Face-to-face surveying is a survey method that involves interviewers directly communicating with respondents face-to-face. This survey method allows for the investigation of complex issues as interviewers can give comprehensive explanations of questions, ask interviewees to expand on answers, and allows non-verbal cues such as body language to be identified.
Although this method of surveying was traditionally the most common method of conducting surveys, its use has decreased significantly over time. This is mainly due to the increase in the popularity of other cheaper and more convenient alternatives such as email surveys and other web survey methods. Additionally, due to the pandemic, the use of the face-to-face survey method declined even more due to public health and safety concerns.
Face-to-face surveys can be categorized into two main types based on how interviewers approach respondents. The two types are:
This method involves interviewers approaching different houses in designated areas. These areas are often chosen because they have a significant amount of the sample of respondents in one area. These respondents tend to have similar demographic characteristics that qualify them to be a part of the target population. Door-to-door surveys are often used for public opinion polling, brand image and positioning studies, and usage and preference studies.
This survey method provides access to a more diversified group of respondents from different geographical areas. It involves interviewers approaching respondents at public places such as malls, theaters, food courts, the street, or any other area where the target population may be found. As this method involves choosing sample units based on convenience, the reliability levels may be questionable.
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As face-to-face surveys involve the use of an interviewer or moderator, interviewees are unable to be dishonest about information relating to gender, age, or race. This helps with more accurate screening relative to other survey methods such as web surveys.
Face-to-face interviews allow for the capturing of verbal and non-verbal cues. Non-verbal cues, such as body language, may be significant indicators of a respondent’s feelings toward a topic. Moderators can assess interviewee discomfort or enthusiasm based on the topics being discussed. Additionally, emotions and behaviors can also be assessed in face-to-face surveys.
In online and mobile surveys, respondents are often in the midst of other technological distractions such as texts and emails. In face-to-face interviews, the moderator is in control of the interview. They keep the interviewee focused and ensure the completion of the survey.
In face-to-face surveys, verbal and non-verbal cues can be identified to help interviewers probe deeper when there are any indications that a respondent may have more information to disclose on certain questions/topics.
Respondents are more likely to tolerate a long face-to-face survey rather than a long web survey or a long email survey. This is because the respondent will find it more convenient to express long open-ended answers orally, rather than in writing.
Face-to-face interviews are one of the most expensive methods of data collection as they require a staff of people to conduct the surveys. Labour/personnel costs are the highest cost a business can incur so it is hard to keep costs low in the face-to-face method of surveying.
Gathering data from respondents through face-to-face surveys is often very time consuming. Additionally, if the study is focusing on a wide geographical area, a lot of travelling may be involved to survey different respondents. This adds a lot more time required for the interviewing process.
The size of the sample group is limited to the interviewing staff and financial resources of the study. Face-to-face interviews may need to be conducted over multiple geographical areas, through several interviews, further increasing costs.
The quality of the data recorded will often depend on the skills and perception of the interviewer. Some interviewers may also have biases that may skew the way the data is recorded, making the data less relaible.
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