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Five Different Types of Survey Methods

There are many reasons why surveys are important. Surveys help researchers and companies find solutions, evoke discussions, and make decisions. They can also get to the bottom of the really important stuff, like, coffee or tea? Dogs or cats? Elvis or The Beatles? Of course, there are also a variety of types of survey methods researchers and companies may choose to employ. Here’s a look at the top five types of survey methods being used today.

1. In-Person Surveys

This used to be one of the most popular types of survey to conduct. It involves conducting face-to-face surveys with an individual or sometimes a group of individuals (similar to a focus group). While this method of surveying may seem antiquated when today we have online surveying at our fingertips (which can eliminate the need to hire, train, and pay an interviewer), it still serves a purpose. 

In-person surveys, sometimes called household surveys, are usually conducted when a researcher or company wants to discuss something personal with people, and has questions that may require extensive probing to uncover the truth. While some interviewees may be more comfortable answering questions confidentially behind a keyboard, a skilled interviewer is able to put them at ease and get genuine responses that go deeper than you may be able to get through other methods. 

Often, in-person interviews are recorded on camera so that an expert can review them afterwards and determine if the answers given may be false based on an interviewee’s change in tone or particular facial expressions and body movements. 

2. Telephone Surveys

Telephone surveys rose to popularity in the late 50s and early 60s when the telephone became common in most American households (they were used prior to this, sometimes to bad effect; in a recent blog, we recounted how the predictions for the 1948 presidential election were completely botched because of a sampling bias in telephone surveys). 

Most telephone survey research types are conducted through random digit dialing (RDD). RDD can reach both listed and unlisted numbers, improving sampling accuracy. Surveys are conducted by interviewers through computer-assisted telephone interviewing (CATI) software. CATI displays the questionnaire to the interviewer with a rotation of questions and a skip feature that can be engaged depending on responses. 

Today, with many people refusing to take telephone surveys or simply not answering calls from a number they don’t recognize, a more popular form of telephone surveying has arisen. It’s called IVR, or interactive voice response, and there is no interviewer involved. Instead, customers record answers to pre-recorded questions using numbers on their touch-tone key pads. 

If a question is open-ended, the interviewee can respond by speaking and the system records the answer. IVR surveys are often deployed to measure how a customer feels about a service they just received; for example, after calling your bank, you may be asked to stay on the line to answer a series of brief questions about your experience..

3. Mail-in Surveys

Delivered right to respondent’s doorsteps, mail surveys were frequently used before the advent of the internet when respondents were spread out geographically and budgets were modest. After all, mail-in surveys didn’t require much cost other than the postage and a postage-paid return envelope. 

While it may seem that mail-in surveys are going the way of the dinosaur, they are still occasionally more valuable compared to different methods of surveying. Because they are going to a specific name and home address, they often feel more personalized, prompting the recipient to complete the survey. 

They’re also good for surveys of significant length; most people have short attention spans, and won’t spend more than a few minutes on the phone or filling out an online survey (at least, not without an incentive). With a mail-in survey, the person can complete it at their leisure. They can fill out some of it, set it aside, and then come back to it later to complete it. This gives mail-in surveys a relatively high response rate.

4. Kiosk Surveys

Conducted on a computer screen at a physical kiosk, these types of surveys have been popping up in stores, hotel lobbies, hospitals, office spaces – just about anywhere you want to collect data from customers, clients, or passers-by. Kiosk surveys provide immediate feedback following a purchase or an interaction, collecting responses while the experience is still fresh in the respondent’s mind and their judgement is more trustworthy. 

5. Online Surveys

Online surveys have really taken off, and they can be used by anyone for just about anything. Because they’re housed on the internet or sent via email, they can be easily customized for a particular audience. The internet also makes it very easy to reach a very broad audience (but just as easy to reach only a handful of people), and that’s been very beneficial for companies that also want international responses. 

At one time, there was concern that online surveys had an age bias. However, today there is a much better balance between age groups using the internet. According to Statista, the share of adults in the United States using the internet in 2019 are as follows:

  • 18-29 years old 100%
  • 30-49 years old 97%
  • 50-60 years old 88%

That’s not all; online surveys can be taken just about anywhere thanks to mobile devices. Use of these devices across age groups is balancing out as well. Data shows that in 2018, use of a smartphone by age group was as follows:

  • 18-29 years old 96%
  • 30-49 years old 92%
  • 50-60 years old 79%

With more and more people accessing the internet through their mobile devices, now you can reach teens while they’re between classes and adults during their subway commute to work. Can’t say that for those other types of surveys!

Lastly, online surveys are also extremely cost-efficient. There’s no money spent on paper, printing, postage, or an interviewer. This significantly reduced set-up and administration costs, allowing researchers and companies to send out a survey very expeditiously. Additionally, many online survey tools provide in-depth analysis of survey data, saving you from having to spend money on further research once the survey is complete. 

Start Surveying with SurveyLegend

If you’ve reviewed these different types of survey methods and think a kiosk survey or an online, mobile survey is right for you, we can help! Here are a few things that make SurveyLegend the ideal choice for your research or your business needs.

  • When it comes to surveys, brief is best to keep respondent attention, so SurveyLegend automatically collects some data, such as the participant’s location, reducing the number of questions you have to ask.
  • People like eye candy and many surveys are just plain dull. SurveyLegend offers beautifully rendered pre-designed surveys that will get your participant’s attention – and keep it through to completion!
  • Today, most surveys are taken on mobile devices, and often surveys created on desktop computers don’t translate well, resulting in a high drop-off rate. SurveyLegend’s designs are responsive, automatically adjusting to any screen size.

Get started with your online survey using SurveyLegend for free right now. Have comments or questions? Give us a call!

About the Author

Jasko Mahmutovic

Born entrepreneur, passionate leader, motivator, great love for UI & UX design, strong believer in "less is more”. Big advocate of bootstrapping. BS in Logistics Service Management. I don't create company environments, I create family and team environments.

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