Evidence-Based Innovation Blog

Optimal Timing to Boost Business School Survey Response Rates

Posted on Jul 11, 2012 9:15:00 AM

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If you are planning to conduct a non-degree or graduate management education (GME) experience survey, it is important to do everything you can to boost your response rate to minimize cost and speed up the turnaround time. This is one of a series of articles to provide tips and tricks to help you get the best possible response rate from your business school market research.


Timing for Survey Success

Critical to assessing the best timing for non-degree or GME satisfaction surveys is to understand potential conflicts in the personal and professional work schedules of your target audience. Survey participation is directly linked to the day and time survey invitations are scheduled. Your goal is to schedule your survey invitations when your target audience is most likely to receive them and have time to respond.

Time of Year

Ideally, surveys should be administered at the most appropriate time of year to achieve the highest response rate possible. You should avoid fielding the survey during times of the year when your b-school stakeholders are hard to reach or less willing to participate in the survey.

Such times will depend on the specific audience, but try to avoid interviewing during major holidays, audience-specific events, three-day weekends, and vacation seasons. For example, scheduling surveys in July for North Americans or in August for Europeans will generally result in lower response rates due to typical vacation planning.

Sending a survey invite on a Friday before Labor Day Weekend is not the best way to get a high response rate in the United States. Time your survey and reminders around holidays and the busy cycles of your target audience in order to maximize response rates for your non-degree and GME surveys.

Time of Week

When planning the timing of the survey invitation, program administrators should consider the availability of your target audience. We want to avoid busy periods and allow your respondents enough time to complete the survey when they are best oriented to the topic of your survey.  

For example, if your audience is mostly working professionals, you should typically avoid sending survey invitations on Friday, Saturday, or Sunday. On Fridays, professionals are likely to be too anxious for the weekend to give your non-degree or GME satisfaction survey the attention it deserves.  The weekends should be avoided for two primary reasons:

  1. Most professionals view the weekend as their personal time and do not desire additional commitments; and
  2. SPAM volume typically peaks over the weekend, which can make your survey invitation easier to miss in the clutter.

Mondays are also best to steer clear as this is typically a day in which working professionals are starting the week and your invitation is likely to get lost in the large number of priority email messages that have accumulated over the weekend.

Thus, Tuesdays through Thursdays are the best days to send invitations for business school satisfaction surveys, as they are the days that participants will most likely respond.

Time of Day

The time of day that a survey invitation is delivered can have an impact on the number of responses generated. According to our GME Student Exit Survey data, 75% of all responses typically occur within the first 48 hours of the first invitation delivery.

To determine the best time of day takes an understanding of your specific target audience. When sending invitations to personal email accounts, during the week early in the morning or in the evening is the best time to send. This is because some people may not check their personal email at work. They are more likely to see it later in the day or that evening. However, sending early in the morning or in mid-afternoon can elicit higher responses for work email accounts.

We recommend that you do not place too much emphasis on the time of day. It is often difficult to ensure the precise time your message is delivered. If the invitation is sent at 10 am in one time zone, there are other time zones to consider.

Planning your survey strategically by aligning the frequency of reminders and timing to your target audience will lead to an effective survey event for you and your stakeholders. 


Please leave a comment about your non-degree or GME program’s tactics for boosting survey response. We would love to hear about your experience and your tips!


Brian Mahoney, the author for this article, is a marketing research consultant and Managing Partner of Percept Research. Brian welcomes your questions and comments.

Topics: Brian Mahoney, Boost Response Rates