Computer Assisted Telephone Interviews

Computer Assisted Telephone Interviews

Online surveys were catapulted to prominence with the ubiquity of the internet. Nowadays, many survey customers think that an online survey is the best, if not the only, way to conduct a survey. However, there are many survey modes, including online, face-to-face, and over the phone. In this post, we will provide an overview of what a phone mode is and how it works.

What is CATI mode?

CATI Surveys (Computer Assisted Telephone Interviews) are conducted by a trained moderator over the phone with survey respondents. Prior to conducting the interviews, moderators pre-target respondents via desk research, databases, prior survey participants, and other sources.

How does it work?

Once the questionnaire is final, the moderating team is trained on the flow and nuance of the questionnaire. During the initial set-up, the team researches the audience, curates a pool of potential respondents, and schedules appointments. While responses come in slowly during the initial scheduling phase of fielding, the rate of collecting completes increases as appointments convert to interviews. This ramp-up period is built into any quoted fielding timeline.

During the phone interview, respondents do not see the questionnaire; rather, moderators click through the link and read statements and answer choices aloud to respondents while recording their answers. It is important to consider the verbal nature of this mode when designing a CATI questionnaire to ensure the best experience for respondents. For surveys with a visual element to the questionnaire, moderators can execute the survey with a screen sharing element if needed. 

What are the benefits of CATI?

Mode selection

CATI may be a good fielding option for projects that include

  • Hard to reach audiences based on criteria such as seniority level, niche roles, or familiarity with a specific type of product
  • Audiences whose usage of online or mobile technology is infrequent
  • Questionnaires that include an element of qualitative input, such as open-ended responses
  • Multiple quotas that must be closely monitored in the field
  • Surveys that are long or nuanced

At a high level, here are some of the main benefits of using the CATI mode.

Highly-Targeted Fielding

During the ramp-up phase, moderators can custom recruit target respondents who may not otherwise sit on market research panels. Trained moderators speak with the respondents live to verify identity and make sure the respondents are qualified for the survey. CATI provides more control on respondent selection than does online fielding and, compared to web surveys, is not as limited by low or fluctuating Incidence Rates (IR). Thus, CATI often increases feasibility and reduces the use of respondents who frequently take part in market research.

Data Quality Assurance

As trained moderators keep the attention of respondents, survey fatigue is less of a concern. Moderators assist monitoring fieldwork in real-time and can share feedback (e.g., on survey length, misunderstood questions, etc.) that would otherwise go unnoticed online. Moreover, the conversational nature of this mode eliminates the risk of gibberish free response answers. Lastly, re-contact efforts by moderators are possible if any clarification on data is needed.

Ability to Meet Specific Quotas

Individualized outreach to respondents makes quotas easier to track and fulfill. Quotas are monitored manually as well as through the online link.

Suitable for both Quantitative and Qualitative Researches

Apart from quantitative research, CATI is also suitable for qualitative research due to its conversational nature. Trained moderators often capture more colorful responses to open-ends than would be possible through a web survey.