Telephone Interviewing Survey

The telephone interviewing survey process and how to do it tips.
The telephone interview has bit by bit become the dominant technique for getting data from giant samples, as the cost and non-response problems of personal interviews have become more acute. At the same time, many of the accepted limitations of telephone interviewing have been shown to be of little significance for a large class of marketing problems.

Telephone Interview Process
The telephone interviewing process generally is very similar to personal interviewing. Only certain unique aspects of telephone interviewing, such as selecting the telephone numbers, the call outcomes, the introduction, when to call, and call reports, are described below.

Selecting Telephone Numbers. There are three basic approaches to obtaining telephone numbers when selecting study participants for telephone interviews. A researcher can use a prespecified list, a directory, or a random dialing procedure. Prespecified lists—membership rosters, customers lists, or lists purchased from commercial suppliers of telephone numbers—are sometimes used for selected groups of people. This use, however, is not widespread in marketing.

The traditional approach to obtaining numbers has been to use a directory, one provided by either a telephone company or a commercial firm. However, a directory may be inadequate for obtaining a representative sample of consumers or households as many people or companies are not listed. To overcome telephone directory nonresponsiveness, many researchers now use random-digit dialing when they interview consumers by telephone. An approach to combine directory and and random dialing is possibly the best way to get a true reflection of the survey.

Possible outcome of telephone Call

The telephone is not in service.
Eliminate the number from further consideration.
The number dialed is busy.
Call the number again later, because the characteristics of the people whose lines are busy will be different from those whose lines are not.
No one answers the call.
Call the number back later, because the characteristics of the people who are not at home will be different from those who are at home.
The number called is a fax number.
Send a fax to the respondent requesting his or her time to conduct the interview, and get his or her telephone number.
An answering machine comes
Leave a message on the answering machine saying who you are and the purpose of your call. Call the number again after some time.
The call is answered by someone other than the respondent.
Find out when the respondent will be available and call back at that time.
The person contacted is not in the sampling frame.
Eliminate the number from further consideration.
The call is answered by the person to be contacted.
Conduct the interview.

When calling the most important aspect of the call is the introduction. It is vital to gain rapport and some trust with with potential participants. A pleasant voice and good introduction will assist.

When to call

To efficiently obtain a representative sample of study participants, telephone interviews should be attempted at times when prospective interviewees will most likely be available. For consumer interviews, telephone interviews should probably be attempted between 6 P.M. and 9 P.M. on weekdays, and10 A.M. to 8 P.M. on weekends. Calling before 6 P.M. on weekdays decreases th chances of reaching working individuals, and calling after 9 P.M. incurs the wrat of those who are early to bed. On the other hand, the best time to reach home makers or contact individuals at work is between 9 A.M. and 4:30 P.M.

Call reports

A call report is a form that has telephone numbers to be called and columns for interviewers to document their telephoning attempts—what day and time the call was made, the outcome, the length of the call, and so forth. Call reports provide records of calling experiences and are useful for managing data collection.


Regardless of how the telephone interviews are conducted, the obvious advantages are the same: (1) More interviews can be conducted in a given time period, because no time is lost in traveling and locating respondents; (2) more hours of the day are productive, especially the evening hours when working women and singles are likely to be at home and apartment doors are locked; and (3) repeated call-backs at different times of the day can be made at very low cost.


Relatively few of the problems with the telephone method are completely insurmountable. The most obvious problem is the inability to employ visual aids or complex tasks. For example, it does not appear feasible to ask respondents to retain in their minds the names of nine department stores and then ask them to choose one store. There have been solutions to this problem, including separate mention of individual stores and asking the respondent to treat the telephone push-buttons as a 10-point rating scale (from “1” for like it very much to “0” for don’t like it at all), A related problem with the telephone is that the interviewer must rely solely on verbal cues to judge the reaction and understanding of respondents.