Bringing the mail survey into the 21st Century

Besides going door-to-door with a clipboard and pen, the mail survey is perhaps the oldest method of survey work.  Many other newer methods of data collection have eclipsed the mail survey, from cost to speed.  But, this does not mean that the traditional mail survey doesn’t have it’s place in today’s market research environment.

Here at ShapardResearch, we still implement mail surveys for clients when its the best solution.  Because we have the ability to offer our clients a wide array of different methodologies and data collection techniques, we’re never in a position to push a certain method simply because the best method is not available to us.

Using state-of-the-art optical scanning software and sophisticated instrument design, we are able to deploy mail surveys which meet our client’s needs and objectives, observe costs limitations, and maximize response rates.

But, this doesn’t mean that the mail survey can not be improved upon and its disadvantages not overcome.

One of the disadvantages to mail surveys is response time to issues that respondents may include in their responses, of which the client would want to address.  Many times, we will include a final open-ended question on the instrument such as: “Would you like us to contact you? Yes, please have a [company team member title] call me to discuss… (include your phone number or email address).”

Many researchers may shy away from asking this type of question, thinking that when the data is finally delivered to the client, the time window to have contacted the respondent in a timely fashion has closed.  But, the actionable data and opportunity for the client to act upon the data should certainly be an ability made available to the client.

Our proprietary databasing technology allows us to make this offer to our clients ability to receive “Alerts” of actionable data directly by email during the real-time scanning of incoming mail surveys.  The alerts can be worked by the client’s appropriate customer-facing staff in order to work toward a timely solution for the customer’s pressing problem.  Assuming, for example, the customer dropped the completed survey in the mail on a Monday, delivered to us on Tuesday or Wednesday, and processed that afternoon which is customary, the client’s employees could be calling their customer back in 24 to 48 hours.

Mail surveys may be seem as old as the post office, but still be a viable method of data collection for some clients or situations.  What should never be old is applying innovative technology to established methods of data collection, that would bring it into the 21st Century.