Examining the Differences Between Phone and Online Surveying

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Phone vs. Online Surveying

When seeking customer feedback, there are two main methods to employ once your customers have left your business or online property: surveys conducted online or by phone. Each method brings its own advantages and disadvantages.

Online Surveying

Online surveys are less intrusive on your customers; when they get an email to complete a survey, they can choose to complete the survey at their convenience and without having to talk to a representative. However, for the same reasons it is also easier for customers to decline, ignore, or forget to fill out an online survey. This issue can be combated by re-sending survey invites that have gone “stale”, remaining unanswered for a couple days or more. As with all email communications however, there’s a fine line between reminding customers with a few targeted re-sends and “spamming” them with too many identical emails, which is why xAmplifier automatically determines whether and when to re-send a survey invite using data on the survey type, industry, and customer themselves. 

In general, customers with stronger feelings about your business one way or another are more motivated to complete online surveys, either highlighting a positive experience in a glowing review or airing grievances about a negative experience. Also, it is obviously easier and less labor-intensive to send an email to a list of your customers than to call them each individually. So while online surveying is easier both for you and your customers, it tends to generate a lower response rate that is slightly skewed toward extreme responses.

Phone Surveying

Phone surveys, by contrast, take more time and effort on your end. If customers are busy at the time of the call, they may decline to participate. Some also resent unsolicited phone calls from businesses. However, phone surveys do generate a more even distribution of responses. You get a more random and representative sample of customers, rather than just the customers who chose to fill out the survey on their own.

Another factor that needs to be mentioned is that phone surveys may include some degree of bias because customers are more reluctant to voice negative opinions when speaking directly to an employee of a business than they are when filling out an online survey by themselves. This bias can be diminished by using a third-party surveying service (such as xAmplifier) whose representatives are more objective middlemen (or women) than direct employees of the business.

Case Study

xAmplifier conducts both online and phone surveys for our clients, so we can compare the results of both methods for the same businesses. We’ll examine the survey responses gathered for two different clients, each in the elective-medical field.

As we discussed in a recent newsletter, Transactional NPS® is measured after the client has purchased a service or product from a business while Relationship NPS® is measured at regular intervals and thus gives more of a general view of the customer’s opinion of a business as a whole, rather than their most recent experience with the business. For the surveys in our case study, it also means that the customers would have more time to see the long-term results of their procedures, as we will discuss further below.

Survey

Phone

Online

% Change

Client A Relationship NPS®

7.48

5.59

-25%

Client B Relationship NPS®

7.86

6.99

-11%

Client A Transactional NPS®

7.76

7.78

0%

Client B Transactional NPS® – Service Y

8.18

8.06

-1%

Client B Transactional NPS®  – Service Z

8.23

8.52

4%

The numbers in the table represent the clients’ average response to an NPS® question (On a scale of 0-10, what is the likelihood you would recommend [Client X] to a friend or family member?), not an actual Net Promoter Score®, which is calculated in a range from -100 to 100.

So what patterns do we see? First, let’s examine Transactional surveys. We see a bit of a mixed bag: two of our Transactional surveys had higher scores online, one on the phone (Client B had one of each), but all with small differences (4% or less). This suggests a small or negligible bias between the surveying types. One potential reason for that is—in the medical fields that these clients are a part of—patients tend to be optimistic and pleased with their immediate results after their procedure, creating a “honeymoon effect”. Also, xAmplifier polls these customers directly after the event in transaction surveys—in contrast to relationship surveys which are delivered at regular intervals such as months, quarters, or years—meaning the details of the event and its outcome are fresh in the customers’ mind. Both of these factors translate to higher average results and less of a distinction between phone and online survey results.

But when we look at the Relationship surveys, where clients’ opinions aren’t tied to immediate results, we see a distinction between phone and online scores. For both Client A and Client B, we see sizable gaps (11% and 25%) between the two scores suggesting a large positive bias with phone surveys—even though on two of the three Transactional surveys for these clients online surveys scored higher. At xAmplifier we have consistently found that customers who aren’t happy with their results are generally more inclined to fill out an online survey months or even a year after the event, while more content customers often feel they have nothing new to share, so they may not respond at all. With the more direct approach of phone surveying, a broader range of customers are tapped to share their thoughts, providing a more rounded view of customers’ opinions.

Conclusions

It’s fortunate that Client A and Client B were utilizing xAmplifier’s analytics and both surveying methods. If either party had been solely conducting online surveys on their own, they may have mistakenly reached the conclusion that they had a severe customer relations problem and needlessly spent time and money trying to correct the issue. The value of surveying customers ultimately lies in proper interpretation of the resulting data, which is why xAmplifier offers comparative and market-specific analysis services to all of its clientele.

As we’ve seen, both phone and online surveys have their advantages and disadvantages. At xAmplifier, we believe that the best strategy is to combine the two, so that you get the positives of each while mitigating the negatives by including both kinds of data. Including phone surveys will boost your response rate and engage a representative sample of customers, while online surveys will provide a less intrusive experience for the customer and a less labor-intensive source of data for your business.

Interested in learning more about optimal surveying strategies?  Contact xAmplifier atsales@xamplifier.com or 866.363.6434!

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