1530.0 - ABS Forms Design Standards Manual, 2010  
ARCHIVED ISSUE Released at 11:30 AM (CANBERRA TIME) 25/01/2010  First Issue
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Contents >> Survey Letters >> Survey Letters-Reminder Letters


While aspects of these standards will be of interest to those outside the ABS, they were developed for internal use. As such, some information contained in these standards will not be applicable to an external audience. ABS staff should refer to the Corporate Manuals database for the most recent version of these documents, as some details (names, phone numbers etc.) have been removed from the online version.



The purpose of a reminder, regardless of its nature, is to remind respondents that they have not fulfilled their obligations to return a completed form. Although reminders are a very important part of the collection process, there is no legal obligation for the ABS to issue them. Experience has shown however, that reminders increase response rates in the period following their issue.

Reminders should be designed with the following in mind:
  • appropriate language should be used;
  • important elements should be stressed, and,
  • the 'message' should be plain.

For letter details common to all letters, see Survey Letters-Common Content. The remainder of this document deals with the areas specific to reminder letters.
Types of reminders

All the reminders should be linked to the form to which they relate. This is the most effective way of reminding respondents of their obligations. All reminders encourage the provider to willingly complete the form to assist the ABS to provide data for their industry.

There are three levels of reminders generally used by the ABS. The first reminder is a gentle encouragement for respondents to complete and return their survey forms. The second reminder reinforces the message in the first reminder, by referring in greater detail to the ability of the ABS to direct respondents to comply. The third reminder is a very strongly worded letter that will leave the respondent in no doubt as to the course of action that may follow should they not comply.

Currently, written reminders in the ABS are only produced in a letter format. In the past, postcards have been used in bulk despatches by larger collections. At this stage, only reminders in the letter format are to be used, generally complemented by telephone follow-up.

Email is not currently an acceptable method of reminding respondents unless those respondents are already contributing their data via a standard electronic form. Any e-communications with respondents (whether the content of a particular message is sensitive/ confidential or not) should be secured/encrypted as per Government & ABS policy. The same information should be included in 'letters' sent by email as in mailed letters, especially when both are used within the same survey.

The use of faxes to send reminders is an acceptable way of contacting respondents when time is limited. The same standards and guidelines used with reminders sent through the post should be applied when using fax.
Required Content for Reminder Letters

All reminders must clearly show the collection to which they refer. Many respondents receive a number of forms, both from the ABS and other sources, and may relate a reminder to the last (or first) received if the collection name is not immediately apparent. The title of the collection should be at the top of the letter. It should follow a salutation if there is one. The reference line should be 12 point, bold, in leading capitals and centred.

The reference period of the collection to which the reminder refers must be clearly stated. Reminder action may extend into a later collection period (particularly in the case of monthly collections) and it is imperative that the respondent relate the reminder to the data required.
For example:

Economic Activity Survey 2005-06

First Reminder

First reminder

For the purpose of reminder letters the collection reference line should be expanded to include the words "Reminder" or "First Reminder".
Second reminder

For second reminders, the phrase "Overdue Survey Form" should be added in front of the survey title and add "Second" to the third line:

Overdue Survey Form

Economic Activity Survey 2005-06

Second Reminder

Third reminder

For third reminders, you should add the word "URGENT" above the collection title. This word should be 12 point, bold, in upper case. Also the reference line should include the following phrase after the collection title for greater emphasis. This should be in 12 point, bold. The whole collection reference line will now emphasise the importance of the letter to the provider:


Economic Activity Survey 2005-06

Your survey form is still outstanding and is required immediately

More than three reminders may be used, however their effectiveness will decrease with each similar mailing. The number of the reminder should generally not be added to the letter because respondents given extensions, receiving re-dispatches etc. may lead to intermediate reminders being skipped. Words like "final" or "last" reminder should not be used on any reminders.
Due date

The original due date must be included. This is included in the opening paragraph. Unlike other letter types the due date on a reminder letter is not to be bold. For example:
    'In early August, the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) sent you a form for the above survey which was due for return by 30 August 2006....."

A reminder generally does not provide a new due date. A new due date has the potential to reset in the respondent's mind a date in the future by which time they need to respond, when what we really require is an immediate response. The first and second reminders will ask for the information "as soon as possible"whilst the third reminder asks for the information "immediately". Both these phrases should be 10 point, bold.

Any reminder action runs the risk of the reminder crossing in the mail with the return of the form in question. All reminders should therefore carry the proviso 'If you have already completed and returned the form, thank you for your timely cooperation and please ignore this reminder.' This statement should be the second paragraph and be in 10 point, bold.
Collection specific information

Other information of a collection-specific nature may be included in the reminder if this is felt to be necessary, but it should be borne in mind that it is the impact of the above mandatory elements that will jog the respondent's memory any further information will possibly be overlooked or will dilute the message.

The reminder should include a paragraph outlining why a completed form is important to the respondent and other Australian businesses. The intention of this paragraph is to highlight to the respondent the benefits of completing the form to their business. The word "important" is in bold to highlight this paragraph to the respondent.

For example:
    "Obtaining a completed form from your business is important because many people need to understand the performance of Australian businesses and monitor changes in their operation and structure. Governments and businesses make decisions based on these statistics, for example, to address policy issues on how to best support Australian businesses. These decisions have the potential to directly or indirectly affect your business."

Provision of a new form

When issuing the third reminder, it is important to include a new survey form. This will allow those who have not responded because they lost their survey form to easily complete and return their information to the ABS.
Examples of reminders

Example 1: First Reminder Letter

Example 2: Second Reminder Letter

Example 3: Third Reminder Letter

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