Why Do We Need Multimodal Surveys

Today we communicate through a variety of channels, some of which didn’t even exist a few years ago. We don’t talk on the phone like we used to—we text. We don’t call customer service to complain—we tweet.

The only way to reach everyone today is through a variety of channels. Surveys limited to phone or mail can’t reach people everywhere they’re communicating today. We need multimodal surveys because we’re multimodal.

We all use our cell phones as much as ever, but the number of times we actually talk on the phone is low compared to the numbers for other stuff we do on there, including texting, surfing the web, posting to social media and gaming.

According to Pew Research, cell phone owners “make or receive an average of 12 calls on their cells per day” while they “send or receive an average of 41.5 [text] messages on a typical day.”

As a matter of fact, texting rules the mobile phone communication arena. People text more than any other form of communication on mobile devices.

“Some 83% of American adults own cell phones, and three-quarters of them (73%) send and receive text messages,” reports Pew. “[We] asked those texters in a survey how they prefer to be contacted on their cell phone, and 31% said they preferred texts to talking on the phone, while 53% said they preferred a voice call to a text message. Another 14% said the contact method they prefer depends on the situation.”

While over half of those surveyed still prefer a phone call, a solid third said they prefer a text—basically warning researchers not to send them surveys via phone calls.

Texts are easier and faster than phone calls. They only take a few seconds. There’s no chitchat or social conventions to follow—we can simply respond, as curt as we want because it’s a text and economy of words is good. We can even respond to texts while we’re doing something else like watching TV or riding in a car (not driving).

But it’s not just texts even. The internet is a huge part of communications these days. Social media, in fact, is emerging as a major force for communication between customers and companies.

Many, many companies are setting aside or creating resources to engage on social media. And social media actually provides a pretty good “in” for researchers because people are more likely to take a survey forwarded from a friend or a business they follow than from a stranger.

The point is, we’re all multimodal so our surveys need to be multimodal as well. We can’t ignore the telephone, which is still the leading channel for reaching people with surveys (especially through automated voice systems). But we also have to include the other channels. If we don’t, we’re not giving ourselves a chance to reach everyone.

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