In a series of Secret Confessions blogs, Nichola Martland, Telephone Research Team Leader at Competitive Advantage, reflects on her experience and her tips for successful interviews.

Last in the series, in this blog, Nichola compares the merits of telephone research versus on-line surveys.

Q – In the age of digitisation and faced with alternative interview methods, what benefits does telephone research have over on-line surveys, for example?

Interviewing over the phone adds an irreplaceable personal touch. For Clients wanting to demonstrate how they value their customers and their opinions, in a Customer Satisfaction survey for example, it is a must.

It is a means for the Client to put themselves at the forefront of their customers’ or specifiers’ minds, whilst gathering important information. As researcher not only are you representing the Client, you also act as a mediator and can feedback issues the respondent may have.

Once you’ve engaged the respondent, you can potentially push for extra information. You can expand upon a question when necessary or delve further into a relevant issue or idea when the opportunity arises or if clarification is needed. This would not be possible in an on-line survey.

For purely quantitative research, where large quantities of statistical data are required via multiple-choice answers for example, then on-line surveys are more efficient. In my experience, respondents tend to give short concise answers even with open-ended questions and by engaging with them over the phone, you can challenge answers further, thus enabling a higher quality response.

Also as we directly manage the quotas, it’s easier to meet the quota required by the Client, say, 50% Architects, 25% Contractors and 25% Subcontractors. It would be harder to meet such quotas with an online survey, without having to disqualify and potentially disgruntle respondents.”


This is a huge topic area that we will discuss further in the future. It’s a matter of horses for courses. How the information is collected by the researcher, be it desk research, face to face interviews, observation, online or telephone, depends on both the quantity and quality of “data” required. Competitive Advantage offers what we like to think is the optimum combination for the Client.

What is clear throughout Nichola’s “secret confessions”, as you would expect from someone who’s passionate about her work, is the valuable role telephone surveying still brings to the Client. Making that personal contact on behalf of the Client raises their profile. Telephone research means capturing, clarifying and conveying that unexpected or extra nugget of gold; and capitalising on those opportunities to generate and communicate sales leads.

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