a sign that you’re experiencing survey fatigue, which is growing challenge for many respondents, with up to 70% saying they’ve abandoned a survey at one time of another. One of the keys reasons for this is that besides the surveys you send them, they’re likely to be receiving surveys from other businesses too.

However, survey fatigue doesn’t need to be an issue with your own respondents if you’ve built, set-up and are sending out your surveys in the right way.

This blog will give you some handy tips about what you can do to reduce or stop survey fatigue with your own surveys. But before we do that, we need to examine in a bit more detail what survey fatigue is and what can cause it.

What is survey fatigue?

When we refer to survey fatigue, we’re essentially talking about a respondent’s lack or loss of interest in completing surveys.

This fatigue is characterized by the reluctance of prospective survey respondents to participate in a survey or complete an ongoing one. It’s often a negative response to an uninspiring, complex and lengthy survey, or the result of receiving too many survey requests for feedback.

There are two main types of survey fatigue:

Pre-response survey fatigue

This lethargy is caused when a potential respondent becomes overwhelmed and discouraged from taking your survey, as a result of receiving too many previous survey requests for feedback.

Survey taking fatigue

This type of lethargy occurs while someone is in the process of completing your survey.

It’s typically triggered by elements of the survey they’re trying to work through, including its design, question types and length, which often results in them abandoning the survey.

What causes survey fatigue?

Although we’ve identified two main types of survey fatigue, a closer look indicates that survey lethargy is not usually caused by a single cause, but rather a mix of factors.

Here are some of the more common causes of survey fatigue that you need to be aware of if you’re to increase your response rates on future surveys.

Targeting the wrong audience

If you’ve not correctly targeted your survey from the outset, then your questions are less likely to align with your customers’ experience, and they’re less likely to take your survey as a result.

Alternatively, if you could segment your customer base before starting your survey, the insight this would provide would allow you to target your surveys towards individuals you knew had previously interacted or expressed interest in a particular product or service.

Lengthy questions

Survey takers are busy people. Therefore, the time taken to complete lengthy surveys could quickly exceed the estimated time respondents thought it would take, or worse still induce survey fatigue before they even got that far.

Repetition and poor design

If a respondent is forced to answer the same question again and again, it will quickly leave them feeling frustrated and bored.

If you combine this with a poor questionnaire design, which is visually unappealing and lacks purpose, not only could this lead to them abandoning your survey, but the lack of professionalism could mean they’ll never respond to any further surveys you might send them.


One of the fastest ways of inducing survey fatigue is by sending respondents too many requests for feedback.

Given the wide range of touchpoints that now exist, particularly with regards to the relationship between a business and its customers, it’s a very easy position to get into. This is especially true if surveys are distributed at every touchpoint and this process is completely automated without any checks to see how many surveys each customer has received.

Tips to help avoid survey fatigue

If you’re to help protect your survey respondents from fatigue, you’ll need to improve several elements of your survey process.

Here’s some areas you need to consider:

1. Keep your survey simple and concise

If you’re to keep respondents fully focused and engaged, it’s vital that you make your survey as simple and concise as you can.

  • Make sure your survey is no longer than is necessary to capture all the information needed to meet your objectives.
  • Limit your number of questions and don’t ask any that are irrelevant.
  • Don’t use too many open-ended questions but include more closed-ended questions like multiple choice and checkbox questions instead.
  • Consider letting people know upfront how many questions they’ll need to complete.
  • Consider using survey logic such as skip logic and piping to provide a more logical and personalized route through your survey for respondents.

2. Improve your audience targeting through segmentation

The better you understand your target audience, the better you’ll be able to tailor your survey to one that is of greatest interest to them.

To achieve this consider segmenting your customer base before creating a survey. By dividing your customers up based on common characteristics such as their demographics or behaviors, it will be much easier to identify different segment groups you can send different surveys too, based on what’s most likely to interest and engage them.

3. Control the number of surveys you send out

We’ve already discussed how overwhelming respondents with too many survey requests is one of the biggest causes behind survey fatigue. So, you need to think about ways in which you can limit over-surveying.

  • If you already send out regular customer surveys about your products or services, you may consider limiting them to just twice a year.
  • Alternatively, if you issue surveys after every customer touchpoint interaction, you may want to review this so that you only issue surveys at key touchpoints, to reduce the overall volume of surveys each customer receives.

4. Remove friction points

If you’ve not previously given it a lot of thought, there could be existing friction points within your surveys that are causing respondents’ frustration and some of them to abandon your survey.

Fortunately, here’s a few points for you to consider that can reduce your risk of incomplete surveys.

  • Consider offering an estimate of the time it will take to complete at the top of your survey. Most people are put off from taking a survey if they feel it will take them too long to fill in, so anything you can do to reassure them about this will be hugely beneficial to your survey completion rates.
  • Similarly, if you include a progress bar in your survey, it will help keep respondents focused and engaged and less likely to abandon your survey, when they know exactly how much more they need to complete.
  • You could also think about splitting up your survey into sections and use page numbers throughout. Such visual cues help respondents feel they are making progress, as they work through your survey.
  • Finally, including a ‘save and continue’ feature is great for those who don’t have enough time to finish your survey in one go, but want to come back and complete it.

5. Remember to communicate the value of taking your survey

Given the fact that your survey is likely to be competing with a lot of other noise, in terms of other people and businesses trying to get your respondent’s attention, you need to make it as enticing as you can for them to complete. That’s why if you can communicate the value of participating in your survey from the outset, you’re more likely to encourage more people to complete it.

Here are some ideas to think about:

Make it clear why you need respondent’s feedback

People are more likely to respond when it’s obvious to them why you want their feedback.

For example, a survey campaign, which leads with a clear and compelling top-level message such as ‘Help us choose the next taste for our classic drink range!’ would be more likely to elicit a response than one which was less compelling and harder for them to decipher.

Consider the source of your survey request

Surveys that appear from nowhere such as pop-ups, email auto responders’ requesting feedback and phone surveys trying to keep customers on the line when they have just finished a service call can be all too easy to ignore. However, if you created a survey request that came from someone with authority in your business such as your CEO, it would be more likely to grab your respondent’s attention and encourage them to investigate further.

Explain what impact the survey will have on your business (or cause, product, service)

When it comes to taking your survey, more people are likely to respond when they know their answers are going to be used, rather than risk being left unused.

For example: if you were thinking about introducing some new product lines into your retail stories and wanted to elicit feedback from your customers to identify which product lines they preferred, you may want to entice them to take your survey with the following message: ‘Hi, we’re thinking about introducing some fresh products into our stores, so we’re planning to use your feedback from this survey to decide on which product lines to introduce first.’

Final thoughts

Trying to get as many respondents as possible to complete your survey can be challenging. However, if you can incorporate some of the points we’ve outlined, you’re more likely to engage and maintain the interest of respondents and obtain the quality of data you set out to achieve.

Get the tools to keep respondents engaged and completing your surveys

From the right question mix and survey logic to features that remove user friction. Tips for reducing survey fatigue are really helpful, but to experience the biggest gains you need the right survey tools.

Get started and create your first survey

If you would like more information then please get in touch.