Trouble for Phone Surveys: Nobody Talks
In the old days (decades ago), phone surveys had limited utility because many people had no phone service in their homes. When that changed, phone surveys became ubiquitous because they allowed researchers better control over the process. Data quality improved. Now increasing numbers of people have moved to cell phones only, which has been a significant challenge for the survey industry. The numbers are staggering:
In response, our industry has developed newer (and complicated) methods to include cell-only households along with land-based phone sampling. But do-not-call rules, the cost to respondents of receiving calls on wireless phones, and the fact that exchanges no longer map to geographic regions have been significant challenges.
Now there is a new challenge: Even though the number cell phones and the number of people who carry them is increasing exponentially, people are not talking on them. More than nine out of ten households now has cell phone service, but recent data indicate that voice usage is not increasing, and for the first time “the amount of data in text, e-mail messages, streaming video, music and other services on mobile devices in 2009 surpassed the amount of voice data in cellphone calls” (see NYT article).
As people use their phones more and more in multiple other ways, the opportunity for public polling and market research is to find new ways of engaging people who are willing to share data and opinions. There are now surveys designed for mobile devices and real-time enthnographies using video, photography, and voice from cell phones. Mobile devices are also increasingly used for purchases, data monitoring, and loyalty programs, all of which can be rich sources of insight for market research.
Need help thinking about the best way to conduct your survey or research? The best way will depend on your specific questions and the group of people you want to understand. Give us a call (we like to talk on the phone); we will help you sort out your options for an optimal approach.
—Joe Hopper, Ph.D.