Internet Surveys Compared To Telephone Surveys (Part 1)

Do Internet Surveys Cost Less?

Do Internet survey studies cost less than those conducted by telephone? The quick answer is yes, though much depends on a number of factors.

The big issue with Internet surveys has always been population representation, but with virtually all individuals within businesses and most consumers now having email addresses, that concern is lessening. So, after thinking through your research strategy and weighing the strengths and weaknesses of the various methodologies available, you've accurately identified Internet and telephone methodologies as your best options for a particular survey. Which do you choose?

For a full-service project, most of the costs incurred for telephone studies are also incurred for Internet studies:

  • Setup Cost: program design, questionnaire development, sample prep, survey system programming, etc.

  • Interviewing/Data Collection Cost: hosting survey, email invitations, tracking responses, reminders, and so on for Internet surveying compared with the cost of conducting quality controlled telephone interviews.

  • Data Processing: compiling the database, coding and editing open-ended responses, generating crosstabs, error checking, significance testing of data, etc.

  • Reporting: executive summary or detailed reporting of results.

For a typical 300 respondent Internet-based customer satisfaction project, the costs can generally be broken down into 25 percent setup, 25 percent interviewing, 25 percent data processing and 25 percent reporting. For a similar survey executed on the telephone, the interviewing costs would likely be about twice as much. The total cost for the telephone study therefore would be about 25 percent more than an Internet study in this case.

As the number of survey respondents increases past 300, however, the higher cost of collecting additional telephone surveys will start having a significant impact on total study cost and additional per survey cost. Very large telephone surveys - 750 respondents or more -- can cost as much as twice that of Internet surveys.

So, which should you choose -- an Internet or telephone methodology? The answer depends on your strategic initiatives, the information you need, who you are surveying, available sample, budget, etc. In the next issue, we'll discuss the decision-making process for selecting a methodology in greater detail as well as how this applies to different types of studies.

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