Are personal interviews better than self-completion surveys?

We recently outlined the benefits of letting respondents complete surveys with no guidance from interviewers. Self-completion surveys are the most common method for quantitative surveys in the market research industry, primarily due to the cost and ease of deployment.

But what about interviewer-led quantitative surveys? What are the benefits to having a professional guiding respondents through a survey (face-to-face or via telephone) and recording their answers?

Here are a few reasons to choose interviewer-based surveys versus self-completion:

Location-specific, moment-specific insights

In-person surveys are brought directly to the respondent, wherever they are. This is a huge advantage for interviewing consumers when they are still present in the specific place your survey references (e.g. mall, in home, tourist destination). Interviewers can even incorporate a full product experience, including touching, tasting, or viewing products in their natural setting.

Asking for feedback while respondents are still experiencing something will generally lead to richer responses than relying on their memories.

Interviewer guidance

In-person or telephone interviewers can provide assistance and clarity on question meaning. They can ensure the question was answered adequately. They can aid recall by prompting. And they can keep respondents motivated to remain focused on the survey.

Well-trained interviewers (and well-structured/well-written surveys) can accomplish all of this without biasing the survey results themselves.

Reach new respondents

In-person and telephone surveys allow you to reach groups with lower internet penetration. And friendly interviewers can motivate participation from some types of people who could be less likely to respond to online surveys/join online panels.

When beginning a project, survey project managers are faced with the task of reach. If their existing online survey panel/database isn’t specific enough to the required demographic, intercept interviews or regional dialing can reach a whole new world of respondents with no prior need for their contact information.

Lower respondent initiative needed

Once a respondent is reached in-person or on the phone, all they need to do is verbally answer questions as they’re posed by the interviewer. There’s no need for them to read the questions, or to manually manipulate the survey itself to provide responses.

Why not both?

The market research world is not black-or-white, and researchers fortunately don’t need to choose between exclusively online or exclusively in-person surveys.

Some studies need the speed and freedom provided by online self-completion surveys. Some need the richer level of respondent data that generally comes from interviews. Most researchers see the value of both; these methodologies can be packaged to offer the flexibility of channel choice on individual studies, and the power of a centralized multichannel survey database.

What’s right for you? Let us know and we’ll show you how the world’s most flexible survey software can fit into your methodology, and fits comfortably into your budget.

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