Many businesses and organizations use mail surveys to gauge customer satisfaction or member satisfaction. Mail surveys are especially helpful due to their comparatively low data collection costs and ease of administration.
Specifically, the costs for mail surveys tend to be lower than those for telephone surveys, and mail surveys are a good strategy for obtaining feedback from respondents who are dissatisfied with a service or who have strong concerns.
Market Street Research has conducted mail surveys for many types of businesses and organizations, such as chambers of commerce, retail and manufacturing companies, banks, hospitals and educational institutions.
What are Mail Surveys?
Mail surveys are a quantitative marketing research data collection method in which respondent’s complete questionnaires on paper and return them via the mail. Market Street Research handles all aspects of mail surveys, including questionnaire design, data collection, and analysis of results. We work closely with clients to identify critical information needs and design mail surveys that will best inform business or organizational decisions.
Market Street Research brings decades of expertise to bear on the preparation of the highest quality research instruments. Questionnaires for mail surveys are typically short, simple, and contain predominantly closed-ended questions (questions that do not require a verbatim response). Our clients give final approval on materials, and Market Street Research always develops questionnaires on a custom basis for each project.
Market Street Research maintains relationships with a national network of data collection firms, and our staff has considerable experience in managing mail surveys in-house. We handle all aspects of the mail survey marketing research methodology, including duplication and mailing of the questionnaires to respondents; sending reminders to people who have not responded after a reasonable amount of time, such as two or three weeks; and entering completed questionnaires into data storage. Market Street Research follows data collection with a thorough analysis and presentation of the results.
Pros and Cons of Mail Surveys
Some marketing research companies specialize in a particular marketing research methodology, and tend to recommend that method for any or all situations. Market Street Research picks marketing research methods depending on the information needed by our clients or the decisions our clients are making. Mail surveys are an appropriate methodology for businesses and organizations to identify:
- Customer satisfaction or member satisfaction
- Improvements and changes customers would like to see
- Customer reaction to an organization’s future plans
- Time-sensitive issues, such as customer complaints or problems
The costs for mail surveys tend to be lower than those for telephone surveys, and mail surveys are a good strategy for obtaining feedback from people who are dissatisfied with a service or have strong concerns. The main disadvantages of mail surveys are:
The possibility of bias due to response rates, which are typically very low for mail surveys. Problems reaching people who lack proficiency in English (the costs for translating into languages other than English, and for data entry and analysis of these responses, can be significant)
Lower quality of information collected, since people tend to avoid open-ended questions are do not always follow directions or write legibly
Response rates are a shortcoming with mail surveys, and there is no way to guarantee that people will respond to a mail survey. While this is also an issue for telephone surveys, response rates for telephone surveys tend to be higher. Low response rates mean results may not fully reflect the characteristics of the population being studied. Market Street works to minimize these concerns by designing high-quality questionnaires; ensuring mailing lists are accurate and complete; and sending people reminders or making follow-up telephone calls to encourage them to return their questionnaire if they have not already done so. Finally, there are groups for whom mail surveys are either inappropriate or ineffective. These groups include:
Very young children (although Market Street has surveyed kindergarten and elementary school children with considerable success using a self-administered format-these children require a great deal of support in order to participate in such surveys, however, and the forms must be carefully designed with literacy in mind. Children’s spelling and handwriting is often unpredictable, so these surveys also require extra time for data entry and analysis)
- People with illnesses or disabilities that preclude reading or responding in writing
- People who do not speak or understand the language(s) in which the questions are written, or who cannot write in that language
- People who are marginally literate or illiterate
- Professionals without individual mailboxes (such as staff in some large corporations and hospitals)
- Homeless adolescents and adults
- People in institutional settings, such as hospitals or jails
- Cultural groups that consider mail surveys to be inappropriate (such as some American Indian tribes and members of certain technical professions)
Market Street Research has been conducting mail surveys for over 35 years for a wide array of organizations, including chambers of commerce, retail and manufacturing companies, hospitals, banks, and educational institutions.