The pros and cons of survey methods

The pros and cons of survey methods

virtuatel-logo-nov.20151VIRTUATel are unusual in being capable of conducting automated customer surveys across all contact channels including inbound and outbound phone, email, web, SMS, smartphone and social media. However, unless you use the correct channel in the correct way, your survey opt-in and completion rates will suffer and the chance of your customer agreeing to do future surveys, will significantly reduce.

Below we will show you that there are many pros and cons of survey methods of various types.

10 second summary

Type of SurveyPros & Cons
Telephone SurveysMore accurate results
Most user-acceptable for contact centre or staff site visit
High response rates
Long “shelf-life” or delay
Valuable verbatim comments in the customer’s’ own voice.
Less bias as talking to automated “machine”
Only ask 5 or 6 questions
Limited question format
Audible only so no graphs or matrix
More expensive than some other survey types.
Online SurveysWidely used
Can reach large numbers
Economic per-invitation basis
Automatic data input
Best way to collect email addresses
Long “shelf-life” and often “parked”
Can result in biased results
Can result in limited sector responses
Often too long!
Inappropriate for some elderly customers
Email SurveysAs above plus; Collect a large sample sizes
Takes little time to send
Can embed metadata in response
Slow responses
Spam can affect opt-in rates.
SMS SurveysCan have multiple completion options like call-back or smartphone survey.
Response rates usually high
Fast responses
Tedious to answer multiple questions using SMS only
In US, no distinction between home and cell phone

Of course, each different type of survey method brings with it its own advantages and disadvantages but the key is weighing these up and identifying the best survey channels for your business and your customers.

Rule #1

The main rule to follow, especially if you want to maximise accuracy and opt-in rates by using real-time surveys, is to conduct the survey on the same channel used by your prospect or customer. Therefore, if they called your contact centre by phone, offer a telephone call-back survey or automated transfer to the survey after the call. If they sent you an email, reply with an email based survey that links to a web-based survey.

The only anomaly would be if they used a mobile phone to make contact with you. In this case, you could offer any one of the options applicable to a mobile phone or smartphone such as an SMS, call-back or smartphone survey. For more details about those options, see mSurveys.

In all cases ensure that your supplier can simultaneously collect any additional data with the survey responses such as agent or customer ID, customer value, brand type, etc., that will greatly enhance your customer insights and enable cross-referencability.

What follows are the pros and cons of each survey channel, based on our extensive experience delivering multi-channel automated surveys.

Telephone Surveys

Whilst online surveys are increasingly the most popular choice, nothing will give you more accurate results, in real-time and in a user-acceptable way than telephone surveys, especially when conducted following a contact centre phone call or a site visit by an engineer.

You will certainly experience increased response rates as high as 25-40% amongst the customers that reached you by phone, considerably higher than more passive email and mail surveys. As the surveys can take place in near real-time there is no “shelf-life” or delay as results are collected immediately after the event that is being measured, such as a call with an agent or engineer site visit. In addition, as telephone surveys can be conducted via an outbound call or caller transfer seconds after they have finished their contact with you, you can offer whichever is the most convenient method for your customer.

You will also obtain more thorough answers and valuable verbatim comments in the customer’s’ own voice. When conducting a survey over the phone, it is easier to probe respondents further on certain issues and find out more detailed information as they are very clearly responding to an automated “machine” where no one will be upset by what they say or how they score.

However, some of the disadvantages include time constraints meaning you should only ask 5 or 6 questions on account of the attention span and patience of the respondent. If you do need 20 questions answered, they must be cycled across multiple callers. It is worth noting that we at VIRTUATel consider this a positive discipline as we feel very strongly that most surveys are too long and make strenuous efforts to help our clients keep surveys short and to the point.

Also, phone surveys have limitations as to the specific question format that can be used. Due to the nature of phone surveys, all questions must be constructed in a solely auditory fashion – any questions involving graphs or extensive lists of options or a matrix cannot be used.

Finally it is a fact that telephone surveys tend to be a little more expensive than some other survey types. As mentioned though, almost no other survey is as accurate, unbiased and able to be completed, seconds after the event.

Online Surveys

Today, online surveys are one of the most widely utilised survey methods, allowing organisations to systematically gather data from their target audience over the web in a quick and easy to gather manner. As the internet can connect all kinds of people from all across the globe, online surveys can also reach large numbers of respondents as they can be distributed using simple technology and completed by respondents with ease.

Costs can be very economic on a per-invitation basis and online surveys offer low-cost, high-speed data collection and are considerably more affordable than other survey methods In addition, the data collected can be handled automatically as the response are inputted online and automatically stored in a database, allowing for hassle-free data handling and a reduced risk of errors – particularly true if collecting email addresses.

Although not as high as telephone surveys, online surveys if conducted properly, can provide high response rates as they are convenient and can be answered by those invited, in their own time, at their own pace.

This however is a double-edged sword as it is also a disadvantage due to the potential for a long “shelf-life”. Online surveys, even if sent in real-time, are often “parked” by the receiver and then completed at a later time. This can result in biased results that are based upon events that have taken place after the original event you were attempting to measure. In addition, you may be receiving feedback from a smaller segment of your audience than you intended due to only those with lots of available spare time responding.

Online surveys viewed on a website can also use rules and popup options to be offered to the viewer at many different times during their website visit.

Another danger often seen in online surveys is that they are invariably too long! Due to the “DIY” nature of many online surveys and corporate “survey design by committee”, they are often far too lengthy and lack a concise set of questions and scales, which is irritating to your audience and can result in inaccurate results.

Although the advent of smartphones and tablets means online surveys are less often inaccessible, they are obviously not suitable for respondents with no access to the internet, such as elderly customers and those residing in remote areas (although this is decreasingly a problem as broadband access spreads).

Finally it is worth mentioning survey fraud or misinformation as it is probably the main disadvantage of online surveys when incentives are offered. There are plenty of people out there who complete online surveys for the incentive and don’t provide reliable results.

Email Surveys

Although email surveys are basically an email invitation to conduct a web survey, survey design specialists such as VIRTUATel are using clever email design and innovation skills to use the email itself as part of the first question of the survey, in order to speed up the completion times. Email surveys are increasingly popular and bring with them a number of pros and cons.

Many of the benefits of email surveys are the same as online surveys such as low cost, high volume of invitations and the ability to to collect a large sample size in a relatively short space of time. As mentioned before, it is important that your survey partner has the ability to embed various metadata elements into the invitation url in order to facilitate cross reference of results against other important business factors.

However, as with online surveys, the speed of response can be slower and can be days after the original experience you wanted to measure. Email survey invitations can also be mistaken for spam which can seriously affect opt-in rates.

SMS Surveys

With the enormous growth in mobile penetration, it’s not surprising that SMS based surveys are emerging as a great way to obtain feedback from customers. And companies such as VIRTUATel can offer an invitation via an SMS but with multiple completion options, based upon the customer preference.

Some of the benefits of SMS based surveys are similar to voice. Response rates are usually high, between 25 – 50%. And the speed of response is often just a matter of minutes. In addition the quality of data tends to be high, with short, concise comments. And like online or email it is a highly cost effective option, with the possibility of much higher survey volumes.

However, it is difficult to keep the audience engaged, and being mobile there are other distractions the customer could be focused on. It can also be a poor experience, as it becomes becomes tedious to answer multiple questions with comments via SMS. Obviously, you need to have captured your customer’s mobile number at some point in your interactions with them. And in some countries, such as the US, there is no distinction between home and cell phone numbers, so you cannot be sure you have the right one.

Choosing the right survey channel is as important as deciding which media to place advertising in. Use the wrong channel for your audience, your survey response rates could be seriously affected, and your customers perceptions of you will be harmed. Get it right, and your customers will be happy to keep giving you feedback.

virtuatel-logo-nov.20151Additional Information

For additional information visit the VIRTUATel Website

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