Why We Love Telephone Surveys (And Online, Too)

United States map interlinked with online and telephone surveys

Online or telephone survey? The call may be easier than you think

Everybody loves online surveys, right? And telephone surveys, with their ability to break down language, educational and other demographic barriers, have their fans, too. So, maybe, making the right call about which method will help you understand how consumers see your brand is simply a matter of choosing the right tool for the right job. At PRC, we’re experts on consumer trends and preferences and can help you make the right choice.

When online surveys work best

Many organizations are convinced that they want to do online surveys because they’re cheaper. When the circumstances are right, online surveys get good data and are cost-effective.

If your organization has email addresses for the population you’re targeting — if your population is contained, in other words — PRC has found that the online approach is effective. Typically, that’s because the people you’re polling have a vested interest in the topic. Otherwise they wouldn’t have given you their email addresses. So, if you’re asking a contained group of patients, employees or physicians about your hospital environment through email addresses they’ve provided, you’ll probably get useful feedback.

When online isn’t the best approach

The reality is that most organizations don’t have a contained population, so they don’t have email lists of the community they are serving. To counter that behavior, companies that conduct online surveys often purchase lists of consumer panelists, recruited by offering incentives — it’s a little like “pay to play.” There are risks associated with relying solely on this approach, as you might imagine. Consumers who agree to take online surveys in exchange for an incentive may not be representative of the community as a whole and may be more interested in cashing in on an incentive than in providing thoughtful responses. In addition, it can be difficult to find enough consumers in small markets to fill panels.

Another challenge with online surveys is breaking through spam filters. If you do get through, it’s easy for your survey to get lost in inbox clutter. Most consumers only read half of the emails they receive, and many set their filters to prevent anything that even resembles advertising from getting into their inbox.

When a telephone survey may be the right call

When you’re trying to figure out what the consumers in your area think of your brand, what they feel about the quality of care you deliver, and how they choose where to be treated when they get sick, you should look for a representative sample of random responses across your community or region. In situations like this, your target is dispersed, not contained. If the general public does not have a vested interest, they may not feel compelled to participate in an online survey. And that’s when a telephone survey might be the right call. Consumers talk to PRC; once we get them on the phone, we complete 90% of the surveys we begin. In a dispersed population, telephone research yields greater participation than any other methodology.

There’s been a decline in consumers with landlines, but PRC has overcome this challenge. Contacting people on their cell phones and smartphones, in addition to on their landlines, has been a critical part of our consumer calling strategy for years. By coupling landline and cell phone surveys, PRC is able to get the most representative sample possible.

So, what’s the right call for you?

You need the right tool for the right job. When your target population is contained, online surveys can be efficient and effective. Telephone surveys typically offer a better balance of demographics when your audience is not contained — generating a representative, scientific sampling is a PRC priority, and we have more control over who participates this way.

Does this mean that online surveys are bad in dispersed populations? Not at all, especially if they’re combined with telephone surveys that can help level out the demographics.

Bottom line? When you need a partner that can help you assess which approach — or combination of approaches — will help you analyze your brand’s performance and reputation in your most important markets, choose excellence. Choose PRC.