How Many Survey Questions Will a Borrower Answer?

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Prevailing conventional wisdom tells us that if we ask more than 3-4 questions, a borrower will quickly get bored or anxious (or worse, annoyed) and abandon the survey.  For many of us, this idea deeply resonates with our own feelings about surveys.  We see them as a bit of a nuisance, asking us to take precious time away from our busy day.  Therefore, the sentiment follows, “Why should I ask my customer to do something I wouldn’t want to do myself?”  The answer, of course, has been a concerted effort to keep surveys as short, simple, and painless as possible.

Why is this important?

Short, simple, and painless surveys are nice in theory, but they end up providing very little in the form of actionable feedback.  What they do well is take a temperature of the overall borrower feeling by asking the “Ultimate Question” (How likely are you to recommend us?).  And while that metric is very important to measure and track across months and quarters, it gives us little to no visibility into identifying and correcting problems with our staff and with our loan processes.  Imagine going to the doctor with severe stomach pains and finding out the doctor’s only tool was a thermometer!  You’d find another doctor immediately who could run a complete battery of tests.  To take the analogy one step further, what if you had the beginning stages of cancer and didn’t know it?  A thermometer alone will leave you blind to ailments you could have otherwise caught early and addressed.  What you really need is a full examination that leaves no stone unturned.

The Diagnosis

Leaving no stone unturned in the survey world means asking a lot of questions.  So, how many questions will a borrower answer?  Data from MortgageSAT (based on over 250,000 surveys) suggests that the number is higher than most people think.  Given the right survey methodology (i.e. the ideal wording and order of questions), STRATMOR found that response rates remained consistently high (35-40%) with as many as 35 questions.  What’s even more interesting is that the abandon rates for those who started the survey were almost non-existent up to 25 questions, with roughly a 1% drop-off for each question thereafter (see below).  Overall, 90% of respondents who answered the first question of the MortgageSAT survey completed the survey in its entirety. The important takeaway here is that the common fear of asking too many questions appears to be largely unfounded.


There are a few factors that explain the difference between the conventional wisdom and the actual data.

  1. The mortgage transaction is unique.  A mortgage loan is often the biggest financial transaction of the borrower’s life to that point, and involves many hours (and sometimes even loss of sleep) before completion, so a post-close survey cannot be thought of in the same vein as more transactional events like opening a savings account or using an ATM.
  2. The average borrower is not a senior-level executive.  The busy executives making the statement, “I personally wouldn’t want to take a longer survey” are not representative of the typical borrower, who is getting a $200K loan and has likely just spent months navigating the loan process.  Once the papers are signed, these borrowers are often quite eager to provide feedback, both good and bad.  High-level execs and other busy people may simply fall into the 60% who don’t respond.
  3. Methodology matters.  Credit for MortgageSAT’s rather impressive response rates lies in part with STRATMOR’s partner, CFI Group, creators of the American Consumer Satisfaction Index methodology (used by the US Government, NASA, Coca-Cola, UPS, etc.).  When invitations show a picture of the CEO and when questions are asked in the right way and in the right sequence, 15% response rates turn into 37% response rates (current MortgageSAT average).

The Prescription

Transparency is needed to support and drive any real and lasting change within your organization.  Transparency requires rich data, and the only way to get that data is to start asking your borrowers more questions (thankfully, borrowers appear very willing to provide this feedback!).  A great first step toward this end is to learn more about MortgageSAT, a product of STRATMOR that provides a Performance Assessment tool, a National Benchmarking tool, and a means of leveraging your borrower feedback via social media.

Learn More about MortgageSAT and how it can impact you.

Ready to learn more about STRATMOR’s turnkey survey solution called MortgageSAT, and how rich, drill-down data can help your company? Contact MortgageSAT Director Mike Seminari at to learn more.