15 Phone Survey Best Practices 


Phone Surveys
Table of Contents

In the world of conducting phone survey research, whether you’re running a call center, conducting polls, or doing market research for clients — driving productivity and saving time is king.

As margins and response rates skew downwards, it’s crucial that researchers from all kinds of organizations optimize their workflow in all ways possible.

Using the right CATI software is central to shaving time off calls and increasing interviewer productivity.  As a research manager, you must ensure that the software you’re working with has the right built-in features to make programming and interviewer management easy.

In this blog, we’ll outline a few of our phone survey best practices. 

What is a phone survey?

Just like the traditional survey method of posting paper-based questionnaires or the online survey method of sending email surveys to individual addresses, a phone survey allows you to contact participants individually. 

This survey method adds a human touch to your data collection process and allows interviewers to connect with the participants. The research includes gathering data by administering a survey over the phone. The interviewer conducts the survey manually or by leveraging an automated system. 

There are two modern ways of conducting phone surveys – CATI and IVR. 

  1. CATI survey software – Computer Assisted Telephone Interview administers surveys via phone using computer software. It facilitates the survey by providing the questionnaire on the agent’s screen and allowing a seamless method to record responses. 
  2. IVR survey software – Interactive Voice Response surveys are automated and use pre-recorded messages to conduct the surveys. The system asks the pre-recorded questions, with the respondents providing their feedback using the keypad. 

Now that we have looked into the definition and types, let’s explore the various phone survey best practices to ensure higher productivity and time-saving. 

15 Phone survey best practices

Phone surveys are still a popular data collection method despite the rise of online surveys. There is a large demographic that still relies on telephones and prefers this personal experience over an online survey experience. If you’re interested in exploring the digital realm of data collection, check out our offering on online survey tools further.

Some best practices for a successful phone survey include informing respondents about the purpose of the survey, using other means to remind them ahead of the call, offering incentives for completing the surveys, and more.

In this section, we have mentioned some phone survey best practices on various aspects of a CATI survey to enhance the quality of the survey. 

Survey programming tips

1. Copy & paste

Let’s start simple! One of the best ways to save time is to not re-do what you’ve already done! Copy tasks, settings, or full projects to get started with new projects quickly (for example, callback rules, disposition codes, quotas, time zones, or questionnaires.)

2. Pre-scheduled extracts

Regular extractions of your survey data are commonly needed to report to management or clients throughout the project. Most of the time, data must be reported daily. So, it’s important that data is extracted on a pre-scheduled basis, depending on your needs, to make regular reporting simple.

3. Standardize sample variables

15 Tips For Saving Time While Doing Phone Surveys phone survey

This may not be possible for all research projects, but keeping variables consistent from project to project can help with streamlining data extraction and survey programming — specifically, keeping list headers identical. 

However, this may not always be effective, for example, Canadian provinces are often coded as numbers, but in the United States, the states have standard two-letter names. In essence, standardization of naming conventions should be applied where possible.

Interview management tips

4. Streamline productivity reports

For research managers from organizations of all types, productivity reports are important in making sure that your interviewer team is doing their best. Productivity reports use built-in stats like average calls per hour, average length of calls, idle time, and others. This can also be customizable based on disposition codes to further refine the report.

5. Rapid dialer

Connecting interviewers to respondents as fast as possible is essentially the bottom line of driving productivity for call centers conducting surveys. The Voxco Dialer actually works dynamically with the rhythm of your call center, with features like predictive dialing to continually adjust the pacing of calls to match forecasted interviewer availability.

6. Automated IVR

15 Tips For Saving Time While Doing Phone Surveys phone survey

In cases where interviewers are not necessarily required, the solution is using an Interactive Voice Response (IVR) Survey System. It gives research managers an easy and cost-effective way to deliver self-completion surveys and automated messages to a broad audience. In survey mode, respondents can answer questions any time they want through a touch-tone interaction on the phone.

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Check out the best-in-class capabilities of our phone survey software.

Tips to ensure higher participation and response rates

7. Obtain consent 

A significant and uncompromising phone survey’s best practice is obtaining consent and informing participants. 

Always inform the participants about the survey in detail. Be sure to inform them about the purpose of the survey, the organization/individual calling, the option to keep identity confidential, and the duration of the survey. 

Follow the survey protocol to obtain verbal consent in a clear and short phrase, for example, “Yes, I agree.”  

8. Notify ahead of time 

To maximize the response rate, send a text message or email to notify the participants about the call hours in advance. Let them know about the time you will call as a reminder. This will help the participants to set work aside and be more attentive. As a result, your survey remains on schedule. 

9. Give options to respondents to complete the survey at their convenience

When informing them in advance or during the phone call, give participants the option to reschedule it to another time or day. You should also confirm whether a participant would prefer you call any other number. Extending such options will help personalize and humanize the survey experience. 

Tips to re-engage non-responses

10. Send reminders

When you miss an individual on the phone, send them reminders of the survey via other means. Use alternative channels to remind them and ask them what time and day is appropriate for a phone survey. 

Sending reminders via other channels lets you focus phone surveys on the objective and not waste the limited time and resources on re-dialing them to catch them at an appropriate time. 

11.  Switch call lists

When facing non-respondents, call them with a new number. It might be a good strategy to switch the list of non-response no. among the interviewers. A call from a different number on a different day might convert them into participants. 

12. Track respondents’ preferred language

Monitor the language spoken by the non-participant so that an agent who speaks the language can make contact. This will help you personalize the experience as well as reduce the time spent trying to communicate in two different languages. 

Personalizing the survey experience by engaging respondents in their preferred language is another phone survey best practice you should leverage. 

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Tips to modify phone surveys

13. Keep the survey short

It’s a thumb rule to keep your surveys short. While in an online survey, the participant has the freedom to respond any time they want, it’s not the same with phone surveys. 

It’s best only to ask questions relevant to the survey objective. If you have a long survey questionnaire, you should consider breaking it up into multiple surveys. Don’t extend the phone survey beyond 30 minutes. 

14. Don’t ask sensitive questions

Sensitive questions are hard to administer over the phone. Despite the option of confidentiality, respondents may not feel comfortable answering such questions. It could also be that a lot of people surround them. So, in cases when you need to ask sensitive questions, it’s best to ask if they would prefer any other medium or reschedule it for another time or day. 

15. Use drop-down answer type for interviewer convenience

The phone survey best practices should also consider the convenience of the interviewer. Using a drop-down menu for an answer option can reduce errors during data entry and also reduce the time the agent needs to type in the answer. 

So, this concludes with fifteen tips and best practices for phone surveys. 

Benefits of phone surveys

Now that we have explored several phone survey best practices let’s also explore some of its benefits. 


  1. Personalized interaction: 

Phone surveys offer a human touch making the experience more personal. As a result, it increases a participant’s likelihood of participating and providing honest responses. 

  1. Data accuracy: 

Surveys administered via CATI software include validation capability, which ensures data accuracy. 

  1. Interview monitoring: 

Supervisors can monitor the interview in real-time to evaluate the call and also help the agent with functionalities like whisper or barge-in. 

  1. Consistency: 

A phone survey includes a standard set of questionnaires that every interviewer is required to follow, thus minimizing bias in data collection. 

Read more about the seven benefits of CATI surveys.

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How to conduct a phone survey?

Here are some steps you can follow to ensure a successful phone survey. 

  1. Define survey objective: 

Clearly outline the purpose of data collection to ensure that the questions align with the objective. 

  1. Develop a comprehensive script: 

Create a well-structured script that includes an introduction to the purpose of the survey, details about the organization, duration, and participants’ right to refuse participation. The questions should be clear of any ambiguous language and maintain consistency across interviews. 

  1. Train interveiwers: 

Make sure the agent is well-trained to follow the script, maintain neutrality, and is prepared to handle various scenarios professionally. 

  1. Leverage modern tools: 

Utilize robust CATI survey software for efficient and seamless data collection. Integrate automated dialers to increase productivity and save time. 

  1. Analyze survey results: 

Leverage an integrated platform that automatically analyzes survey data when gathered. Generate valuable insights to make informed decisions. 


Running efficient phone survey projects seems to be an increasingly difficult task, but the good news is that there are actionable tactics to ensure your organization’s success. On top of employing these productivity methods, it is integral that you are working with the most effective CATI software.

Voxco CATI Software has been the global industry-leading phone survey solution for over 25 years. It’s time to maximize your phone survey ROI with advanced features, flexible hosting options, and seamless integration. And, of course, our solutions are priced for most research budgets!

You can have a look at our Market Research Hub for more insights into research and case studies on how experts leveraged our omnichannel platform to meet and even exceed their research goals.


  1. How do you conduct a successful phone survey?

To conduct a successful phone survey, follow these steps: 

  • Define the purpose of your survey and outline the data you want to gather. 
  • Write a well-structured questionnaire in clear and neutral language. 
  • Create sample groups that reflect the characteristics of the target population. 
  • Train your surveyors to ensure they follow the survey protocol and maintain a neutral attitude across the interview. 
  • Run a pre-test to identify potential issues in the phone survey and refine it. 
  • Obtain consent by informing individuals about the purpose of the survey. 
  • Conduct the survey via CATI or IVR platforms. 
  • Analyze and interpret the collected data to generate meaningful insight. 
  1. What are the benefits of conducting a telephone survey?

The following are the three benefits of conducting a telephone survey: 

  • It allows for rapid data collection in real time since you can gather insights directly by contacting the participants when required. 
  • It enables you to gather real-time responses, thus enhancing time efficiency. 
  • Interviewers can clarify the respondents’ questions in real-time, thus reducing misinterpretation. 
  1. What are the disadvantages of telephone interviews?

Some disadvantages of telephone interviews include: 

  • Low response rate is a significant concern as people may refuse to answer calls from unknown numbers. 
  • Limited survey length leads to objective data collection. 
  1. What are the 4 ways to conduct a survey?

Four ways to conduct surveys are 

Phone surveys – Surveys conducted over phones manually or by using automated phone survey software

Online surveys – Surveys administered via online channels like email, SMS, social media, or website. 

In-person or face-to-face interviews – Gather feedback by interacting with participants on face-to-face. 

Mail surveys – Send questionnaires to respondents via mail (post) to gather feedback.