A Practical Guide to Reduce Survey Fatigue and Enhance Response Quality

May 2, 2024 13 min read

Alex Doan

Alex Doan

Survey Fatigue

Businesses have used the customer survey to gather information for a long time. What started as the general store clerk asking, “Do you prefer a cloth or paper sack?” has evolved into online surveys designed to gather sophisticated marketing data.

Getting feedback by the people who actually use your product or service is an incredibly important tool for business intelligence. The technological age has made surveys more robust than ever before.

But this also means that as more and more businesses relentlessly seek insights, “survey fatigue” has become a pressing issue, which can lead to plummeting response rates and skewed data. 

In this post, we’ll go over how to recognize and overcome survey fatigue so that your efforts yield genuine and actionable results. 

What Is Survey Fatigue?

The wealth of information available through customer feedback is tempting. But, just like eating ice cream every day, you can have too much of a good thing.

Survey fatigue occurs when people become overwhelmed by taking too many surveys or surveys that are long, complex, or frequent. This can lead to a decrease in response rates, lower quality responses (such as straight-lining or randomly answering questions), or complete disengagement from the survey process. 

When this happens, it significantly impacts the reliability and validity of the data collected, making it difficult for organizations to maintain the effectiveness of their data collection strategies. Even though it might sound like a New Age concept, survey fatigue is very real. In fact, 70% of respondents abandon a survey due to fatigue.

Types of Survey Fatigue

Pre-Response Survey Fatigue (or Over-Surveying)

This refers to the fatigue that sets in before the respondent even begins the survey, often due to being overwhelmed with too many survey requests. In all probability, your customer was already invited by another company or three to take a survey in the last week or two. 

Surveys are certainly a useful customer experience tool, but that just means that now everyone is doing them. Consumers can get tired of being asked to answer your questions, plain and simple.

Survey Taking Fatigue (or Over-Questioning)

This refers to the fatigue that occurs while the respondent is actively taking the survey, triggered by certain elements, such as the length, question types, and even survey design.

If your survey questions are hard to understand or don’t apply to the customer, they’ll quickly lose interest. If your survey is just too long, they may get impatient and their customer satisfaction will quickly take a nosedive.

To better illustrate how much the length of a survey affects the results, take a look at this chart from a recent third-party study:

Number of QuestionsAverage Seconds Spent Per QuestionTotal Survey Completion Time
1751 min 15 sec
2402 min
3-10302-5 min
11-15255-7 min
16-25217-9 min
26-30199-10 min

It’s tempting to gather as much information as possible during a survey. But a very broad or lengthy survey is not, in most cases, the way to go.

What Causes Survey Fatigue?

Survey fatigue can mean low response rates or incomplete/incorrect survey data. So in order to combat this issue, it’s important to understand the causes of survey fatigue and the reasoning behind each of them.

Pre-response survey fatigue causes

Remember, your customers do business numerous other companies and each one that your customer interacts with could potentially survey them at some point.

So even before participants start answering your questions, they may be exhausted, discouraged or impatient. Here are a few reasons this can happen.

1. Too many survey requests

Frequent survey requests over a short period of time can lead to feeling overwhelmed – even before starting another one. Just seeing yet another request in their email inbox can be enough for a person to impatiently delete it. 

2. Anticipated length and complexity

If a survey appears long or complicated from the outset, potential respondents might feel drained at the prospect of completing it. This can be due to initial instructions that indicate a long duration or a complex first question.

3. Lack of relevance 

Surveys that seem irrelevant to the participants’ interests or situations may discourage engagement. If someone does not see a clear benefit or purpose in the survey results that relate directly to them, they may experience preemptive fatigue.

4. Poor timing

Sending surveys during busy periods or times of high stress (such as end-of-year for businesses or during exams for students) can result in pre-response fatigue, as participants may feel too burdened by other responsibilities to consider taking part in yet another survey.

5. Inadequate communication 

If the communication about the survey’s importance or the impact of participants’ responses is unclear or unconvincing, potential respondents may not see the value in investing their time.

So be strategic. Over-surveying not only reduces the chance a customer will answer your questionnaire, it also damages your brand. Frequent survey invitations can be perceived as nagging and unprofessional.

Survey-taking fatigue causes

1. Survey length

There’s no magic number of questions or length of time for the perfect survey. How long your survey takes will depend on the subject matter, demographic, and the data you’re trying to gather.

But the general rule? Shorter is better. A 30-minute survey versus a 3-minute survey – which one do you think will get more responses?

2. Unclear or tedious questions

An online survey is not a test, so don’t structure it like one. In other words, don’t make your survey complicated or hard to understand. 

Here are two examples of terrible survey questions (that I’ve actually seen myself!):

  • On a scale of 1-10, how difficult did you find our website to use after the first and second time you tried it out?
  • Would you like to order your food before the movie, then have the food delivered during the movie, or would you prefer to order your food during the movie and have it delivered during the movie?

Your customer should spend time thinking about their opinion of your company, not how to decipher the question you just asked them.

3. Personal or threatening questions early on

Think of a survey kind of like a blind date. You know a little about the person, but you don’t really have any personal information yet. Even though you’re curious, you don’t dive right into the sensitive questions right away.

Your survey should be the same way. Asking personal questions too early in the survey can make your customer feel uneasy and shy away.

Use caution when including questions like:

  • Who did you vote for in the last election?
  • Have you cheated on your spouse?
  • How much money do you make annually?
  • Are you overweight?

If you feel that sensitive questions are a necessary part of your survey, consider including them toward the end. Hopefully you’ve built a level of trust with your customer and they’ll be more likely to answer.

How Can You Prevent Survey Fatigue?

With some planning and effort, you can do your part to prevent survey fatigue. And why wouldn’t you? Lessening the stress your respondents feel during a survey means the data you get will not only be more accurate, but customer satisfaction will increase, too.

It’s not just about today’s survey, it’s about all the future surveys you might send. If your customer has a pleasant experience with a quick, easy survey today, they’re a lot more likely to take another one of your surveys in the future.


Here are some steps you can take to ensure that your customers respond positively to your survey request.

1. Vet the survey

This one is pretty painless. Once you’ve put together the survey, take it yourself. Ask your co-workers to take it.

Did you or your co-workers find the assessment boring or hard to get through? Were the questions hard to understand? Anything that gives you pause will definitely cause problems with your respondents.

Rewrite the survey as many times as you need to. It should be very clear and easy for your customers to understand.

2. Explain the value

This one may seem obvious, but it’s often overlooked. Respondents will be much happier to participate in your survey if you explain its purpose. Customers love transparency.

There’s no need to go into a huge amount of detail. A simple explanation will suffice. Consider using statements like “Help us improve our returns process” or “Did you like our new ordering system?”

3. Give an accurate time estimate

The length of your survey will depend on several factors. But no matter the length, you should let the customer know how long the feedback will take to complete.

And be honest about long surveys. If you took it through a test run and spent four minutes and 59 seconds, don’t tell your customer it’s a five-minute survey. Obviously, it’s going to take them longer.

If you’re not clear with the customer about their time investment or, worse yet, if you’re untruthful about it, there’s a good chance they’re going to give up before the end. 

4. Communicate the survey result

One of the best ways to show your customers that you appreciate their participation is by sharing the survey result with them. Not only will they feel they’ve contributed to improvements in your business, but they’re more likely to take another survey in the future.

There are a couple of ways you can do this.

The first way – just take action. If your survey revealed that your website is too hard to use, then re-do your website. When your customers see the changes you’ve made, they can be proud of their contribution.

The second way – take action and tell them about it. After you’ve fixed you website, share this with your customers. Try something like, “Based on your feedback, we’ve revamped our website. We invite you to check it out!”

5. Progress bar

No one wants to answer an endless list of questions on a long survey. Even a short survey can seem long if your customer doesn’t know where they are in the process or what’s next.

A simple progress bar lets your customer know how close they are to survey completion. When they can see the light at the end of the tunnel, customers are more likely to push through with valuable feedback. If they’re staring into an abyss, they might just give up.

6. Allow skipping

When it comes to completing surveys, what happens when respondents reach a question they can’t (or don’t want to) answer? Well, if they can’t skip the question and move on, then you’ll probably get a lower response rate.

For example, in a survey about whether people liked Game of Thrones that used skip logic (allowing respondents to skip certain questions), the show got 4.15 stars. The version that did not use skip logic received only 2.98 stars.

Why such a big difference? According to SurveyMonkey, “The version that avoided skip logic had a big increase in one-star ratings, possibly because respondents who hadn’t seen the show didn’t have an answer option that applied to them and gave a frustrated response.”

7. Make it mobile friendly

This one is non-negotiable. Your survey must be mobile friendly. 

About 60% of all website traffic is via a mobile device. If your survey design doesn’t translate well on smartphones, you’re missing out on a huge pool of respondents.

Here are a few more tips to keep your survey short:

  • Keep questions clear and concise. Questions that require a great deal of thought or reasoning will put a strain on the survey respondent.
  • Avoid open-ended, fill-in-the-blank questions. See the point above. These questions require too much thought on the customers’ part. They’ll lose quickly interest.
  • Use yes/no and multiple-choice questions. Survey questions with a clear set of choices are easier to get through. You can pack more questions in a shorter time frame with yes/no and multiple-choice options.
  • Avoid using a rating matrix. Don’t present your customer will a list of 20 items and ask them to rate each on a scale of 1-10. It’s tedious, it’s hard to keep track of, and it’s a prime spot to lose your survey taker.

The Impact of Survey Fatigue on Your Business

More and more, businesses are relying almost completely on market research to make key decisions. And a great deal of this market research comes from surveys.

There’s also a monetary factor. Surveys cost money: labor to create the survey, a third-party to host the survey, more labor to interpret the results. The importance of good, solid survey data coupled with the cost involved with running it means that respondent fatigue is a real risk. 

We’ve learned about the types of survey fatigue and how to avoid them. But what if it still happens? What does it ultimately mean for your survey results and your business?

1. You might not get many responses

If you’re surveying your customers to death, they’ll eventually stop engaging. And a low response rate means the data you did manage to collect is less impactful. If only a tiny percentage of your customer base gave their opinions, you can’t really use that info to make data-driven decisions.

2. Your results will be skewed

It’s no secret that unhappy customers are a lot more likely to share their opinion or grievance than a happy customer. This means a satisfied customer may give up on your survey if it’s too long or confusing, whereas an unhappy customer will probably complete it. They’re unhappy and they want to be sure their opinion is heard, even if the survey was a pain to get through.

3. You’re damaging your brand

Pay close attention to the message your company’s surveys may be sending.

These days, customers feel that surveys are not being used to make their experience better, but rather are aimed at making more money for the company. This perception is damaging. It’s imperative that consumers feel their feedback is being used to make their experience better, not yours .

4. You might lose customers

It seems unlikely a customer would stop doing business with you just because you sent them too many surveys or one of your surveys was too long. Whatever the reason, do you think survey fatigue could really result in losing customers?

It could. Your customer relationships are the whole of many parts. From their interaction with your staff to making a purchase to browsing your website, your customer’s satisfaction relies on all these elements and many more.

Now if your customer has had a fantastic experience so far and they get a few surveys from you, no big deal. But what if your staff was rude, the customer’s order was fouled up, and they couldn’t use your website to get help? Then they get a series of generalized surveys from you… It could be the straw that breaks the camel’s back. You might lose that customer completely.

Survey Fatigue: Nextiva’s Solution

Question fatigue is here to stay. We can expect that it will probably get worse as the information age continues to grow.

While we’ll never totally eliminate the exhaustion associated with this type of data collection, there are things you can do to combat survey fatigue

Remember our guidelines for reducing survey fatigue:

  • Vet your questions and question type
  • Share the reason for your feedback survey
  • Give a time estimate for survey completion
  • Use a progress bar to show survey length
  • Share the survey results with your customers
  • Allow skipping questions in long surveys
  • Make the survey mobile friendly

If you are mindful about your surveys, they can still be an excellent business tool. Nextiva Surveys, for example, make surveys a cinch to build. Real-time results are available to you in clear, easy to understand spreadsheets and graphs.

Let Nextiva Surveys handle the technical part while you focus on creating the best questions and the best targeting to get optimal results you can use to shape your business.

Get the answers your business needs.

Understand your audience, make better business decisions, and solve customer issues with Nextiva Surveys.

Survey Fatigue FAQs

What is an example of survey fatigue?

Imagine a customer who shops online on a regular basis and is asked to complete a survey after every purchase, receives follow-up emails asking for feedback on the delivery experience, and is prompted to rate each product individually. If the surveys are lengthy or seem repetitive, the customer may start to ignore these requests, provide rushed or unthoughtful feedback, or opt out of future surveys altogether, all of which demonstrates clear signs of survey fatigue.

How do you identify survey fatigue in a survey?

Survey fatigue can be identified through various signs, such as:

Low Response Rates. If the response rate to your survey is lower than expected, it could be a sign that respondents are tired of answering questions.
Rushed or Incomplete Responses. If respondents are rushing through the survey or not completing it, it may indicate that they are experiencing fatigue due to the length or complexity.
Lack of Engagement. If people appear disinterested or unengaged during the survey, it could be a sign of question fatigue.
Negative Feedback. If they provide negative feedback about the survey experience, such as complaining about the length or frequency of surveys – bingo!
Decreased Quality of Responses. If the quality of responses decreases over time, such as respondents providing shorter or less thoughtful answers throughout, they are trying to tell you something. 
Survey Abandonment. If customers start the survey but do not complete it, it is a clear indication of fatigue.

How do you measure survey fatigue?

Question fatigue can be “measured” simply by observing the response rates, the dropout rates before survey completion, the time taken to complete surveys, and the quality of responses (like increased number of skipped questions or inconsistent answers). Survey platforms may also provide analytics tools that track these metrics to identify potential fatigue.

How do you overcome survey fatigue?

To overcome this type of fatigue:

Keep survey questions short and to the point
Ensure that all questions are clear and relevant
Limit the frequency of your surveys
Use engaging question type formats
Offer incentives for completing surveys (depending on survey length)
Provide feedback on how survey results are used to enhance the perceived value of participating

What is respondent fatigue?

Respondent fatigue is synonymous with survey fatigue and refers to a decline in a respondent’s willingness to participate in surveys over time. This can be due to the monotony, length, perceived irrelevance, or lack of clear survey logic. 

What are the demographic factors that contribute to survey fatigue?

Demographic factors that can influence survey fatigue include age, education level, occupation, and cultural background. For example, younger respondents may have shorter attention spans for long surveys, while highly educated individuals might be more critical of question relevance and quality.

What are the implications of survey fatigue for employee feedback surveys?

Fatigue can happen with employees as well as customers. This can lead to lower response rates, incomplete data (and thus skewed data quality) and potentially biased results in both customer and employee feedback. This undermines the reliability of the data and can result in misleading conclusions about employee or customer satisfaction and engagement.

Alex Doan


Alex Doan

Alex Doan is an experienced senior marketing professional specializing in propelling growth for both B2B and B2C companies. Proficient in streamlining marketing operations for seamless sales transitions, utilizing analytics and consumer insights to achieve measurable outcomes. Committed to enhancing lead and customer experiences through effective journey mapping.

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