The best means of administering a survey depends on whether it is a transactional or relationship survey. A transactional survey is conducted at the point of customer contact. Depending on the nature of the customer contact, an in-person, telephone, or online survey may be appropriate. Relationship surveys, on the other hand, are most cost-effectively conducted online.
Online data collection offers significant advantages over other modes of interviewing customers, and you should use it whenever possible. The advantages include:
Speed – The Internet offers instantaneous distribution of survey and real-time accumulation and tabulation of results. This allows for immediate data analysis, even while the survey is still in progress. Because customer satisfaction results are used to identify problems and fix them, the faster responses arrive, the faster they can be addressed. In contrast, mail surveys suffer from long lag times and low response rates, as low as 5%. Telephone surveys take longer because of declining response rates. Refusal rates for phone interviews have reached 60% (AC Nielsen). With the ease of answering online surveys, they can be completed faster and a broader segment of the customer base can be reached. Depending on a number of variables—the relationship with the survey recipients, the length of the survey, whether a reminder is sent, and whether an incentive is offered—response rates for online surveys can be upward of 35%. Even for online surveys in which there is no prior relationship with recipients, response rates can be 23% to 31% (Quirk’s Marketing Research Review).
Candor – People are more honest when their answers are not filtered through someone on the phone. This is essential for research on sensitive subject matter where studies indicate people are more likely to answer questions on the Web than they are on the phone or in personal interviews. (Quirk’s Marketing Research Review). The removal of interviewer bias and the elimination of the wait time for an interviewer to record results also yields more candid and complete responses to open-ended questions. This is particularly important when customers volunteer additional information to explain their satisfaction ratings. Such responses provide insight into what a company is doing well and frequently provide warning signs about the health of the business relationship.
Cost – The Internet eliminates many of the costs associated with traditional marketing research. Online surveys avoid postage and telephone costs as well as basic materials like paper, staples, envelopes, and printing. Because it is self-directed, there is no interviewer cost. Finally, it’s more convenient so the cost of offering incentives can be reduced.
Online and offline methods of data collection can also be combined. If offline methods are necessary for part of the customer base, the data for customers who can be reached only via mail, in person, or by telephone can be input to an online survey tool. That way all survey results can be captured, reviewed, and analyzed together.
Put an end to guesswork as you know it – start a customer satisfaction research program today. Visit the Zoomerang Customer Satisfaction Survey Center where you will find pre-designed survey templates to help you get started.