Monday, January 26, 2009

What to expect from a telephone survey

In my previous post I outlined when telephone surveys may be chosen over face-to-face (personal) surveys. What should you expect when you are called for a telephone survey?

  1. An interviewer that clearly states his/her first and last name and the company s/he is calling from.
  2. If you are called at an inconvenient time, you may ask to be called at another time. In our case, interviews are conducted from a central location. You may also call back.
  3. While the interviewer may ask your name, the information you provide will be treated confidentially. Your name is important for the research company when double checking the interviewers' work. It will not be released to our client, NEVER.
  4. A questionnaire that is designed to last no longer than 10 minutes. The actual length often depends on how much commentary the respondent delivers. You should know that, at each question, the interviewer can only record one of the options (multiple choice answers) she gives you. She cannot record any other comment. So, it is best to limit yourself to choosing one of the options. At the end of the interview you will always have a chance to make free flowing comments.
  5. You will not be called by a sales representative based on your answers. You will not be asked questions in a manner that suggests that your answers will be used to call you later to sell you something. This is a market research exercise, not an exercise to generate sales leads.

Telephone surveys vs face-to-face surveys

You may wonder why companies elect to do telephone surveys rather than face-to-face-surveys. We do so mostly for efficiency and speed. Convenience for the respondent and quality control may also play a role. How so?

  1. When the questionnaire is short (up to 10 minutes), it may take more time to travel from one respondent to another. Telephone interviews are more efficient.

  2. When the type of respondent are geographically dispersed, it may also take more time to travel from one respondent to another.

  3. The respondent may be very mobile or finds it inconvenient to make an appointment that lasts only 10 minutes. The same matter would be resolved faster over the phone.

  4. Since telephone interviews are usually conducted from a central location, under supervision, it is easier to control the quality of the interviews.

Telephone surveys are less personal. When the survey entails sensitive issues, this is always a reason try to decrease the respondent's possible discomfort. to For that reason, it is desirable, whenever possible, to inform respondents that they will be contacted and to give some background of the purpose of the survey. Read also my post What to expect from a telephone interview.