Mail surveys - American business
Mail SURVEYS are a method market researchers use to collect customer and potential customer information. Like other data-collection methods (TELEPHONE SURVEYS
, personalinterview surveys
, INTERNET SURVEYS
, and tests), mail surveys have both advantages and disadvantages. The major advantages of mail surveys include the amount of information that can be collected, the low cost of the mailings, the lack of interviewer bias, and anonymity for respondents. While response rates decline as the number of questions in a survey are increased, compared to other methods mail surveys are relatively inexpensive. The major disadvantages of mail surveys are the low response rate, lack of control over the data-gathering effort, the inability to clarify questions, and the inability to probe for in-depth information. Response rates for mail surveys are often quite low, sometimes as little as 10 percent, which leads to the potential for nonresponse bias. If only those people who are very interested in the topic respond to the mail survey, the results are not representative of the total population. Market researchers use a variety of techniques to increase response rates, including multiple mailings of QUESTIONNAIRES
, sponsorship of the survey by a group or firm known and respected by those being surveyed, and incentives to respond. Almost every American receives mail surveys. If the subject is one that interests the recipient, it came from an organization to which the recipient belongs, a postage-paid envelope is included, a donation to a charity is made for responding, or the recipient is included in a contest for participating, he or she is more likely to respond. Market researchers also know that the person they want to respond to the questionnaire may not actually be the person responding. Careful attention is given to the mailing list to reduce this problem. Questionnaires are also pretested to avoid including questions that are misleading or could be misinterpreted. The order of questions asked is important to response rates and gathering in depth information. Generally researchers try to use closed-end rather than open-ended questions. Closed-end questions allow easier data tabulation and analysis, but occasionally valuable information can be derived from comments added by respondents. Even simple design factors such as organizing rating scales from poor to excellent versus excellent to poor can influence responses. On-line surveys are similar to mail surveys, but there is less control over who is responding and “ballot stuffing” is achieved through multiple submissions. For example, Time magazine conducted an on-line survey asking people to name the most important people of the 20th century. They received thousands of responses naming Mustafa Attaturk, the leader of Turkey during the 1930s and 1940s. It is also difficult to determine who is responding to Internet surveys, which often are not representative of the population the researcher is trying to study. One criticism of surveys, both mail and other types, is their use as a disguised selling technique. Unethical marketers will conduct surveys whose purpose is really to stimulate DEMAND
for their products.