What is Non-Response Bias and How to Overcome It?

Trustmary teamTrustmary team
Last edited: June 27th, 2024
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Thoughtful customer surveys are essential for businesses, but they can be tricky to get right. You need to be thoughtful about what you’re measuring, how you’re sending it, and who your audience is.

There are two types of survey bias: non-response bias and response bias. 

Keep reading to learn more about what is non-response bias and how to improve your survey response rate with these easy tips.

What is Non-response Bias? 

Non-response bias is a problem that researchers and marketers face when sending out surveys. It can be caused by many things: 

  • Not wanting to complete the survey
  • Forgetting to submit answers
  • Not being able to complete the survey due to technical issues 
  • Not understanding the survey
what is non-response bias

Non-response bias can significantly impact your data when measuring customer loyalty and retention

Nonresponders are often 

  • less engaged with the company, 
  • less inclined to refer people to your products or services, or 
  • just less committed overall. 

This can lead to business decisions being made based on inaccurate data. Therefore, it’s important to find techniques to eliminate non-response bias from the start in order to make a business thrive in the long run.

What causes Non-Response Bias?

Non-response bias can be caused by a number of factors, including: 

Poorly Structured Survey

If the survey is excessively long or challenging to interpret, people are more likely to not complete it.  

The completion rate decreases by nearly 20% if the survey takes more than 5 minutes to complete. To keep your response rates high, make sure your surveys are succinct and easy to complete.

Poorly Designed Landing Pages

While most of the survey tools allow you to host the survey on their own, pre-build landing pages, there are a few survey tools in the market that get added on top of your existing landing pages. 

If you are working on a large dataset of surveys or are using a tool that gets added on your existing landing page, having a poorly designed landing page can be a big reason behind survey abandonment. 

You can use various landing page builders that are available in the marketplace to ease up your work and make your landing page more efficient. 

Incorrect Target Audience 

It’s possible that some of the people you surveyed weren’t the correct target audience. 

When distributing surveys, it’s important to target groups that are relevant for the study. This could be done by leveraging customer data to identify these groups. 

If you notice that your primary audience doesn’t seem engaged, you can try changing up your survey’s trigger and timing.

Decline to Take Part

Some people could decline to take part in your poll. They might not want to participate in a poll that requests sensitive data. 

For some customers, participating in a survey isn’t something they want to do at that moment. It’s important to be aware of this and not to take it personally. There are other times and other ways to connect with these individuals to get their feedback.

Could Have Been Missed

Your survey could have been missed by the people you intended it to. For example, the email survey you sent might have gone to their spam folder. 

Distracted or Forgot

It’s also possible that the respondents overlooked the survey’s completion. They might have exited the survey without saving their answers, filled in the answers in a rush and got distracted. While it’s difficult to prevent this, ideally, it should only make up a small number of your non-responses.

Why is Non-response Bias a Problem?

  1. Non-response bias can occur when the sample is not representative of the overall population. Because the whole idea of gathering data for a sample is that it’s intended to be representative of the wider population, this can be problematic.
  2. Larger variations in estimates can result from non-response bias. The variation for the study’s estimations might be higher than predicted if the study sample size for the poll turns out to be lower than the researchers had predicted.

How to Reduce Non-response Bias?

One of the challenges in creating surveys is to avoid non-response bias. Here are some tips on how to avoid non-response bias. 

Use a Data Visualization Tool to Find the Root Cause

Most of the survey tools will provide you with basic statistics and data, such as,

  • open rate, 
  • reply rate and 
  • percentage completion rate 

But that’s just one part of the story. When you are working on surveys that are sent to dozens and hundreds of users, you need to go beyond the traditional statistics. To do that; you need to use data visualization tools

For instance, you can use data visualization tools to extract data from your survey tool, your website visitor history as well as other sources to identify things like:

  • Which region had the highest response rate 
  • What question made the most people abandon the survey
  • Time-based regression analysis of responses. 
  • And much more

Assess the Timing and Trigger for Your Survey

One of the best ways to get more people to participate in your surveys is to rethink the timing and trigger. 

This means finding the right time to approach people so that you are more likely to encourage them to participate in your survey. 

Take a look at your customer journey map to see when would be the best time to reach out to people. 

You can seek customer-shareable wonderful moments or customer-shareable pain areas where users would wish to voice their concerns. The secret to reaching participants at the ideal time is to focus on these meaningful encounters.

Analyze your Questions

Involvement will also be influenced by the questions you ask

If you want a response from people, be clear and concise in your question, and also make sure your questions are short and to the point. 

avoid double-barreled questions

For instance, if you’re running a survey about social media moderation tools, you should include questions like:

  1. How many social accounts do you manage?
  2. Do you use social media automation tools? (Yes/No)

And similar questions rather than asking out-of-context questions like:

  1. Hold old is your Facebook account?
  2. Do you use social media on your workstation? 

Closed-ended questions, including MCQs or Likert scales, should make up the majority of your survey. These make the questionnaire simpler to complete by offering people a set array of flexibility.

Enhance the Structure of Your Survey

The length of your survey can significantly impact whether participants will actually take the time to fill it out. In general, surveys should be no longer than 30 questions and should take around 7-8 minutes to complete. Any longer, and you’ll likely see a drop in completion rates.

too long surveys cause low response rates

Additionally, the design of your survey can play a role in how likely people are to stick with it until the end. 

For example, if you stack all of the questions on one page, viewers may be turned off by how much scrolling they’ll have to do to get to the end.

Leverage Buyer Personas

Selecting the right survey participants is critical to the success of your survey. 

You can use customer data from your CRM to only send the surveys to the relevant target group. For example, if you sell online courses to jobseekers who are interested in upskilling themselves, you may ask them for feedback only after they have completed the course.

Buyer personas can be quite beneficial since they can be used to pinpoint ideal customers that are more likely to take part in a survey. 

To determine if someone recently connected with your business and might wish to offer feedback, you also can look back at previous interactions with certain profiles. 

Run a Contest

Incentivizing survey completion is a great way to increase engagement. This can be done by offering a prize or discounts to participants upon completion of your survey. 

Your customer loyalty program is an excellent place to start if you’re unsure of what to deliver.

You can use some of its incentives or special offers in your survey or can offer loyalty points that can be added to their account. This is a fantastic approach to boost ultimate customer engagement and attract new leads for your business. 


It’s easy to create surveys but not so easy to create a survey that accurately reflects your target audience. Non-response bias is a real threat to your survey’s validity. Understanding what non-response bias is will help you create surveys that are more likely to get accurate results. 

Luckily there are several ways to avoid non-response bias in your survey. By following these steps, you can create surveys that will give you the most accurate data about your target audience.


What is non-response bias?

Non-response bias is a problem researchers and marketers face when sending out surveys. It’s a bias that occurs when receivers intentionally or unintentionally don’t complete the survey.

How do you adjust non-response bias?

There are many ways you can address non-response bias adjustment in surveys. You need to find out the root cause of why people skip your survey and test different methods to see what works best.

Trustmary team
Trustmary team


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