Which Survey Mode Is Best: Face-To-Face or Self-Completion Surveys?

It is no secret that the best survey mode for your research depends on what kind of insights you hope to glean.

Today, we will weigh two of the most common methods; self-completion and face-to-face surveys, in order to determine which may be best for your needs.

So, how do we define these types of surveys?

Face-to-face survey or computer assisted personal interview (CAPI) is when the interviewer enters the responses to survey questions onto a tablet or phone as the interview takes place.  These surveys are used best when trying to capture moment-specific experiences like shopping or traveling.

Self-completion survey or self-administered survey is a survey that is designed to be completed by the respondent without the assistance of an interviewer. Self-completion surveys are quite a common method of data collection for quantitative surveys within market research.

Of course, no one method of administering surveys is superior to another, it truly depends on what your needs are as a researcher on a given project. Below, we will touch on a few pros and cons of these two modes in order to help you make a decision.

Advantages of Face-to-Face Surveys

  • Right place, right time. For certain surveys, it makes the most sense to meet respondents in the moment. As a rule of thumb, asking questions while the respondent still has the experience fresh in their minds can lead to richer responses.
  • Interviewer direction. In person, well-trained interviewers can ensure that the question has been answered appropriately with the right prompts – all without projecting any biases.
  • Find more respondents. Your survey may call for respondents that are not necessarily reachable through internet, in which interviewing them in person is necessary. In addition, skilled interviewers can motivate respondents from groups that are unlikely to take online surveys 

Disadvantages of Face-to-Face Surveys

  • Less affordable. The unfortunate reality of working with qualified, engaged interviewers is that hiring talent is costly. This is especially true if you need multiple interviewers surveying respondents in the field.
  • Quality depends on the interviewer. Working with interviewers may potentially increase the chance of human error. In the event that a question is not read properly, or improperly recorded, this will have an impact on the data set.
  • Might intimidate respondents. Certain respondents may not feel comfortable answering questions in person with a live interviewer. This is especially the case when concerning sensitive survey questions.

Advantages of Self-Completion Surveys

  • Lower cost.These surveys are the most affordable method of data collection from a wide audience. Of course, there are certainly associated costs, but they are much lower than the cost of paying interviewers to interface with respondents.
  • Flexible for the respondent. When a survey is self-administered, it empowers the respondent to take it on their own time, at their own convenience.
  • Multimedia-Funktionen. Just because there is no interviewer in front of them, does not mean that the survey needs to be tedious! Adding in photos or videos is an interesting way to keep the survey engaging for the respondent.

Disadvantages of Self-Completion Surveys

  • Low monitoring ability. Without an in-person interviewer, respondents have no one to turn to if they have a question, or if they need encouragement in order to complete the survey.
  • Respondent dishonesty. Unfortunately, there is little to be done about ensuring that respondents answering truthfully. In order to ease this issue, reiterate that the data will be anonymized.
  • Response time. Without being offered some sort of incentive to respond to the survey promptly, surveys may end up not being returned by the ideal completion deadline. This is an especially tricky issue when data collection is based on something time sensitive.

What about a mixed method?

Thankfully, the market research industry need not be approached with extreme. Researchers do not necessarily need to choose between these two (or more) methods of conducting surveys.

Some research studies need the lower cost and flexibility of a self-complete survey, while others may require the level of data that comes from in-person interviews.

Professional researchers can see the value in both methods. With Voxco, these survey modes can be combined in order to offer the flexibility of channel choice on specific studies, with the power of a centralized multichannel database.

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