We’ve referenced it before on this blog, people are “time poor” and keeping a survey short is more critical than ever in our industry. If a survey goes too long (with that threshold being debatable: 5 minutes, 10 minutes, 15 minutes), the respondent will either become disengaged or simply hang up. We are not big fans of either. Shortening the length of all surveys including telephone methodologies, is critical to improving engagement and data quality, improving productivity, and quickening fieldwork.

Here are 4 basic and usable tips to help shorten telephone surveys:

1. Ask birth year open-ended instead of running through a list of age ranges. This has benefits beyond just reducing time to ask. By having the survey caller ask for year of birth, he or she can easily type that into a quantity box through CATI rather than reading through a long progressive list of “Under 18 years of age, 18 to 24, 25 to 34, 35 to 44”, and so on. Capturing birth year also helps with longitudinal uses of the data. For instance, if you want to revisit the respondents and conduct a similar survey 5 years from now you won’t need to re-ask the age question to update the ranges (as some aged 33 would now be in the next highest age range of 35 to 44) because you’ll already have the birth year data on-hand. This trick reduces the time to ask and keeps more ‘seasoned’ respondents happy.

shorten the length of a telephone survey

Reaction from a frustrated respondent who had to wait too long for his age category to be read by a survey caller.

2. Word associations. This is something that we are using more and more in each survey here at Research & Marketing Strategies (RMS). This is a quick and easy way to capture a word or phrase that describes a brand, company, or product rather than typing in a long-winded response on the topic that may be covered elsewhere in the survey through a close-ended question. Word associations work great for Wordles which are graphical displays of word counts.

3. Using categories for open-ended questions. This is a process by which the survey caller still asks the question open-ended but selects from a provided list of categories the open-ended response falls into with an option for ‘other’. For example, if the respondent provides you a long response about how he or she chooses a bank or credit union based on how close the nearest branch is to his or her home because it makes it easier to stop in on the way to and from work, you would select the ‘Location/Convenience’ category.

4. Consult with your client to determine most critical information. As a market researcher it is your job at the kickoff meeting to decipher between main objectives and secondary objectives of a study. Main objectives are the must have answers the client needs to make the results actionable (what is the awareness of my organization, what is the image of my organization, how satisfied are my customers, etc.) Secondary objectives are the less critical questions that may need to be cut to abide to time limits or question limits in the telephone survey. Just make sure you are working closely with the client to understand what you can afford to cut.

Are you looking to conduct a telephone survey and need a market research consultant to assist you with the process. The RMS team can work with you to ensure your telephone survey script will maximize your return on investment. Contact our Business Development Director, Sandy Baker at SandyB@RMSresults.com or by calling 315-635-9802.