CATI Market Research: What Is It + Pros & Cons

In the dynamic landscape of market research methodologies, Computer-Assisted Telephone Interviewing (CATI) stands out as a widely utilized approach for gathering valuable insights.

In this blog post, we delve into the essence of CATI market research, exploring its fundamental principles, advantages, and drawbacks.

By understanding the intricacies of CATI, businesses can make informed decisions about integrating this method into their market research strategies, harnessing its potential to uncover vital consumer perspectives while navigating its limitations effectively.

What Is Computer-Assisted Telephone Interviewing (CATI)?

Computer-Assisted Telephone Interviewing, commonly referred to as CATI, is a system of surveying individuals by telephone.

The methodology uses software (typically specialized for this use) that enables an interviewer to work through a digitally-generated script.

Responses from individuals are directly entered into the system during the call, allowing for efficient data capture and analysis. 

Value of Using CATI

Having a survey programmed into CATI allows the telephone interviewer to focus on quality responses and in-depth probing rather than worrying about the sequence of questions and responses.

As with paper surveys or intercept surveys administered on paper, interviewers need to be well-trained and be aware of skip patterns within a survey. Using CATI eliminates this concern for the interviewer. 

By utilizing CATI, market research firms streamline the data collection process and enhance the quality of information gathered.

How CATI Works

CATI employs a digital system to facilitate telephone surveys. During a CATI-assisted interview, the interviewer typically adheres to a script displayed on a computer screen.

Skip patterns are built directly into the program so the sequence is 100% correct all the time.

This program-driven approach not only captures the interviewee's responses but also guides the interviewer through the process with efficiency.

The main steps in the process include:

  1. Initiation of Call: The interviewer contacts a respondent using a telephone.
  2. Guided Conversation: The interviewer follows a predetermined script that appears on their computer screen.
  3. Real-Time Data Capture: Responses are instantly recorded in the system as they are provided by the respondent.
  4. Logic and Routing: Advanced programming in the script allows for dynamic question paths based on previous answers, known as skip logic.

While there are different ways to approach utilizing CATI like specialized software, partnering with a data collection agency, or using an online survey - the option is generally what works best for the project.

Do I Need Official CATI Software in Market Research

Traditionally in CATI, interviewers use a script provided by specialized software. Even though it's typical, it is not required to use official CATI software.

An alternative approach involves programming the interview script into an online survey format.

Subsequently, interviewers can access these scripts at their workstations via a web link, which simulates a CATI environment without the associated costs. 

Additionally, some online survey tools offer features to monitor the progress and manage records effectively, providing the full array of CATI benefits at a reduced expense.

It can even be more beneficial for companies to save money by using online surveys instead of investing in official CATI software.

Benefits of using online surveys as CATI:

  • Provides seamless question routing to maintain survey flow.
  • Focuses interviewers’ attention on collecting detailed, high-quality information.
  • Can reduce the training required for understanding complex survey skip patterns.

In our experience, the online survey route is more efficient in cost, time, and resources.

That being said, it’s more important to match the method used to the actual project and make sure that it makes the most sense to get the best results.

Otherwise, using a CATI market research company can also be another way to avoid doing everything yourself.

Advantages and Disadvantages of Computer-Assisted Telephone Interviewing


  • Focused Interviewers: Interviewers can prioritize obtaining qualitative responses without the distraction of managing the question sequence.
  • Automated Survey Logic: Built-in skip patterns ensure accurate question flows without interviewer intervention.
  • Efficient Data Collection: Direct input of responses into a database streamlines data collection, avoiding additional processing.
  • Can Be Quick: With a proper survey setup, the project can be quicker than other methods.
  • Flexible Data Collection: Modern methodologies in CATI allow for different methods to be used in conjunction and allow better data quality.


  • Requirement for Training: Interviewers need to be adept at handling the software and conducting nuanced conversations.
  • Software Costs: While there are workarounds using online surveys, dedicated CATI software can be a significant investment.
  • Extensive Setup: Getting a project set up properly for CATI can take time, especially the more complex it is.
  • Some Audiences Are Hard To Reach: Some audiences can be hard to get a hold of with telephones. The use of dialers is becoming harder to use as well.

Other Alternatives To CATI Research

Phone Surveys

When it comes to CATI research, it can be complex for good reasons.

However, if you’re not running a complex survey and don’t need to take your survey online, it’s also possible to do a phone survey.

A phone survey won’t have to use complex survey logic or rely on software. It can allow you to run a simple survey over the phone using operators. 

Call Centers

Collaborating with experienced call center providers that have an affinity with CATI can enhance the survey's effectiveness.

Such partnerships are crucial for ensuring the data quality and reliability of telephone surveys.

As businesses continue to seek data-driven insights, integrating CATI techniques with resourceful software solutions stands as a vital methodology in market research.

Market Research Companies

If you’re unsure if you even need to use CATI market research for your project or study, it can be useful to partner with a market research company instead.

Professional market research companies will know exactly what method to use to achieve your goals with market research. Of course, if CATI is the best they’ll be able to help (we know - we can help so contact us).

CATI vs. Online Surveys

When evaluating the distinctions between computer-assisted telephone interviewing (CATI) and online surveys, there are several important factors to consider.

Computer-Assisted Telephone Interviewing (CATI):

  • Relies on interviewers conducting surveys over the phone while adhering to a script displayed on the computer.
  • Advanced logics in survey scripts enable interviewers to concentrate on obtaining quality responses along with the possibility of asking follow-up questions.
  • Removes the need for interviewers to memorize the sequence of questions and skip patterns, since these are integrated into the software.
  • Certain market research firms may opt for online surveys programmed to mimic CATI, eliminating the need to invest in specialized CATI software.

Online Surveys:

  • Can be accessed through a shared link, allowing respondents to complete the survey independently, often resulting in a quicker turnaround time.
  • Provides flexibility and convenience for respondents, leading to potentially higher response rates.
  • Usually cost-effective due to the absence of the need for phone interviewers.
  • Online survey tools often have capabilities for sample tracking and data management, mirroring some of the functionalities of CATI systems.

Despite their differences, both methods aim to collect structured, accurate data.

CATI might be preferred for detailed interviews that benefit from real-time interactions, whereas online surveys are advantageous for broader outreach and efficiency.

Furthermore, online survey methods enable companies to perform research without the necessity of purchasing expensive CATI packages, yet still offer robust tracking and record management.

Ultimately, the choice between CATI and online surveys can depend on specific research needs, including the desired demographic reach, budgetary constraints, and the level of interaction needed to collect high-quality data.

Frequently Asked Questions About CATI Market Research

What is the CATI method of research?

CATI in market research stands for 'Computer Assisted Telephone Interviewing'. It is a method of research that relies on an interviewer over the phone reading questions traditionally set up with software on a computer, and inputting the participants' answers in real-time.

What are the benefits of CATI?

The biggest benefit is data quality control. Also, a project or study can gather information from a large sample size with lower expenses. As long as the setup is proper, data collection can be fast. In fact for CATI, the data collection.

The use of CATI in various industries

Industries that frequently employ CATI for research studies include:

  • Healthcare: Patient satisfaction surveys, epidemiological studies.
  • Market Research: Consumer behaviors, product feedback.
  • Political Science: Voter opinion polls, policy impact studies.
  • Social Sciences: Societal trends, demographic research.
  • Financial Services: Customer service feedback, market analysis.

Contact Our CATI Market Research Company

Drive Research is a national market research company specializing in full-service quantitative and qualitative methodologies.

Our team works with several preferred call center vendors to assist our clients with their CATI telephone surveys.

Questions about how Drive Research can help your company with its next telephone survey? Contact us today.

  1. Message us on our website
  2. Email us at [email protected]
  3. Call us at 888-725-DATA
  4. Text us at 315-303-2040

Author Bio George Kuhn

George Kuhn

George is the Owner & President of Drive Research. He has consulted for hundreds of regional, national, and global organizations over the past 15 years. He is a CX-certified VoC professional with a focus on innovation and new product management.

Learn more about George, here.

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