How to Select the Best Mode for a Survey: Project Timeline

How to Select the Best Mode for a Survey: Project Timeline

What is the project timeline? 

Survey project timelines differ. Some last a matter of days, others may stretch on for months. In addition to considering your audiencesample size, and questionnaire, think about how much time you can dedicate not only to the overall project but, more specifically, to fieldwork. 

When fielding CATI surveys, it’s important to account for a short ramp-up period at the beginning of fieldwork. The first step is to train moderators, which can only be done with the finalized survey specs and programmed link, and the second step is to start setting appointments. Very few scheduling calls result in same-day interviews. After identifying the best candidate, getting through gatekeepers, pre-screening participants, and working around respondents’ busy schedules, it’s likely most interview appointments will occur a few days after the initial outreach. Therefore, it’s unlikely there will be any completes within the first few days of fieldwork. If it’s imperative to get initial cuts of data quickly, CATI might not be the way to go. 

Takeaway: Online is better for shorter duration fielding, and CATI is better for longer duration fielding. 

Additionally, consider the flexibility of the mode in accounting for project starts-and-stops. Online fieldwork can be compared to a faucet. A quick twist of the faucet and the water stops running. It can just as easily be turned back on. However, phone work is slower to react. In addition to accounting for ramp-up, it’s also crucial to account for the wind-down. For example, if the project deadline is a Friday, moderators will schedule appointments all the way until Friday. If that project is then communicated to stop on Thursday morning instead, for example, Friday appointments will be canceled. Pivoting the calendar again to open back up for Friday may not result in any additional completes at that point because no new appointments will have been set. 

The benefit to setting all those appointments, though, is being able to anticipate the likely response volumes by day or by week. While not all appointments will ultimately convert to completed interviews, the pace and end-of-week sample size will be easier to estimate than it would be online. CATI fielding also works well for projects with complex quotas, as we can set appointments well in advance to reach those targets. 

Takeaway: Online is more flexible than CATI for starts and stops. CATI yields more confidence around reaching complex quotas. 

At Coleman, we know sometimes the audience will demand a CATI mode, while the project timeline demands an online approach. In these cases, we can mix-and-match modes. Starting both efforts simultaneously results in quick insight with a few online completes followed by steady fielding over the phone to round out the desired sample size. Layering fieldwork can help achieve both needs simultaneously.

In the next and final post on our series, we will discuss identifying project timelines.