Prevent Qualtrics from Sending Emails Based on Incomplete Responses

An online form I manage through Qualtrics sent some confusing emails recently. The form should only email me when someone completes all required information, but somehow the emails I received were missing some critical information. I double checked that all my form validation was in place and my Survey Flow did not have anything letting respondents bypass the necessary questions. It turns out that the emails were triggered by an incomplete response reaching the expiration date. Therefore, I needed to rethink how my email triggers were set up.


A benefit of using Qualtrics is it allows respondents to begin filling out a form, close it, and complete the form later. Until the person clicks the submit button, the incomplete response is stored within Qualtrics. You have the ability to decide what happens with these incomplete responses. You decide how long the respondent has to complete the form. If they take too long, you can set the Qualtrics form to record or delete the response.

My usual preference is to delete incomplete responses. With deleting, however, Qualtrics only lets you keep the incomplete responses open for one week. That seems like a short time frame for providing a list of peer reviewers, for example. Respondents may need more time to get approval and collect the necessary contact information from the reviewers.

For this type of form, I set incomplete responses to be recorded after a few months, which is the cause of my current problem. Once the response is recorded, my email triggers are executed as if the form was completed.

Create Embedded Variable

To prevent emails from being sent based on incomplete responses, I needed a way to determine whether the response is complete. Qualtrics has a built-in flag for doing that, but Survey Metadata cannot be used for email triggers. So I creating an embedded variable instead, named "FormComplete", through Survey Flow and setting the value to "Yes" (see Figure 1).

Qualtrics screenshot showing the newly added embedded variable
Figure 1. Create Embedded Variable

Note: the embedded variable needs to be placed after all your form's questions are asked and before the survey ends. Placement of the variable becomes more difficult if you are using features like Branch Logic and the End of Survey Element. If you are not using these features, the embedded variable would be placed after all the blocks in your Survey Flow.

Incorporate Embedded Variable

With the Survey Flow saved, the embedded variable can now be used as a condition for sending out email(s). This can be accomplished by going into your email triggers and

  1. Clicking Add a Condition (see Figure 2)
  2. Choosing Embedded Data for the condition type
  3. Entering the name (ie. FormComplete) of the embedded variable
  4. Selecting Is Equal to
  5. Entering the value (ie. Yes) of the embedded variable (see Figure 3)
Qualtrics screenshot showing how to add a condition to an email trigger
Figure 2. Add Condition to Email Trigger
Qualtrics screenshot showing how to use an embedded variable as a condition in the email trigger
Figure 3. Use Embedded Variable


  • #1 Linda Charlton-Gunderson on 02.14.18 at 5:24 pm

    Qualtrics allows more than week for incomplete responds. You just need to change the setting in survey options.

  • #2 Patrick Nichols on 02.14.18 at 6:04 pm

    The following reply was made through LinkedIn:

    Hey Linda! Perhaps I'm missing the setting. Under Survey Options > Partial Completion, the drop down for indicating the time frame is grayed out and locked at 1 week. The time frame drop down only unlocks for me if I change the first drop down to Record.

  • #3 Linda Charlton-Gunderson on 02.14.18 at 6:16 pm

    The following reply was made through LinkedIn:

    Sorry Patrick, that is what I was talking about – I am wrong. You should fill out a request for feature updates.

  • #4 Patrick Nichols on 02.14.18 at 6:42 pm

    The following reply was made through LinkedIn:

    No problem. Thanks for responding!

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