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Best Practices: Phone Surveys in Mixed Mode Research

Best Practices: Phone Surveys in Mixed Mode Research

 Demeanor is important during phone surveys in mixed mode research

When using a mixed mode survey approach, the behavior of the researcher has an influencing role in the outcome of the phone call. Phone surveys are a critical opportunity to gain buy-in from your recruit and to clearly communicate their instructions for completing the online survey. If a researcher is hard to understand, follows the phone survey script too closely or over-explains the instructions, you could lose your recruit’s promise to participate quickly. Follow these tips when recruiting by phone for a smooth process and optimal survey participation.

Keep the process simple

There’s no need to give recruits too many directions, or to force them to make too many decisions—this will complicate the process and create confusion. The only thing you need to tell them is to look for the email you’ll be sending, and to follow the link within that email message to complete the online survey. Communicating something to them in this way makes it digestible, an easy decision and small commitment. Certainly provide them with more information if they need it, but avoid overwhelming them with too many details up front.

Resist adding more steps to the process, even if it seems compelling to do so. For example, avoid having recruits verify their email in a first email and then take the survey in a second email. That only distracts them from the actual survey and can lead to drop-off.

Have flexibility with the script

A telephone researcher’s behavior on the phone is closely intertwined with the outcome of the call. Following the script too closely? They may come across as cold or robotic. Not following a script at all? There’s a good chance the recruiter will miss important questions. Help the recruiter strike a balance by providing them with all the tools they need, and allowing them to be conversational and personable in delivery.

Collect the correct email address

This may seem ridiculous to even mention, but there can’t be enough emphasis placed on collecting the correct email address in the phone survey portion of the research. After all, without the right email address, the recruit can’t participate in the survey even if they truly want to.

A sign that researchers are collecting too many incorrect email addresses is your hard bounce rate on the email sends. Addresses that are wrong, or inputted into your data base with errors (such as dot con versus dot com) will cause hard bounces. This means you have sent undeliverable emails, because no email exists for what you actually inputted as the address. A good rule of thumb is to aim for 97 percent or higher deliverability (<3% hard bounce rate). This measurement will speak directly to how well the telephone researcher has performed at collecting accurate information.   

Close the deal the first chance possible

The initial phone call is an opportunity to secure a recruit’s commitment. The best way to accomplish this is to get them to verbally say they will complete the survey. This is so important because it creates a verbal promise, and no one wants to consider themselves a liar. When you receive a verbal commitment, you’ll in turn see much higher survey completion rate.

Ways to do this would be to ask questions like:

  • Can I count on you to complete this survey?

  • I am responsible for the people I speak with completing the survey. Are you definitely going to take the survey?

  • Will you be able to access the e-mail and take the survey this evening?

To ensure a successful mixed mode approach, closely monitor the behavior of your telephone researchers. If you find that survey participation is lower than expected, you may want to evaluate and monitor the telephone calls for opportunities to improve the script or refine the instructions.

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