Telephone Surveys1

Telephone Surveys


Table of Contents

What are Telephone Surveys?

Telephone Surveys2

Telephone surveys are a method of data collection wherein interviewers contact respondents via telephone to conduct an interview by asking the respondents a list of predetermined questions. Telephone surveys are a popular method of data collection as they are considered to be reliable and valid, and allow for data to be gathered more quickly than via face-to-face surveys. 

In today’s article, we will explore the advantages and disadvantages of telephone surveys and will also go over the different sources of error in this method of data collection. 

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Advantages of Telephone Surveys

The following are a few advantages of using the telephone survey mode:

  • Quality Control: Telephone surveying allows for quality control over the entire data collection process, including sampling, respondent selection, survey administration, and data entry.
  • Cost-Efficiency: Another major advantage of telephone surveys is that they are extremely cost-effective when compared to face-to-face interviews.
  • Fast Data Collection: The speed with which data can be gathered and processed using telephone surveys is much faster than when compared to face-to-face interviews. 


Disadvantages of Telephone Surveys

The following are a few disadvantages of using the telephone survey mode:

  • Limitations on Length and Complexity of Interview: Even when executed well and correctly, telephone surveys generally place a limitation on the complexity and length of an interview as the average respondent will find it tiresome to be kept on the telephone for longer than 20 minutes.
  • Coverage Errors: Telephone surveys tend to have a significant risk of coverage error, which would result in a defective frame and biased estimates when using survey data.
  • Potential of Geographical Ineligibility: Due to number portability, researchers can no longer be certain of where a respondent is when contacted by telephone. Without explicit geographic screening, there could be serious errors of commission which would result in geographically ineligible respondents being interviewed. 


Total Survey Error (TSE)

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In survey sampling, total survey error refers to all forms of survey error. There are three main types of survey errors including nonresponse error, noncoverage bias, and measurement bias.


Nonresponse error occurs in telephone surveys when people who were a part of the sample frame but weren’t interviewed differ significantly as a group in a non-negligible way from those who were a part of the sample frame and were interviewed. Nonresponse in telephone surveys generally occurs due to: 

  • Failure to contact sampled respondents
  • Certain sampled participants refuse to participate in the interview
  • There’s a language barrier making it difficult to interview certain respondents


Noncoverage bias is a result of the magnitude of the difference between the sampling frame and the larger population it is supposed to represent. The extent to which the population covered by the sample differs from the population not covered by the sample will be the extent of coverage bias present in the survey. Noncoverage in telephone surveys can occur due to: 

  • Certain households having no telephone number and only cell phones numbers instead
  • Certain households having multiple lines


Measurement bias occurs when the data collected by interviewers during telephone surveys inaccurately measures the attitudes, behaviours, and demographics of interest. These inaccuracies can take the form of bias and variance, and are generally errors associated with:

  • The questionnaire
  • The interviewer
  • The respondent

Explore all the survey question types
possible on Voxco

Explore all the survey question types possible on Voxco

Response Rates in Telephone Surveys

In telephone surveys, the response rate refers to the number of interviews completed out of all the telephone numbers dialled. This metric can be a revealing indicator of the quality of telephone surveys. 

Response rates are generally influenced by;

  • The survey topic
  • The reputation of the organization conducting or sponsoring the survey
  • The length of the questionnaire
  • The calibre of the interviewers
  • The length of the field period
  • The rules for callback
  • The use of contingent and noncontingent incentives

See Voxco survey software in action with a Free demo.

See Voxco survey software in action with a Free demo.

FAQs on Telephone Surveys

Telephone surveys are a method of data collection wherein interviewers contact respondents via telephone to conduct an interview by asking the respondent a list of different questions from a questionnaire.

Some advantages of telephone surveys are that they are a fast and cost-effective method of data collection and can allow for high-quality control. 

 Some disadvantages of telephone surveys are that it sets limitations on how lengthy and complex the interview can be. There is also the risk of coverage errors and respondents being geographically ineligible to participate in the survey. 

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