One approach to market research that we haven’t talked much about in this blog is phone surveys.
Phone surveys are when a person with a nice voice calls people and asks questions from a script. Answers are recorded in a spreadsheet, and the final result is very similar to the graphs you’d expect out of a Web survey.
Phone surveys are different from in-depth interviews because the script is asked exactly as written, unlike an in-depth interview where you have a researcher who is a technology expert asking the follow-on questions needed to drill down into answers.
Dimensional Research usually doesn’t recommend phone surveys to our technology clients. Even for consumer marketing, phone surveys are becoming less useful according to Jay Leve of SurveyUSA: “There is [no] future for any form of telephone research that is predicated on the researcher being able to barge in at will and seize the respondent.”
Several more compelling reasons why phone surveys don’t work are outlined very nicely by Jeffrey Henning at Research Live. The ones that relate to market research for technology companies include:
– Expense of dialing. More and more phone surveys are done via cell phones, since more and more people (and this includes many technology startups) don’t use landlines. In the US, by law, you can only use automatic dialing for landlines, not for cellphones. Manual dialing is much more labor-intensive – and expensive.
– Online surveys eliminate the expense of data entry. The respondent to a web survey is, in effect, donating the data entry cost, as they select the appropriate choices and type in their answers. With a phone survey, you are paying a call center representative to transcribe each respondent’s replies.
– The visual medium of Web surveys lets you easily show people visual concepts, such as ads or core messages, and get their response. Surveys that require respondents to react to visual concepts can’t be conducted with phone surveys alone.
– Web surveys have the allure of confidentiality. People today feel more comfortable sharing information on the Web than answering the prying questions of a phone interviewer.
– People prefer Web surveys, because a Web survey can be done at the respondent’s convenience, rather than at the moment the phone interviewer happened to call.
Jeffrey does make a case for phone surveys in certain situations, but almost none of these are relevant to IT market research including:
- Major Account Research – In these cases we recommend in-depth interviews or online customer advisory boards. Why wouldn’t you take the opportunity to have a deep conversation with your biggest customers?
- The Human Touch – This argument only works with Corporate IT if you are also knowledgeable about technology, so again, it’s better to do in-depth interviews.
- Some People Aren’t Online – This is obviously not an issue for technology professionals.
Our recommendation, after years of doing market research with Corporate IT, is to avoid phone surveys when doing technology market research. Instead, use Web surveys, in-depth interviews, or a combination of both.