Fieldwork Tips: Avoid the pitfalls of annoying your survey respondents – top 6 pet peeves

Posted on 20th November 2017 by Youth

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With nearly 15 years’ experience owning a youth research panel, we’ve learnt a thing or two in our time.

Over the years, our panellists have been incredibly vocal about what they love in a survey – and more importantly – what really drives them crazy. And because the best way to reduce the quality of survey data is to annoy your respondents, we’ve debugged the Top 6 Respondent Pet Peeves and thrown in useful tips on how they can be avoided.


1. “It was way too long and repetitive”

It’s no surprise that long surveys are the main gripe with respondents. And when it comes to younger participants, long surveys can be even more annoying.

Be honest. Be clear and honest about how long the survey is going to take. This way respondents know how much of their time will be required.

Streamline the survey. We would recommend not inviting respondents to a survey longer than 20 minutes. Think about whether all the questions in the survey are necessary…are there any ‘nice to have’ questions you could remove to shorten the length? Think about removing demographic questions which are held on the panel; these can always be provided after fieldwork.

Make it engaging. Make it as easy and enjoyable to complete as possible. Gamifying your survey can be a great way to engage participants…images, interactive icons and even improving questionnaire wording can make a huge difference in engaging respondents and maintaining attention levels.

This is an example of our award winning fully mobile, fully responsive and engaging survey template.(Yes we’re very proud!)


2. “It didn’t work on my mobile”

Before we introduced our award-winning responsive surveys, respondents who completed on their smartphones had to zoom in and out constantly to get their surveys completed. Mobile response rates languished at around 30%. Since introducing our award winning system, smartphone response rates are now over 60% and rising.

We understand that it’s not practical to make all surveys mobile compatible, but it’s clear that mobile is becoming increasingly important. It’s even more important when surveying younger audiences so ignoring respondents who access surveys by mobile will increasingly impact the representativeness of your results.

Embrace mobile. If possible make your survey device agnostic, so if respondents are completing by mobile they have an engaging experience. Having over 60% accessing our surveys on mobile, we have had to adopt a mobile first approach; with mobile being at the heart of all our fieldwork.


Our award-winning mobile device agnostic template!

We understand that it’s not practical to make all surveys mobile compatible (for now at least) so for instances of non-mobile compatibility, we inform respondents to avoid offering a mobile-response both on the invite and the landing page introducing the survey.


3. “Wow, that’s a 16 pence incentive you’ve just given me”

After giving you their time and diligence, respondents should be offered a decent reward. Do it or you’ll be abusing people’s trust.

Offer decent Incentives. We would always advise offering an incentive to get respondents to complete your survey. We always incentivise our respondents fairly and promptly. For instance, we offer £1.00 for each survey up to 15 minutes, and £2.00 for longer ones. We also make sure that our panellists know how to redeem their incentives and how to contact us if they haven’t received them.


4. “I answered close to 20 questions and then got screened out for no reason. What a waste of my time”

We understand the need for clients to have the right respondents completing a survey, but for panellists there’s nothing worse than answering questions for 10 minutes and then getting screened out.

Improved sampling and targeting. Sometimes all you need to do is target the right respondents better. At YouthSight, we hold over 1,000 variables that we can use to target according to specific criteria: standard demographic information (such as age, gender, etc), behaviour and attitudinal information are all variables by which we can invite respondents. Check out our Panel Book to see how extensively we can target.

Reward screenouts. Think about rewarding panellists even if they screenout. At YouthSight we enter all respondents into a monthly prize draw to win a Kindle. For our panellists screenouts don’t have to always end in bad news!


5. “About 2 questions in I couldn’t proceed. Every time I click next it loads the same question”

Not spotting issues and technical glitches is not only annoying for respondents, but can also have an impact on fieldwork times and – in some cases – the ability to get the required number of respondents.

Allow for feedback. Pilot surveys. And give respondents a way to give you feedback of their survey experience. At the end of all our surveys we have a feedback form which allows respondents to rate their experience and write any comments. We also have a dedicated support contact address which is managed by a dedicated community manager who feeds any issues with surveys to the appropriate project managers.


6. “It was asking me a lot of questions that I didn’t know or have an opinion on”

Inviting respondents to do a survey they know little about won’t only annoy panellists, but will also compromise the quality of the responses in the data. After all,  respondents will be giving opinions on topics they know little about.

Screen early: Get to the point and get there quickly! Letting respondents know the survey topic early on and screening appropriately ensures superior engagement from the beginning to the end of the survey.

Appropriate routing: Avoid asking unnecessary questions of respondents. Whilst you’ve got them in the survey and they’re active and willing to offer their opinions, make sure you can maintain their attention by tailoring their survey path and experience to fit with their responses.


Still unsure how to keep your respondents interested? Let us help.

Our experienced and dedicated UK-based project managers, Hayley and Emma, work with you every step of the way; offering guidance during initial spec development, giving you regular updates during fieldwork and providing key respondent feedback on completion – all completely hassle-free.

Let us take the stress out of your research – get in touch on 020 7374 0997 or email us on for within-the-hour quotes.

Hayley Adonis
Project & Account Executive
More about Hayley >


Emma Quinn
Project & Account Executive
More about Emma >

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