Why is Dropout Rate a Problem?

In the last article, we looked at the reason that dropout rate isn’t necessarily a big issue – at least in terms of the number of individuals that will complete a survey. Yet experts everywhere argue that you need to do your best to decrease dropout rate. Why? Because there is evidence that when people drop out of a survey, several problems occur. These include:

  • Sample

The more people that drop out of your survey, the larger a potential sample you need in order to collect enough data. For some companies this isn’t a problem, because they send these surveys out to a large number of people and only expect a small number of people to respond. But for some companies this is a big deal, because if you were cutting it close with your potential sample to begin with, losing out on potential data may make it tougher to get a sample size you need.

  • Demographics

Research differs on how much survey dropout affects your demographics. Some people assume that those that drop out have something in common that differs from those that stay in. Others believe that it shouldn’t necessarily affect the representation included in the sample. The answer is probably somewhere in between, but it’s very likely that the people that drop out do not actually affect the survey demographics. It is, however, something to keep in mind.

  • Bad Answers

Dropout rate is also a signal that your survey is simply too long. That signal is important, because while dropout rate doesn’t increase substantially when you have a long survey, survey boredom does, and survey boredom can lead to things like central tendency and habituation. Some studies have shown that shorter surveys tend to get more passionate answers, and since ideally you don’t want all of the answers to be too close together, the more passionate answers are more beneficial to the company.

  • Company Image

Finally, many companies are accidentally (or purposefully) marketing their company by sending out these surveys. Longer surveys tend to upset customers, which could lead to a bad image for your company and hurt your long term relationship with the customers that fill out the survey.

Long Surveys and Dropout

Overall, there are some serious downsides to survey dropout. Whether or not these downsides matter to you or your company are up to you. It’s conceivable that in some cases you can sacrifice these problems in favor of getting more data in a longer survey. But keep in mind that smaller surveys are still more likely to get you accurate data, which is something most businesses should always be seeking.


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