It's time to rethink how we use the telephone in market research. The days of large tracking studies with 400, 800 and 1,200 completed surveys all completed through telephone are numbered for several reasons. Telephone surveys take a long time to complete. Even large call centers with upwards of 8+ stations dialing on your project can take weeks or months to finish. They are also expensive. Clients pay for every minute a live person is dialing on the phone. This is a lot more expensive than paying to have a research firm send an email invite out to 10,000 contacts where the survey is completed on the respondents' time at their convenience with no human interaction. It takes 2 seconds to contact 10,000 people via email instead of 2 weeks by phone.
With cell phone devices, caller ID, and other means of communication including text, email and messaging, is there still a place for phone calls in market research?
Is there still a place for phone surveys in market research? Yes. Not many will argue the quality of a completed survey is better when there is two-way communication. This is a drawback with the online survey, which is the most common form of market research. Without two-way communication, the market research firm has no way of understanding context or digging deeper for clarification on responses.
Are your online surveys like dinner conversations with your 12-year-old son?
Option 1: Qualitative In-Depth Interviews (IDIs)
Phone surveys can still prove valuable if you have the time and the budget (most do not.) A suggestion here is to think about using phone surveys or in-depth interviews (IDIs) in a qualitative sense. Focus on obtaining a fewer number of completes (8 to 12) and focus on really diving into a topic and exploring it.
These interviews are moderated by a trained market research professional where he or she can probe when necessary. This type of qualitative feedback can help clarify, highlight themes, and provide significant insights to your project. They are much less expensive than a mass phone survey and are completed much quicker. However, they are not measurable. Qualitative research is meant to be exploratory, not measurable.
Option 2: Mixed-Mode (Online and Phone)
A second common option is to utilize phone calls is by virtue of a mixed-mode approach. This approach utilizes both online survey invitations and phone calls to boost response rates. A mixed-mode approach may qualify a participant by phone with a follow-up emailed survey link. Another option is sending the email invitations to all respondents and then following up by phone as a reminder. Both of these options produce strong results.
How can a mixed-mode approach help boost response rates?
Let's dig a little deeper as to why a combined online survey and phone call approach produces better response rates. Here are a few drivers and benefits behind the mixed-mode approach.
In a digital world, a personal reach out in-person or through the phone stands out. Calling and asking a respondent for a response matters. It lets the respondent know the online survey invite he or she received is not from a robot. Giving a voice to the market research goes a long way. It might seem insignificant but our past results beg to differ.
Sending an initial email invitation followed by 2 or 3 email reminders keeps the market research isolated to one method. If the person has 20,000+ emails in his or her inbox or doesn't check email often, using one method of contact will produce the same old results. By integrating phone calls into the process it provides your market research firm another way to reach a participant rather than relying solely on methodology.
Reminders (Non-Completes and Partials)
Phone calls can serve as simple reminders for both those who have not started the survey as well as those who have started the survey but did not complete it.
Shows You Care
Since respondents are overwhelmed by the amount of online surveys they are asked to participate in, a phone call stands out and lets the respondent know you care. Surveys are everywhere from McDonald's receipts to texts after you complete a customer service call. How can you break through the noise? Simply reach out by phone.
If nothing else, a phone call from a live person lets the respondent know the market research is important. A simple example here is to go back to your McDonald's receipt experience. What if you received a phone call 24 hours later from your local McDonald's saying "we didn't receive your response to our survey yesterday when you bought a Big Mac, when you have 3 minutes available we'd appreciate your feedback." That would stand out wouldn't it? The same holds true for most industry surveys you conduct.
Drive Research is a market research firm in Utica, NY. We try to incorporate phone call reminders on all of our online surveys to boost response rates for our clients. Interested in a market research project? Contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org or call us at 315-303-2040.