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What Type of Survey Method is Best?

When it comes to surveys, there are several ways to collect the data that your business needs. Choosing the best data collection method is a critical decision, and not all businesses can use the same methods. Some methods are better for employee surveys, while others are better suited for customer surveys. Some surveys require the use of multiple data collection methods to gather enough data to be able to make sound business decisions. The options are listed below, along with the pros and cons of each.

In-Person Interviews

In-person interviews are by far the most personable approach and can create trust and cooperation from respondents. The best interviewers will be able to read non-verbal cues to better direct the interview. It is also the best way to perform interviews that may involve sensitive topics.

Not surprisingly, in-person interviews can be the most costly type of interview. Interviewers have to be highly trained and there are travel costs to consider, both for the interviewer and the respondents. It might also be difficult to find interviewers willing to travel to areas with high crime or other unfavorable conditions.


Calling your potential respondents is typically less expensive than conducting in-person interviews, but if your survey entails a large scope with many respondents, the cost will reflect that. Telephone interviews are a direct line to even the most difficult to contact respondents, but in the age of caller ID, some people will be more selective about answering your call. You will need fewer interviewers for this type of survey as compared to in-person interviews, and your interviewers can collaborate with each other to assure greater standardization.

However, it’s difficult to establish credibility and trust over the phone, and your targeted respondents may not be comfortable giving your interviewers information.

Mailed Surveys

Despite being an effective type of mass survey deployment, many mailed surveys are thought to be ‘junk mail’, or are lost because of outdated mailing lists. But, when they do end up in the right hands, mailed surveys allow people to think about their answers and offer comprehensive feedback. Of course, you will have no opportunity to prompt respondents to expound on their answers, so writing the best survey possible is very important. Mailed surveys are also the least personal form of interviewing.

Online Surveys

It shouldn’t come as a surprise that online surveys are becoming the most popular and cost effective type of surveys. The technology has grown rapidly and the number of people able to access the internet has grown as well. On a global scale, online surveys are the most cost-effective way to reach the greatest number of people.

However, email inboxes are quickly becoming the same as the mailboxes outside our doors, stuffed with mail we don’t want. This makes it easy to lump e-mailed survey invitations into the ‘junk mail’ category. But once someone responds to your survey, you will get the results immediately, eliminating the long wait times of mailed surveys.

There is no perfect answer for the type of survey data collection your business needs. NBRI offers multiple data collection methods for that very reason. A survey can uncover amazing information critical to your business, but without delivering the questionnaire to enough of the proper respondents, the whole undertaking could be useless. Or even worse you could end up basing business decisions on faulty data. NBRI employs a staff of organizational psychologists to create the best survey for your needs, and we offer post-survey follow-up to help you implement recommended changes based upon the results. Please contact us at 800-756-6168 if we may assist you with your survey research needs.

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