Despite the availability of online survey technology, many companies still use paper-based questionnaires. In most cases, the reason is due to tradition. That is, they do so because they have always done so. A quick comparison between the two approaches reveals several advantages of using web-based questionnaires over their paper-based counterparts.
Below, we’ll explore the issues of execution cost, data quality, speed, and the ability to randomize answers to your survey questions. In each of these four areas, online surveys hold a distinct advantage. If you’re still surveying your audience in person, by mail, or even on the phone, you may be surprised by the benefits you’re neglecting.
Cost Of Execution
Paper questionnaires are expensive. If you’re surveying people in person, your costs will include printing expenses and wages for your surveyors. If you’re mailing your questionnaires, you’ll be able to avoid paying wages, but you’ll need to pay postage costs. If you’re conducting interviews on the phone, you may be able to avoid printing and postage expenses, but you’ll need to pay interviewers for their time.
Online surveys eliminate these costs. Aside from occasional reports that show data trends, there are no printing costs. What’s more, you’ll avoid postage expenses and wages for surveyors and interviewers. If you’re surveying your audience on a regular bases (and you should be), the cost savings associated with online questionnaires is substantial.
Traditional surveys conducted in person or on the phone usually infringe upon the limited time of the respondent. They’re inconvenient. That affects the quality of your data. Many respondents will rush through your questions in order to finish and resume whatever they were doing prior to being exposed to your questionnaire.
Online surveys allow people to respond when it is convenient for them to do so. There’s no need to interrupt a shopping trip to respond to an in-person surveyor. There’s no need to interrupt dinner to respond to a telephone interviewer. Your audience can participate whenever they choose. As a result, their answers are likely to be more considered and thereby, more valuable.
Speed Of Execution And Data Collection
One of the biggest problems with traditional surveys (besides the associated costs) is the time required to collect the data. It takes a significant amount of time to interview people in person or on the phone. And if you’re sending questionnaires by mail, you can expect to see responses arrive over several weeks. Respondents’ answers must then be manually entered into a database and statistical analysis program.
By putting your surveys online and inviting your audience by email or with links throughout your website, execution is nearly instantaneous. Plus, the data comes in quickly and is automatically funneled into a database. A statistical analysis program can be set up to run periodically against your database to produce reports showing trends.
Ability To Randomize Answers
Respondents have a tendency to choose answers based on placement rather than comprehension. Sometimes, it’s a learned response after participating in multiple questionnaires over a long period of time. Other times, it occurs when several questions within the same survey ask respondents to choose from an identical list of choices. In both cases, this tendency threatens the quality and reliability of your data.
Online survey software allows you to randomize answers to your questions. If you’re asking respondents to select an answer to multiple questions from among the same list of choices, randomizing the positions of those choices reduces bias.
Traditional surveys, including those that are conducted in person, by mail, or over the phone, continue to offer value in certain circumstances. But, much of what they accomplish can be done online. Moreover, it can be done more quickly and at a lower cost while yielding higher-quality data.