Sending surveys in the time of coronavirus

In uncertain times, everyone is going to have some questions. The more you can do to give your organization, customers, and self peace of mind, the more effectively we’ll be able to work through it together.

By Colette Des Georges, Content strategist, SurveyMonkey

Published June 2, 2020
Last updated June 8, 2020

In tumultuous times, you may be inclined to pull back on customer communications. After all, if you knew a friend were sick or an employee had just lost a loved one, could you be sure of the best way to reach out, or if you should reach out at all?

But what are the rules if the whole world is experiencing a crisis?

You may be wondering if sending a survey to your customers means bothering them at a sensitive time. Good news: It’s safe to consider it a mutually beneficial check-in, a step to help keep your business and your relationship with your customers healthy. SurveyMonkey’s latest research found that not only are most customers still receptive to getting surveys, but many actually think it’s appropriate for companies to be sending more.

Read on for our findings about comfort level with surveys during this crisis. We also share tips for creating a quicker, gentler customer survey experience.

Customers are open to surveys

We asked 546 panelists on SurveyMonkey Audience, our global consumer panel, whether they mind taking surveys during the coronavirus crisis. Here’s what they said:

Is it OK to send surveys during the coronavirus crisis?

95% said they are as or more likely to take surveys now than they were before the crisis began. 85% said they are answering the same amount or more surveys than they were. 95% of respondents said it was appropriate for companies to send surveys to their customers in the current environment.

86% of respondents said it was appropriate or completely appropriate employers to send surveys to the people who work for them. In fact, 27% actually thought they ought to be getting more surveys from employers, and only 6% thought there were too many.

Customers are open to surveys about coronavirus

Another reason that people may be so comfortable with surveys right now is that they’re probably getting some already—ones that address coronavirus directly. For many businesses, the coronavirus crisis has meant a massive pivot or reevaluation of their usual operations—which also requires a lot of check-ins with customers and employees.

The graph below shows the number of surveys people have sent that contain the words “COVID” or “corona” in their titles over a 90-day period (note: This view was anonymized and aggregated for user privacy).

The graph shows the number of surveys people have sent that contain the words

SurveyMonkey users went from sending close to zero surveys about coronavirus to sending nearly 2,500 surveys a day that contained “corona” or “COVID” in their survey titles by March 19. (The dip after the first spike is a weekend, when people always send fewer surveys.) So not only are organizations sharing more surveys than ever, but respondents also seem especially receptive. Reminder: If you want to send a survey asking about people’s experience of the coronavirus, with questions about medical information, you must ensure that your survey is HIPAA compliant.

Keep your customer-facing surveys respectful

SurveyMonkey’s research experts have created free, coronavirus-specific survey templates for communicating with customers, employees, or team members. They’re designed to be quick, informative, and respectful.

The following steps can help your customer surveys feel like a check-in, rather than an intrusion.

  1. Be transparent about your motivations

    We’ve found that surveys have much higher open rates and better participation when respondents understand what their feedback is going toward. Are you using this information to adapt your product in the face of the crisis? Are you using it to make sure that your customers still feel supported? Will you change your interactions based on this data? Let them know. It’ll keep them more in the loop and more comfortable sharing their opinions.

  2. Be mindful of frequency

    Other SurveyMonkey research recently found that consumers’ number one pet peeve when it comes to email is getting too many—with 61% saying they’ve unsubscribed over it. The same frustration applies to surveys. So while you should feel totally confident sending one or two surveys a month, you should limit yourself to no more. (This doesn’t include “transactional surveys” that are automatically triggered after a customer support interaction or after a purchase, which are okay to keep running in addition to those one or two supplemental surveys.)

  3. Control survey length and complexity

    In general, a shorter survey experience is a better survey experience. Aim to limit yourself to about 5 questions or less, and no more than 10. You’ll also want your questions to minimize the amount of effort that respondents have to do. You can do this by using multiple choice questions instead of open-ended ones that force respondents to write in the answers and by including a progress bar to show respondents how much they have left to do. Embedding the first question of a survey directly into your email will also make it easier for respondents to dive right in.

  4. Use inclusive language

    Whenever you’re interacting with customers—or anyone—it’s important to use inclusive language. A few ways that are especially important in the context of surveys: If your survey has a question about gender, add an “other” or “non-binary” option in addition to “male” or “female,” and avoid pronouns if you can. Also steer clear of idioms and jargon that might make sense only to a certain population and confuse another. Keep people with disabilities in mind as you design your survey (both in terms of language and color choices, etc.).

  5. Use “other” options to give people space to air unusual needs or requests

    Your customers might suddenly have new needs, preferences, or challenges that you would never have thought of. Rather than trying to incorporate every potential response into your survey, add an “other” answer option to your questions and/or add a single open-ended question to the end of your survey asking customers if there’s anything else they need you to know. It gives them the space to express those needs without inconveniencing your other respondents with irrelevant questions.

In uncertain times, everyone is going to have some questions. The more you can do to give your organization, customers, and self peace of mind, the more effectively we’ll be able to work through it together.

Engage your customers with surveys

SurveyMonkey’s customizable emails makes it easy to tailor messages to each customer use case and need that your company has.