mandatoryTechnology is a wonderful thing. It put a man on the moon, cured small pox and gave us Twitter but just because you can do something doesn’t mean you should.

For instance, technology also gave us the ability to force customers to respond to every question in our web customer feedback surveys but you shouldn’t; you really just shouldn’t.

1. Respect Your Customer

Most of the time your customer is doing the survey out of the goodness of their heart. There is little in it for them and they are basically doing you a favor.

Making survey questions mandatory is putting a whole bunch of conditions on that favor. That’s not respectful.

It’s enough already that they are responding, don’t add a whole set of needless rules to that response.

2. Mandatory Question Generate Problem Data

Making questions mandatory increases the chance, by a lot, that responses to that question are junk data; data that you would actually rather not have.

Just think about it for a few seconds: people typically only skip a question if they don’t have a strong opinion. If you then force them to respond, they will, just with junk data.

Notice the problem is even worse than not getting a response at all.

Now you have a response but you don’t know if it’s real or junk! When you see a 1 out of 7 for an attribute question is it really a 1 or was it just that the 1 was easiest to select to move to the next question?

The data analysis part of your customer feedback process just got a lot harder.

3. Mandatory Question Reduce Response Rates

Hang on, mandatory questions are supposed to increase response rates. But they don’t. Making questions mandatory can have the reverse affect.

Imagine, or maybe just remember, a time when you’ve been completing a customer feedback survey.

You answer the first few questions but soon you get to one where you don’t have an opinion so you skip it and hit . Only the page doesn’t move forward, and a big red sign appears: “You must answer this question”.

So you make up an opinion and move on but it happens a couple more times. “Okay I’ve been nice but this is too much” and you hit the close tab button on your browser.

Have you ever done that? I know I have, and on more than one occasion.

So making the question mandatory has reduced the response rate not increased it. At the same time you’ve annoyed a customer so their satisfaction has gone down from the interaction.

This is a double negative whammy.

4. Non-Mandatory Questions Get Answered Most of the time anyway

For all of the negatives that mandatory questions provide what impact does it have on getting a response to a question: not much actually.

I have seen research on Net Promoter ® surveys that show the non-response rate for the initial question is less than 0.5%, that’s 1 in 200.

So the non-response rate is negligible.

Of course that will be different for different survey configurations but if your survey is easy to fill-in and asks a small number of relevant questions, respondents will answer those questions, where they have an opinion.

You might get 0.5% more responses per question by making them mandatory but that 0.5% comes with a world of problems.

No, Offering A Prize Doesn’t Make it Okay

One time that most companies feel they have a right to make questions mandatory is when they are offering a prize or incentive for responses to a customer feedback survey.

Let’s leave aside that offering an incentive it a bad idea in the first place, it’s still no reason to make questions mandatory.

Companies that offer an incentive feel that they are paying for the response so they want a 100% completed response. Plus they want to make sure that no-one freeloads by giving a blank response to obtain the incentive.

Sound fair but let’s dig into that for a few seconds.

Preventing the free loaders this way doesn’t work. After they find the first few questions are mandatory they just start responding to the easiest or first response they see. Lots of “because”s in text fields and left most responses for multi-choice.

So congratulations you now have a completed survey that’s full of garbage. You can’t use the data in your analysis because it’ll throw out your survey statistical analysis.

Do you keep all of the data, remove some responses, what? Nope, nothing you can do but bin the whole response. Might as well have just let them leave the questions blank. It would have at least saved you time.

Of course that’s even assuming you review the data carefully enough. Lots of times this type of response just gets straight through to the analysis stage and generate bad insights.

No, using mandatory questions to eliminate freeloaders in this way doesn’t work and just makes your job harder.

So the next time you are considering making a question in your survey mandatory think about the wider implications and don’t, just don’t.

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