Jonathan Sockell

Though Medallia clients capture millions of survey responses from their customers every year, sometimes customers need a nudge to participate.  That’s where incentives — the rewards companies give customers in exchange for taking a survey — come in. Incentives can boost survey participation but they can also skew results, waste resources, and even offend customers. We recommend use of them in certain circumstances. Here are 5 common survey incentives, and the appropriate times to use them.
Best Suited For: Products and services that are used frequently and face a lot of competition. Think credit cards, club cards, or hotel reward points.
Why: Loyalty points entice feedback from the most important customers, loyal ones, and strengthen a customer’s relationship with the brand. Moreover, loyalty points are designed to keep existing customers coming back, which we typically find more cost effective than selling and acquiring new ones.
Example: Best Western offers every survey taker 250 reward points for filling out a survey. This increases retention, creates more members, and boosts feedback volume.
Best Suited For: B2B surveys (transactional or relationship). Think vendor surveying its business client.
Why: Business clients are often obligated to not accept gifts. Moreover, those invited to take surveys are often senior—even c-suite—people who “already have everything.” They may be more motivated by a charitable donation to a cause they can believe in than by a material item that might be thrown away.
Example: One Medallia client, Sodexo, a service provider to thousands of organizations, offers to donate, on survey takers’ behalf, to its own charity, The Sodexo Foundations, which supports programs to fight hunger.
Best Suited For: Relatively lower cost products, like toys, basic clothes, or cosmetics. Think everyday items you buy at a nearby retail store.
WhyTo not skew results or break the bank, companies shouldn’t spend more than a couple bucks for each survey response. At the same time, the size of the survey reward must be meaningful relative to the cost of the product or service that generated the survey. A $0.50 coupon on a box of cereal is a meaningful discount percentage to a consumer, yet is relatively inexpensive for a company. Not to mention that the coupon may drive additional loyalty.
ExampleThe other day when grocery shopping I stopped at the in-store Starbucks to buy a coffee. I was offered a $1 coupon to take a survey. The ~30% savings motivated me enough to take it, and the cost to Starbucks is relatively small, especially when you consider that I’ll need to buy more coffee to use my coupon.
Best Suited For: Relatively higher cost items, like electronics, cars, or even a week’s worth of groceries (just not individual groceries). Think items that cost at least a couple hundred dollars, if not more.
WhyWhen prices are high, coupons that are meaningful relative to the size of purchase become too expensive as a way to pay for responses. That same $1-off coupon that compels me to take a survey when it’s for coffee does not compel me when it’s for, say, a new tablet. Sweepstakes keep the costs down for businesses, but offer prospective survey takers a big potential reward for taking a survey that’s commensurate with the size of the purchase about which they’re being surveyed.
ExampleA major grocery chain that uses Medallia runs a weekly sweepstakes, the winner of which receives a week of free groceries. It costs the chain a couple hundred bucks per store, less than the cost of coupons offered to all survey takers, and generates a volume of responses that easily outweighs the cost.
Best Suited For:  B2B2C scenarios when a company wants to survey not just account managers, but the end users too. Think a business service provider wanting to not just survey its own client, but the customers of that client too.
Why: B2B surveys measure a client’s satisfaction, but a B2B2C survey take it a step further by helping the client measure the satisfaction from its own customers. The survey results can often lead to strategic changes to product or service offerings for both the vendor and the vendor’s client.
Example: Medallia client Alcatel Lucent surveys not just the stakeholders from their enterprise client base, but also the employees at the business who actually use Alcatel’s products. This allows Alcatel to keep a pulse on the satisfaction of both their buyers AND their users.
There are countless ways to incentivize feedback—for instance, allowing survey takers to share coupons on social networks. If you’re not getting large enough sample sizes to take action, then you may need to consider rewarding survey takers. Medallia’s Insights team works with clients to tailor rewards appropriate for individual needs, which allows businesses to draw deeper insights, make improvements, and deliver great customer experiences.

Photo credit: Marit & Toomas Hinnosaar