Survey methods: Phone survey – CATI

by | Apr 5, 2020 | Research world

A phone survey is a research methodology where an interviewer administers a questionnaire to the respondent during a phone call reading it on a computer. CATI is the acronym of Computer Assisted Telephone Interviewing.

The questionnaire is not just an interview guideline but it automatically leads the questionnaire flow and how these questions have to be formulated. The interviewer cannot edit the questionnaire script nor the single question: his role is that of an intermediary between the respondent and the questionnaire. Also, the interviewer can give explanations when questions are unclear to improve the response rate.

Different types of questions are asked in a sequential order thanks to filters and logic conditions that automatically regulate the questionnaire.

This technique guarantees accuracy in questionnaire administration thanks to the presence of the interviewer that can help data collection.

How does a phone survey work?

The interviewer will just need an internet connection and a phone (a real one or software if you’re working with VoIP). The most advanced software, like IdSurvey, is web-based so they don’t need an installation and they can be accessed with any browsers. Thanks to this option, small research agencies (that don’t own a call center) can let their interviewers work from home, saving money and improving flexibility.

The interviewers reach the respondents calling their phone numbers. The agents just need to follow instructions displayed on the screen to interview the respondents and complete the survey.

Survey responses will be saved directly into the database in real-time. So, there is no risk of data loss or issues while collecting phone interviews.

The software automatically checks answers coherence, set control questions, and stop the progress of the interview if one answer is not recorded correctly.

There are several modes to manage calls for telephone surveys:

  • Outbound: the phone agents directly make the calls
  • Inbound: the respondent calls the call center
  • Predictive dialing: the switchboard makes the calls and forwards just available respondents to the interviewers. This feature is particularly useful for large and medium call centers because it reduces the interviewers’ downtime.


Schedule a demo of IdSurvey CATI module for phone survey and start your activity today.


CATI phone survey: main advantages

The advantages of CATI surveys are the following:

Quality: the interviewer’s presence – that can solve any respondent issue and avoid incorrect answers – and the software itself – developed to prevent errors in the administration of the questionnaire – can both improve data quality;

Time: remarkable time reduction to carry on interviews. There are two main reasons for this: data input and call back management. The data input phase is immediate and answers are directly saved in the interface. The software also automatically manages the recall.

Supervision: you can monitor interview progress, incomplete answers, and much more. The CATI software also provides automatic statistics and reports (also partial). This option saves up a lot of time to market researchers;

Saving: if compared to an old paper interview, we noticed that a telephone survey doesn’t involve huge management costs.

Close contact: the presence of an interviewer guarantees a personal contact with the respondent. And this is crucial, especially when you’re asking questions on a thorny subject.

CATI platforms usually also allow to monitor interviewers timing and efficiency optimizing their productivity and questionnaire quality.

Web survey vs Phone survey

CAWI method proves to be more convenient than CATI because of the lack of costs to cover for the phone agents. Also, you avoid costs in interviewers training, logistical organization, and call traffic.

On the other hand, phone surveys ensure a higher data quality and almost a 100% accuracy.

A CAWI survey can be completely customized. This allows you to carry on an impartial research because there’s no direct contact with the respondent. This aspect could be a deficiency and also a quality, depending on the type of survey you need to complete.

To benefit from the advantages of both techniques you could opt for mixed-mode. For example, you get in touch with the respondent by phone first to explain the purpose of the research. Later on, you send an email to him/her with a link to the actual questionnaire.

Not all software can manage mixed mode: IdSurvey can manage and administer mixed CATI, CAWI, and CAPI surveys easily, intuitively, and professionally. Discover more on survey distribution.

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