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Why Survey?

You may ask, "Why is it important to survey?" Depending on your survey problem and your survey goals, this question can be answered in myriad different ways (See related link).

This tutorial will explore critical reasons for conducting surveys, examine various types of survey problems, and provide an overview of the various types of surveys available to meet your specific survey goals.

Critical Reasons for Conducting Surveys

Organizations conduct surveys to discover answers to certain questions. These questions are diverse, and vary widely depending on how you plan to apply the data to your survey problem, and what data-driven decisions you will make as a result of the data acquired.

Below are four critical reasons for organizations to conduct surveys:

1. To Discover What's Going On
In a non-threatening survey environment, your organization will learn about what motivates survey respondents and what's important to them.

2. To Provide An Opportunity To Discuss Key Topics With Your Target Population
Communicating with respondents about your survey topic allows for deeper insight into your survey problem, and can shed light on topics related to your survey problem within a larger context.

3. To Prioritize Your Actions Based on Objective Data
Rather than relying on subjective "gut" feelings, you can gather objective information to make sound data-driven decisions. Therefore, you can immediately address issues that are important, rather than wasting resources on things that no one cares about.

4. To Provide a Benchmark
Surveying provides a "snapshot" of your target population and their attitudes about your survey problem. This helps you to establish a baseline from which you can compare whether target population attitudes and perceptions relative to the survey problem are getting better or worse over time.

Click here for an example case study of an effective survey effort.

Types of Survey Problems

Survey problems vary widely, depending on the specific goals and needs of each organization. Organizations conduct surveys to answer questions like those listed in the table below:

Type of Survey

Sample Questions

Market Research
  • How well-positioned is my product or service?
  • Would I increase my market share if I changed an aspect of my product or service?
  • How do visitors use my Web site?
Product Development
  • Will our new idea for a product or service work?
  • Will our target population be excited about our new product?
  • What does our target population need that they can’t find?
Employee Performance Evaluation
  • Do clients think our staff is courteous and helpful?
  • What do our clients think of the service they receive from our employees?

Which Type of Survey Should I Choose?

There are many types of surveys from which to choose. After determining your survey design, use the comparison chart below to help you decide whether Web surveys, mail surveys, telephone surveys, or personal interview surveys are best suited to your specific needs and applications:

Type of Survey

Advantages

Disadvantages

Recommendation

Web Survey
  • Very low cost
  • Extremely fast
  • Complex questioning assures better data
  • Anonymity of respondents results in more honest answers to sensitive topics
  • Respondents provide more detail to open-ended questions.
  • Survey software simplifies compilation and analysis of data collected.
  • Do not reflect population as a whole
  • Respondent completion rates lower for longer surveys
  • Random respondents may reply if your survey appears on Web page.
  • When desired target population consists mainly of Internet users.
Examples:
  • Business-to-business research
  • Employee Attitude surveys
Mail Survey
  • Frequently used for social research
  • Low cost (almost 75% less than personal interviews)
  • Eliminates potential bias
  • May result in biased sample
  • Low response rate
  • Time! Need to wait at least several weeks for all responses to arrive
  • Target population is highly literate or is in a group with specialized interests
Telephone Survey
  • Reach 96% of all homes
  • CATI software streamlines process
  • Interviewers can ask for clarification on responses; additional detail
  • Sales calls often pose as "research" calls
  • Typical calling window interrupts respondents' personal time
  • Call screening is common
  • No visual support

  • General population surveys
Personal Interview Survey
  • Frequently used to gauge attitudinal behavior
  • Very good response rates
  • Longer interviews tolerated
  • Do not reflect population as a whole
  • Respondent completion rates lower for longer surveys
  • Random respondents may reply if your survey appears on Web page.
  • When desired target population consists mainly of Internet users.
Examples:
  • Business-to-business research
  • Employee Attitude surveys
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