Using Web Survey Software for CATI

Posted on : February 22, 2016 - by :

In the past telephone interviewing meant using desktop programs connected over a network in a call center.  That is still the way much interviewing is done.  It works and can offer efficiency advantages compared to other alternatives.  Its main drawbacks are that software usually must be installed on each PC, and the interviewers must all be in a central location.

If you want to use interviewers in remote locations, or you do not want to install interviewing software on your interviewers’ PCs You can potentially use any web survey software to present questions and answer choices to your interviewers.  But unless your chosen program or service includes telephone sample management, and the vast majority do not, you will be forced to use paper to keep track of telephone numbers and attempts to reach those numbers.  Paper lists of phone numbers were standard multiple decades ago, but are very seriously behind the times now.

Instead, it is much more efficient to have a program keep telephone numbers in a central location, provide those numbers to interviewers, record the results of each telephone call and keep track of appointments interviewers make to call people back at particular days and times.  The Survey System is one of the very few programs to offer this capability both in desktop and web survey software versions.  Both variations offer the same option to have the program automatically combine pre-existing information you have about your respondents, such as their name, address and other characteristics, with their survey answers.  Combining information in this way can shorten your interview, which is always a good idea.

Another consideration when choosing an interviewing program or online service can be security.  Some researchers, particularly those working in healthcare, are required to keep all their data in-house.  This requirement means using an in-house server.  This necessity rules out most SaaS options, but it doesn’t rule out using web solutions that let you install the necessary programs on an intranet server.

One more consideration when deciding whether to use a desktop or online interviewing solution is your telephone system.  Most desktop interviewing programs can dial standard telephones, provided the PCs have modems or other equipment that Windows can use to dial.  Browser-based solutions don’t have that ability, but they can potentially make calls using a VoIP system.  Otherwise, your interviewers may have to dial telephone numbers themselves.  While having interviewers dial telephones directly is a little less efficient than having the program dial for them, it may be required in some cases, due to government regulations against using automated dialing to contact cell phones.