Believe it or not, people still have mailboxes. Stamps still exist. Envelopes still exist. The United States Postal Service still has offices in almost all local towns, they still have trucks, and still employ mail carriers (alhtough Saturday delivery may soon be a thing of the past). People receive mail and read it on a regular basis. In the ever-changing electronic world of e-mail, texts, and social media, mail still comes in and goes out.
As a market research company in Central NY, one might think we don’t even bother printing out mail surveys anymore. However, everyday we still see a number of clients who benefit from using a mail survey methodology. Whether it is our HCAHPS® surveys we do on behalf of hospital systems across the country, customer satisfaction surveys we do on behalf of our financial/banking clients each month, or even employee surveys we do across all industries, RMS has seen and will continue to see some of our highest response rates from mail surveys. Thinking of a few of our most recent mail surveys we have administered, RMS has seen response rates of 19%, 47%, and 39%. Response rates that are unheard of in the market research arena for phone surveys and blinded e-mail blasts.
You’re probably asking yourself, why is this the case?
- Isn’t it easier to just send an email? Yes, but a lot of our clients have a broad base of customers for whom they do not have email addresses. What if the client is trying to survey prospective customers? Sure RMS can purchase e-mail addresses from our preferred sample vendor, but without a relationship with the end-user, you may see click rates below 1%. That is the number of invitees who actually click the link, let alone take the survey. In fact, what better way to collect an email address than adding that field to the end of a paper survey?
- Isn’t it easier to call them? Sure, but it’s usually more costly. And, as I said before, it’s an eWorld now, fewer and fewer people have landline phones these days. A phone survey forces the respondent to be engaged for a set block of time to complete the survey. They cannot leave and come back to complete. At least our telesurveyors hope they don’t! Depending on the size and scope of the study, fieldwork could have a quicker turnaround time for mail surveys when compared to telephone.
Although more and more companies are going paperless in their operations, mail surveys should not be discounted simply because they seem out of date. Depending on the audience you are trying to reach and your budget, Research & Marketing Strategies (RMS) may recommend mail as the most effective and cost friendly data collection option for your company.
Why do we think mail surveys still show positive returns? Mail surveys are:
- Convenient. Respondents can complete it on their time, stop and go, at their pace.
- Portable. Respondents can take it anywhere, as long as they have the survey instrument and a pen/pencil.
- Boundless. Respondents feel they have the opportunity to write as much as they want on a topic (theoretically there is no character limit or telesurveyor going to the next question).
- Honest. Some respondents are more comfortable providing feedback through writing; they may be uncomfortable voicing their true opinion to a live telesurveyor.
- Visual. Mail surveys better engaged respondents through the ability to show photos or maps of a product or service area.
- Persevering. Serves as a physical reminder, on the kitchen table, on the counter, on your desk at work. Emails can be deleted at the click of a button. The USPS doesn’t offer a junk mail box that flags and holds suspect mail.
- Trustworthy. Respondents are less skeptical of mail surveys than online surveys. Clicking on unknown links in your email inbox comes with an inherent distrust. Your computer won’t get a terminal error and delete all of your family photos after you unfold a paper survey.