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Home arrow Library of Research Articles arrow Designing and Conducting Research arrow A Cost-Effective Alternative To Online Surveys
A Cost-Effective Alternative To Online Surveys PDF Print E-mail
Written by Ingrid Christophersen   
28 Jun 2007

IVR Automated Telephone Interviews - A Cost-Effective Alternative To Online Surveys! By Ingrid Christophersen From Square Systems

A question that is exercising the minds of many market research agencies is how to gain feedback cost-effectively from people who do not have easy internet access.

At the moment these groups are being reached primarily by in-person telephone interviews or postal surveys, but these methods are highly resource-intensive. 

IVR (interactive voice response) surveys - also referred to as automated telephone interviews - are a simple and cost-effective alternative.  They can be used for a broad range of applications including consultation exercises, employee studies, stakeholder feedback, customer satisfaction surveys, market research etc. This article will look at the benefits, practicalities and costs of using IVR surveys for market research.

The limitations of online surveys
The use of online surveys automatically limits the group of people who are likely or able to participate.  Those with reading, writing or IT literacy difficulties and those with visual impairments are excluded.  Demographic groups with less access to the internet are unlikely to respond.  Employee research using online surveys will not cover those without internet access at work. These groups need therefore to be offered alternatives to online surveys.  And paper-based or in-person interviews are costly and therefore not always an option.

IVR surveys - an accessible alternative
Giving people the option of responding immediately simply by calling a freephone number increases the chance that they will respond.  It also means the survey can be completed anonymously even in a busy office.  The assurance of anonymity and the fact that there is no way of tracing responses back to the individual, increases not only participation but honesty.   In recent studies multilingual IVR surveys have been used very successfully in combination with online surveys for getting feedback from frontline staff.

How do IVR surveys work?
The target group (customer, employee, stakeholder, member or the general public) are offered a freephone number to call. Once they call this number, they will hear some pre-recorded information and questions to which they can respond either by using the numbers on their telephone keypad, or by speaking their answers.  When they hang up, their feedback is stored on a secure web-server and is analysed and compiled instantly, just as with online surveys.  By logging on with a unique user name and password, you can then see the latest updated reports on feedback. Many organisations find that inviting spoken comments gives the most interesting picture of the customer experience, and this qualitative information can be categorised and measured by transcription and analysis of recorded comments.  With some systems, such as Opinion-8 from Square Systems, clients can easily set up and amend their own surveys over the internet after attending a day’s training. 

Will people participate?
There is no doubt about it: poor use of IVR has given automated interactions a bad name.  We have all had the experience of being trapped in a telephone call circuit which sends you round in circles, offering none of the options you need, like some nightmarish computer game.  But well-designed IVR systems are an effective use of resources, and the potential benefits in terms of accessibility, ease of communication and the quality of the feedback you receive are numerous.  Participation rates will of course vary, depending on the relationship you have with the target group, their motivation, and a number of other factors.  But whether or not people elect to take part, inviting them to do so by offering them a number of options for how to respond is likely to be viewed positively.

What about the cost?
IVR surveys can be provided as a hosted service, on a pay per use basis, or the equipment can be purchased for in house use as a longer term investment.  Because you can elect to pay per usage, IVR surveys are extremely affordable.  Cost of set-up ranges from £600 for a simple survey, and running costs will depend on usage but for smaller volumes can be as low as £150 per month. 

For more information about using IVR automated telephone surveys for market research, visit or contact Ingrid Christophersen on This e-mail address is being protected from spam bots, you need JavaScript enabled to view it .  

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