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Web Vs. Phone Surveys: Which is Better?

Sep 13, 2008
There are several different survey types. Some are more effective than others for a given set of circumstances. That is, a survey that is conducted by phone may have inherent strengths in some situations but dismal weaknesses in others. Likewise, a web-based survey may be especially well-suited for one group of people while being practically useless when used for another group. The choice of which methodology to use will depend upon your population, the type of data you require and other factors. In this article, we'll examine both telephone and web-based surveys to determine the best circumstances for which they're suited.

Using A Telephone Survey

One of the main reasons to use a phone-based survey is because nearly every home has a phone. This implies that a greater number of people can be contacted. Another benefit of conducting surveys over the telephone is that you can ask for clarification of the respondent's answers. If their response to a given question is unclear or fails entirely to address the question, the interviewer can ask the respondent to explain.

That being said, there are significant drawbacks to conducting a telephone survey. First, calls are often screened. There is an increasing tendency among people to avoid answering phone calls that originate from an unrecognizable phone number. Second, there are only a few hours (generally between 6:00 p.m. and 9:00 p.m.) during which people will take the time to respond to a survey. What's worse, that small time frame is often when people would rather spend time with their families. Last, a telephone survey doesn't allow for the respondent to visualize anything. Many surveys are designed to maximize response (and the usefulness of those responses) through visual elements.

Using A Web-Based Survey

Web-based surveys have become increasingly common as the penetration of broadband service has spread. In the past, one of its greatest limitations was an inability to reach all demographics online. Simply put, use of the internet was adopted by some groups of people more slowly than others. Today, that issue is all but resolved.

Surveys that are conducted on the web are popular namely because of their efficiency. Not only are fewer interviewers needed to conduct the survey (in contrast to phone-based surveys), the amount of time that it takes respondents to participate has proven to be dramatically lower. Web-based surveys can also be completed at times during which a phone call would be unwelcome (or simply unanswered). Plus, because visual aids can be used, the types of questions asked on web surveys can be more complex and potentially yield more insightful data. Last, the cost of conducting a survey on the web is substantially lower than phone-based surveys.

Choosing The Right Methodology

Both web and phone surveys have their place in certain situations. Each has strengths that the other lacks. And they both have inherent weaknesses that make them less than ideal in some circumstances. You should select the type of survey to use based upon the nature of the questions you need to ask, the time frame in which you need respondents to complete the survey, your budget and several other factors. Ultimately, the goal is to collect usable data from the people you're interviewing. Both methodologies can be effective in doing so. The key is understanding their respective limitations and being able to identify which situations are most appropriate for each.
About the Author
SurveyGizmo is a leading provider of online surveys, check them out on the web for more great ways to use surveys to enhance your business.
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