Should I Use an Online, Telephone, or Paper Survey?

Different survey methods have different strengths and weaknesses.

Online surveys are the most common today, mostly because they are cheap and easy to set up. But response rates are low, so you have to invite a lot of customers to the survey for every actual response--sometimes you get less than a 1% response rate. And customers often don't have much patience for a lot of open-ended feedback or long survey forms, so the amount and quality of the data is limited. In general, online surveys are best for getting an inexpensive read of a handful of survey metrics where you have a large population of customers.

Telephone interviews are more expensive per response, but generally have a much higher response rate than online surveys and much richer data. Customers will provide a lot more detail over the phone than the will in a written form, and the audio of the interview is a much more useful coaching and training tool than a written form. We recommend using telephone interviews when employee coaching is an important goal of the survey, where you need more open-ended feedback, and where you have high-value customers who will appreciate the direct person-to-person contact.

Paper surveys are generally not recommended, as they are very expensive and don't provide the same richness as a telephone interview. You still find some paper surveys where it's required by government mandate, where customers are hard to reach any other way, or in companies with very old customer feedback processes.

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