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So far Damon Young has created 9 blog entries.

The Definitive Survey Design Checklist

 

In our previous blog, we outlined the basic principles of questionnaire design for writing great, effective survey questions. Of course, your overall survey design will include more than just the questions. You will also need to include a survey title, provide instructions and add a thank-you closing statement, as well as review and test the effectiveness of each element before launch. If only there were a simple survey design checklist to follow to ensure you didn’t miss anything.

Well, you’re in luck. We’ve created a handy checklist of all the essential elements to include in your survey, including style and content considerations. We present to you … the Definitive Survey Design Checklist:

Objectives

____ Your survey objectives have been documented

____ You are clear on how you plan to use the data

Survey Design

Introduction

____ Your survey has a clear title

____ You explain the purpose and importance of your survey

____ An estimate of survey duration and length of questionnaire is included

____ You included a confidentiality guarantee or ask permission to share their responses and identify with whom

____ You provided brief company background information

____ You referred to your survey incentive (if any) and provided information about it

Questions

____ The survey begins with a simple question

____ The questions go from general to specific

____ Sensitive questions appear toward the end of the survey

____ Sensitive questions include a “prefer not to answer option”

____ Demographic data appears at the end of the survey

____ Questions are organized by topic

____ All questions relate to your objectives

____ All questions are simple and concise

____ Jargon, acronyms and technical terms have been avoided

____ Response options include all possibilities, using “other” or “none” as necessary

____ The majority of questions are closed-ended for easier data analysis

____ Directions on how to answer are placed before each question

____ Rating scale questions include the rating scale before the question

____ Rating scale questions include a midpoint answer and an equal balance of positive and negative choices

____ Response options are placed vertically when possible, except for tabulated questions

____ Multiple choice questions display the most positive answer first

____ Open-ended questions are voluntary

Closing

____ You thanked your respondents

____ You offered them the possibility to receive the results (if possible)

____ You provided details on receiving the incentive

Final Review

____ You have sent the survey to colleagues or friends to validate wording and timing

____ You have pre-tested the survey by sending to a small group of respondents in the target population

____ The survey takes less than 10 minutes to complete

____ You have made appropriate revisions to address any issues uncovered

By following this guide, you will be well on your way to survey research success. For more information on survey design or any aspect of survey mail management, contact us today!

 

 

 

By |2019-03-20T10:48:48+00:00December 20th, 2018|Survey Research Services|0 Comments

How to Write Great Survey Questions

When starting a survey project, most people look forward to the fun, creative part of writing the questions. However, it doesn’t take long to realize that writing great survey questions is not as easy as it looks. Questionnaire design is more science than art – requiring critical attention be paid to question and answer order, structure and phrasing to ensure you get the reliable, quality feedback you are looking for.

A simple question, such as “How much did you enjoy the program?” could wreak havoc in your results, because it is inherently biased towards a positive response. “How did you feel about the program?” would be a more effective approach. Other pitfalls include asking multi-part questions, having overlapping answer choices, or asking the more difficult questions too early.

But have no fear. Outlined below are the basic principles of questionnaire design, along with some helpful tips, that will have you writing great, effective survey questions in no time:

Before You can Start Writing Great Survey Questions 

    • Know your objectives. Write down the purpose of your survey scanning, what information you need, and how you plan to use the data.
  • Work backwards. Make a list of the specific answers you need first, and then use that to drive your questionnaire.

Basic Guidelines for Writing Great Survey Questions

    • Keep questions focused. Make sure each question is designed for specific feedback. Avoid double-barrel questions like “How do you feel about our products and services?” as some respondents will focus on products and others on services. Instead, separate them into two questions.
    • Put easier questions first. This will increase participation and establish trust. By getting comfortable with the survey research by answering a few less complex questions first, your participants will be more likely to answer the more complex or sensitive questions later.
    • Organize by topic. Similar questions should be grouped together so the questionnaire flows naturally.
    • Keep it short and simple. Questions should be short, focused, and easy to answer. This will ensure a higher response rate and limit survey fatigue.
    • Be consistent. Use uniform rating scales, word choices and definitions throughout your survey. If you start with 1=low and 5=high, stick with that format.
    • Be precise. Avoid generic answer choices like “sometimes” and “rarely”. Use actual numbers instead (e.g, “more than 3 times per week”).
    • Be balanced. Provide an equal number of positive and negative response options.
    • Be complete. Include all possible answers, and make sure there is no overlap between answer options.
  • Eliminate bias. Try to construct the questions as objectively as possible. Avoid leading questions like, “Can you see why this product was voted best in customer satisfaction?” Instead, ask how they would describe their satisfaction level.

Common Question Types

Survey questions fall into two categories: Structured (fixed response) where they choose from a provided list of answer options and Non-structured (open-ended) where they can fill in their own text or numeric answer. Both are extremely useful, depending on the type of feedback you need.

Following are the most commonly used question types:

Multiple Choice

These are questions with two or more answer options. These are useful for collecting structured responses.

Single Response Style (select one answer)

Example 1: Do you smoke?     Y / N

Example 2:  If yes, how many cigarettes do you smoke per day?

use multiple choice to write great survey questions   

A common pitfall here is missing a possible response. Depending on your question, you may need to add a choice called “none”, or if you would like additional details, you could try an “other” option with space for a written response. You also want to make sure there is no overlap, such as using 10-20, 20-30, etc. in the previous example, which would clearly taint the results.  

Multiple Response Style (you may select more than one answer)

Example 1:  What is your race? (check all that apply)

use multiple response style to write great survey questions

Rating Scales

Rating scales ask respondents to rate how much they agree with a certain statement using a common scale (e.g, 1 to 5, where 1=low and 5=high). These are useful for gauging their opinions, attitudes and behaviors. When using rating scales, it is important to make sure you have a neutral option and a balanced, equal number of positive and negative responses. Scales most commonly use 5 or 7 options.

Example 1: The teacher was knowledgeable.

Example 2:  How would you describe your experience navigating the instruction manual.

use rating scale to write great survey questions (sample 2)

Common pitfalls here include being inconsistent with your scales (leading some respondents to answer incorrectly) and asking leading questions, such as, “We pride ourselves on our easy-to-use manuals. How easy was our manual to read?”

Ranking Scales

These ask respondents to rank a list of items in order (e.g, from favorite to least favorite, or most important to least important). It is recommended that you use these with caution. They are known to be reliable at determining first and last place, but not so much the fuzzy middle, as respondents often have to choose a pecking order for items that are essentially of equal value to them.

Example 1: Please rank the following customer service features in order of most to least important when contacting our agency by phone (1=most important, 5=least important)

use ranking scale to write great survey questions

Open-Ended Questions

These are questions with no provided answers options. Respondents answer by writing in their own text. These are great for eliciting responses about attitudes and opinions in a respondent’s own words, or having them provide a numeric answer without a suggested range. The downside is it requires extra time, can cause survey abandonment, and makes data collection and analysis more challenging.

Example: Name two ways we could have improved your customer experience today?

Questionnaire integrity is critical for getting quality data. By following these tips and guidelines, you will be well on your way to success. 

For more information on question and survey design or any aspect of survey mail management, contact us today!

By |2019-03-20T10:51:08+00:00December 6th, 2018|Survey Research Services|0 Comments

When to Do a Multimodal Survey?

Multimodal or mixed-mode surveys are research surveys that use two or more forms of communication to reach respondents (e.g, telephone and email). In today’s increasingly complex, interconnected world, we now have ways of communicating that didn’t exist even a few years ago. The list of channels seems almost endless nowadays, including regular and express mail, email, online, social media, mobile (text, instant message), scannable paper, telephone, kiosk, tablet, in-person, video, and more.   

So how do you know which channel or combination of channels is right for your survey project? The answer lies in the target audience you are trying to reach (as well as time and cost considerations). For example, older respondents are typically less trusting of online channels and can be reached more reliably by landline telephone and regular mail. Millennials may not even have a landline and would be more receptive to an email or a text message. Teens are generally receptive to mobile and social media. One constant to be mindful of, however, is that everyone has a physical address where they live – making mail a preferred channel in almost any multimodal research effort.

Not only do various target populations have preferred forms of communication, but there are also subsets within them that prefer something else entirely. Mobile phone call vs. text message among Generation X’ers is a prime example, in which someone’s preference is highly personal.

You should do a multimodal survey if you have a target population with varied respondents or hard-to-reach respondents.

Not only can a mixed methodology approach to data collection help you reach more respondents, but it can also help you maximize response rate. That’s because multiple channels give you more opportunities for follow ups, reminders, and options to complete the survey in a format that suits them.

As a leading provider of mail and multimodal surveys, we manage mixed methodology research every day, including planning, production, distribution, fulfillment and data collection. That said, our most popular service by far is Mail to Online. In this strategy, respondents are notified by regular mail and given instructions to complete the survey online. Respondents then have the option to print out or request a paper survey and complete a hard copy or complete the online survey.

Multimodal survey planning and execution requires a high level of expertise to run seamlessly. Your survey provider can help you manage all the details, including which channels to use, along with the projected cost and timeline.

For more information on multimodal surveys or any aspect of survey management, contact us today!

By |2019-03-20T10:54:13+00:00November 21st, 2018|Survey Mailing Services, Survey Research Services|0 Comments

This Mail Survey Spec Sheet Is Everything

Mail surveys are among the most effective tools in the research industry, besting online, email and phone survey methods in both response rate and data integrity. As with all survey research, however, survey success begins with careful planning, including brainstorming your goals, creating questions, choosing participants, determining your budget, and perhaps most tedious, choosing materials and pricing out costs with your vendors. But have no fear. We have you covered with these handy Survey Mail Spec Sheet and Timeline Templates that make your life easy and get you the honest, apples-to-apples quotes you need to keep your costs in check.

Vendors typically require a spec sheet in order to provide you with an accurate quote. The important thing here is to provide each vendor with the same spec sheet, so you can get an accurate read on their pricing.

Spec Sheet

Your spec sheet should document the list size, number of mailings, type and quantity of materials that will be needed, budget and requirements for each mailing. The good news is we’ve done the heavy lifting for you. This spreadsheet will help organize and calculate the materials across your mailings. Download the spec sheet.

Once your project specification sheet is completed, you’ll want to have your stakeholders, if applicable, review to make sure that everything has been captured. Now you can piece out the specification sheet and send to your different vendors for pricing and don’t forget to ask them for their timeline, which we’ll discuss next.

Timeline

Timeline is driven by the requirements of your project. For example, mailing 500 pieces vs. 50,000 pieces could have a significant impact to your schedule. Alternatively, the complexity of your mailing can also have a significant impact to your timeline. Mailing 10,000 units that have 5 pieces being inserted with a 4 way match, could take just as long to prep 50,000 pieces with 1 component and no matching. A best practice is to provide each vendor with a detailed timeline in advance so they know what your expectations are. We have filled in some ‘standard’ timelines for the different tasks but you can easily update with your requirements. Just populate your tasks and the number of working days required for each task and the spreadsheet will update accordingly. Download the timeline template.

With careful planning, you can account for all the variables in your mail survey, leaving little room for miscommunication and most importantly, get the accurate quotes you need to move forward with confidence.

If you’d like more information on mail survey planning or any aspect of survey management, contact us today!

By |2019-03-20T10:55:24+00:00November 8th, 2018|Survey Mailing Services|0 Comments

Creating a Data Schema

At long last, you’ve made it to the data collection stage of your survey project. It’s time to warm up the automated data collection equipment, make sure everything is programmed correctly and prepare for the results to come in.

As with each stage of survey administration, there is some prep work needed to ensure accurate outcomes. In the case of automated data collection, it all begins with the Data Schema.   

A Data Schema is a blueprint of what all the numbers mean in the data file you will get with your results (see chart below). The good news is that you get to design this to your liking.

You will assign a value to each response (i.e, “1 = Daily”; “2 = Several times a week,” etc). We recommend you Include values for “blank” and “multi marks,” as shown in the chart below as -9 and -8, respectively. You will also want to include ranges where applicable. For example, if you are surveying teenagers and asking the year they were born, you can put a range on the year that you are expecting. If a date comes up out of range, the automation will stop for an operator to confirm the entry and ensure there was not a substitution error.

As part of your data schema, we highly recommend you include a data dictionary (see 3rd column in chart below). This identifies all the expected values for that question.

Data Schema

The data dictionary column allows you to easily build a query to check for values that are out of range.

Sample Data Testing

After your survey is programmed, the testing begins. Programmatic testing against the data schema ensures that your multi-modal data collection will run seamlessly and that the resulting data is delivered in a format you can use. Your data collection partner will specifically test for:

    • Coding – Did it code correctly?
    • Exporting – Did it export correctly?
  • Formatting – Can the customer work with the data as supplied or do they need something changed or adjusted

We start with a test that accounts for all possible survey responses. (The total number of surveys filled out is equal to the maximum number of response choices on the survey, plus 2). To test this, we fill out one survey with all the first response choices marked. Then we fill out a second survey with all the second response choices, etc.  We follow this up with a test to account for multiple marks entered on single response items, another with test text entered for comment style questions, and finally, one for “mark all that apply” questions. By testing for all possible response types, we ensure that all questions are programmed correctly.

The next test involves data sampling (i.e, using a small subset of your respondent population to collect data). We do a mixed response test with live forms filled out by a respondent subset to ensure nothing unexpected occurs in the way respondents are filling out the forms. For example, we might see that many people are selecting multiple responses to a single response question. This gives us the opportunity to alter the programming to capture all responses.

The Data Schema is an essential part of data collection programming, testing and processing. By creating an impeccable blueprint and investing the time to properly test samples, you will ensure the integrity of your results and safeguard against the pain of data loss!

For more information on data schemas, data collection or any aspect of survey mail management, contact us today!

By |2019-03-20T10:56:38+00:00October 9th, 2018|Data Capture Services|0 Comments

Automated Data Collection: Which Approach is Best?

Long gone are the days when mail survey responses were collected manually and key entered into digital format. Today, the question isn’t whether you should automate, but rather which automated data collection approach you should be using.

The most commonly used data capture technologies in the survey industry today are OMR (optical mark recognition) and Image Scanning, each with inherent advantages and disadvantages. While both provide exceptional accuracy and cost efficiency, OMR is significantly faster while Image Scanning offers more flexibility.

Choosing a data collection technology for your project is something you will need to do early in the planning process before your survey forms are designed. Your survey research partner can help you determine which solution will work best for your unique project.

Following are detailed descriptions of these industry-best quantitative data collection technologies:

OMR Technology

OMR technology detects the absence or presence of a mark. It is the fastest data collection technology in the industry and is particularly adept at measuring the darkness of a mark to help determine whether the mark is a valid response or an erasure. OMR is commonly used in standardized school testing such as the fill in the bubble test forms.

OMR forms are very specialized documents that require critical registration. This means that the forms must include precise “timing marks” along the edge of the form to let the OMR scanner know where to look for data. If this is not done correctly, data collection will be adversely affected. Therefore, you must work with a printer who has experience with OMR forms.

Color is also extremely important with OMR documents. Only colors that contain no black as part of their PMS color can be used. If a pen will be allowed, only various shades of red can be used, which further limits color choices. In addition, the paper stock requires the proper reflectance and fluorescence so that it will not read false marks during the data collection process.

As the forms are being scanned, the data is immediately written to the data file. OMR scanning has an accuracy rating of 99.9%, but only when the forms are filled out correctly. Respondents need to use the correct writing instrument and fill the bubbles completely to achieve this type of accuracy rating.

A drawback to OMR technology is that it requires you to produce pre-printed documents, which some clients have found to be inflexible, costly (especially with small quantities) and incapable of meeting design change requirements on short notice.

Image Scanning Technology

Image scanning uses ‘mark sense technology’ to detect marks on a form. While it looks a lot like OMR (collecting data from multiple choice questions), mark sense technology is very different. Rather than look for marks on a form, the scanner takes a bi-tonal (black and white) image of each form field and looks for differences in pixels between the scanned image and a template, revealing the marks in the process.

  • Time

Image scanning does take longer to process. This is because images are taken of each page, then processed against a pre-programmed template, called a document definition. Any fields that fall outside the tolerance are routed to a human verifier who reviews the field on screen and makes the appropriate choice based on the rules that have been established. Only after this step will the data be written to the data file. Testing has shown that image scan processing can take up to 40% longer than OMR depending on the rules established.

  • Flexibility

However, image scanning is much more flexible than OMR. The biggest advantage is during printing, as image scanning does not require special ink colors or the critical registration that OMR must have. Forms can be printed in black and white, and images can be stored and indexed off of any field that is collected during the scanning process.  

Forms can also include fields for open-ended comments (i.e, handwriting) that will be captured using a combination of ICR (Intelligent Character Recognition) software and operator review. Rules can also be established that force a field to be reviewed by an operator for editing. For example, all blank responses should be inspected. This is a popular rule for tests administered to young students who may have circled the choice vs marking the bubble. Other popular rules that are established for human editing include double marks, light marks that do not meet the minimum threshold, missing responses, invalid ID’s, out-of-range marks, and more.

Although the processing takes longer, we have found Image Scanning data to be more accurate than that of OMR because of the operator intervention with the form. While using an operator will certainly increase the cost of collecting data, the flexibility and increased accuracy may be worth it for your project!

 Automated Data Collection - Quick Reference Chart

Summary

OMR and Image Scanning are the best-automated data collection technologies in the industry today. Because of its inherent flexibility, Image Scanning is the more commonly used option. But for those that can adhere to OMR’s strict requirements, there is no faster or more accurate fully-automated way to collect data for multiple choice only questions.

When you do decide what automated data collection approach your project will need, one of the first things you need to prep for is a blueprint of what all the numbers mean in the data file you will get with your results. This is called a Data Schema. Check out our blog post on Creating a Data Schema

For more information on automated data collection, data capture services, or any aspect of mail survey management, contact us today!

By |2019-05-24T19:57:48+00:00September 13th, 2018|Data Capture Services|0 Comments

3 Survey Incentives to Explode Your Response Rate

So, your compelling survey is ready. Your questions are set, the forms are designed, and your mailing list is finalized. Then suddenly, it hits you. What if you don’t get enough responses?

Enter “Survey Incentives.”

While mail surveys are proven to deliver the highest response rates in the industry[1]* (save for in-person surveys), the use of incentives has been shown to significantly increase response rates across the board – including those by mail, email, online, telephone, in-app, in-person and multi-modal. In fact, the vast majority of surveys today use them. But which ones work best?

You should consider several factors when choosing your incentive offer, including budget, target audience, and timeliness, as well as ease of fulfillment. That said, survey incentives can be grouped into categories that perform similarly.

Following are the 3 survey incentive types you can use with confidence because they are proven to work, helping mail surveyors reach target response rates of up to 40% or more+:

1: Money for Survey Incentives

Survey Incentives - Money

This should come as little surprise. Who doesn’t like money? Monetary incentives include cash, checks, PayPal credits, money orders, gift cards, coupons, and more. The question is… how much do you offer? Well, there are 2 ways to go about this.

  • a) Pre-incentive Also known as a token incentive, these are sent inside the survey whether the respondent completes it or not. Offering cash up front is an effective strategy for many. As little as a $1 bill inside the survey packet has been shown to significantly increase response, as many respondents feel compelled to give back once they have pocketed the money. According to Don Dillman, Regents Professor in the Department of Sociology at Washington State University and Deputy Director for Research and Development in the Social and Economic Sciences Research Center (SESRC), “Previous studies have consistently shown that token incentives of a few dollars included with the request for survey participation increases the likelihood that subjects will respond.”[2]And this does not vary statistically by payment method (i.e. cash vs. check). The important consideration here is how each will impact your budget? While it may cost more to print & issue the checks, studies have shown that close to half of the respondents will never cash them! If budget is a concern, the size of your incentive may validate going this route to try and bring the cost down.
  • b) Promised offer This is an offer a respondent will receive after completing the survey. This method is also effective, but naturally, the monetary incentive must be higher since they will have to wait for it. According to Dillman, token incentives have historically yielded higher response rates than promised offers, but research is ongoing. Rewards Cards, in particular, have been shown to increase response rates dramatically, and have become the new standard in promised offers. They do, however, present unique concerns, such as cards expiring and determining who keeps the money from unused balances. DataForce research has shown that promised incentives valued at approximately $10-50 per respondent are most effective, with $20 and $25 denominations most common. Important considerations when choosing a monetary value for promised offers include the length of the survey, the target audience demographics, and your relationship with the participant. No relationship will require a larger incentive than people who know you or your brand. Another strategy with promised offers, if your budget can afford it, would be to combine this approach with the token incentive approach, to encourage even more responses!

To learn more about Reward Cards, read our post on The Truth Behind Gift Card Incentive Offers. 

2: Promotional Item for Survey Incentives

Product and service samples are also a big hit with respondents. In order for them to work, however, you must know your audience. Offer something that speaks to them that you know they will enjoy.  A sample directly related to the survey is ideal, but anything of value to your audience can be effective. For example, If your selected respondents by and large support environmental causes, you might offer them a sample of a new eco-friendly product or service. Your goal is to find the sample product or service that best speaks to your target and stays within budget.

3: Charitable Donations for Survey Incentives

Charitable donations appeal to all socioeconomic groups, as we all have local and global causes we care about. However, this category in particular, requires that you know your audience. The stronger the emotional connection to the cause, the better your response rate will be and the more likely respondents will see you in a favorable light. Charitable donations also qualify for tax deductions, so you may choose to offer a higher value incentive.

Perhaps just as important are the incentive types we left off this list, particularly drawings.

About Drawings

A drawing (or raffle/sweepstakes) incentive gives your respondents a random chance to win a valuable prize, as opposed to a contest based on merit. They simply complete the survey and are automatically entered to win something. Since you won’t be giving away the big prize(s) to everyone, you are able to offer the bigger-ticket item(s) that could really appeal to them. However, there is one major drawback that keeps it off our recommended list – strict legal requirements.

If you want to do a drawing, make sure that you review with your legal counsel in order to determine whether it adheres to federal and state guidelines. The two most essential requirements are:

  • Providing a means for anyone who is contacted to participate in the drawing even if they decide not to complete the survey. This cannot be done online because that would discriminate against people without internet.
  • Provide a written copy of the rules, including terms and conditions, eligibility, start and end dates, and other details specific to state laws in every state where respondents live (and in every country if any live abroad).

Other incentives worth considering are industry white papers, branded giveaways, and a promise to share the survey results with them, depending on your target audience. These can also generate a significant bump in response rates, but not as dependable as our top 3.

While some have raised concern over potential demographic bias when using incentives, research has proven otherwise. Countless studies have determined that incentive offers have no adverse effect on the sampling of results. Rather, they have been shown to increase response rates evenly across respondent subgroups and improve data quality. The question is not whether to use them, but rather which ones will resonate most with your audience.

If you’d like more information on incentives, survey research, incentive fulfillment services or survey mailing services in general, contact us today!

Why Mail Surveys Are Thriving in the Digital Age

Mail surveys are one of many quantitative research data collection methods that helps answer the “why” and “how” of human thoughts and behavior. It is an integral part of political & social science, social work, and education research.

Believe it or not, mail surveys are still among the most effective survey methods in the research industry, yielding higher response rates, more accurate data, and greater cost-effectiveness than online, email, phone, and in-app methods. According to April 2018 aggregate data by Pew Research and industry analysts, survey method response rates perform as follows:

Mail Surveys

High mail survey participation is attributed to several factors, including :

    • Trust – Respondents typically trust letters addressed to them over online methods, which can be perceived as spam. They also tend to have greater trust in actually receiving their gift incentive, as there is much online gamesmanship involving gift incentives that come with strings attached.
    • Deliverability – Physical addresses are more reliable than email addresses, which can change frequently with no forwarding address.
    • Noticeability –  Physical mail arrives in a less cluttered environment than email or online communities..
    • Convenience – Respondents can fill out the survey in their own time, with the actual hard copy serving as a reminder to complete it.

Data Integrity

Inaccuracies and respondent bias are the greatest barriers to achieving quality data. Of course, survey science aims to minimize these risks. Mail survey methodology is widely regarded as the gold standard in data accuracy – and this still holds true in the digital age. Phone surveys, once the darling of the industry, have been impacted by ‘sample selection’ bias due to the decline of landlines. Email and online surveys are typically affected by ‘social desirability’ bias, in which respondents give the answer that best aligns with their carefully-honed image. In-person survey research can have a similar effect, in which respondents do not answer as honestly as they would in a private setting. Of course, there are many factors to weigh in when choosing a survey method, including time, cost, and availability of respondent information, making each method or combination of methods worthy of consideration.

Cost-Effectiveness

The cost of a medium-scale survey (i.e, 5,000 to 50,000 respondents) in 2018 is approximately $5,000.* Comparable phone and in-person surveys cost about 50% to 150% more, respectively. Email and online surveys are least expensive, starting at $20 to $500 per month, although custom programming can raise these numbers considerably. Factoring in data quality, however, survey mailing services are often the most cost-effective.

You should do a mail survey if:

    • You want high-quality data.
    • You have a complete list of names and addresses of the population to be surveyed or plan to purchase a sample.
    • Your audience has an interest in the content of your survey.
    • You’re not in a hurry to get results.

While digital surveys certainly have a bright future in the research industry, they have a long way to go before they can account for survey bias, data integrity, and cost-effectiveness. They may be most useful, at this point, as part of a multi-modal effort (i.e. a survey with both print and digital elements).

If you’d like more information on survey scanningsurvey science or mail surveys in general, contact us today.

By |2019-08-06T01:40:45+00:00July 26th, 2018|Survey Mailing Services|0 Comments

The Truth Behind Gift Card Incentive Offers

As a leading provider of survey mailing services, we see just about every kind of incentive offer out there. These days, it seems everyone is on the Gift Card bandwagon. And for good reason. They work! But all Gift Cards are not the same. In fact, you may be surprised to learn that most of the gift cards you’ll find are not gift cards at all.

A gift card, by definition, is a prepaid stored-value money card issued by a retailer or bank, redeemable only for purchases within particular stores or businesses that take the branded card and cannot be cashed out. They typically never expire.

Interestingly enough, most survey research services do not use them. Instead, you are more likely to see Closed Loop Gift Cards or Prepaid Rewards Cards. Rewards Cards do expire. And here’s the twist. Somebody pockets the unused balance. After reading this blog, it may be you.

Here are the main differences between the 3 most common types of Incentive Gift Cards.

Gift Card

Closed Loop Gift Card

Closed loop is a payments industry term for a gift or credit card that can only be used in a single store or group of stores (e.g, Amazon, Starbucks, Darden Restaurants). Closed loop cards rarely have purchase or dormancy fees, which is a big plus. Some vendors allow co-branding for an additional fee and/or no cost for high volume orders. These types of cards are useful when your survey population is similar.

Prepaid Rewards Card

These cards look and act just like a Visa or Mastercard credit card. The difference is they will expire anywhere between 90 days to 12 months after activation. The longer they are active, the bigger the processing fee. The processing fees are less than Gift cards because the vendor will keep the unused funds after the card’s expiration. But take note. Some vendors will split the unused funds with you after the cards expire on high value/volume programs. If you are buying these cards in bulk, make sure you ask about this. Prepaid Rewards Cards are attractive to respondents because they can be used anywhere. They are useful when your survey population is varied and you need a one-size fits all approach. Just make sure to communicate the card and expiration rules to your respondents. Most importantly, do not refer to it as a gift card, as you will then be subject to the laws that govern them. Instead, refer to them as Prepaid or Rewards Cards.

Gift Card

Alas, the actual, straight-up Gift Card. These also look and act just like a Visa or Mastercard Credit card. And while they typically show an expiration date of 12 to 60 months (required for online purchases), they will be replaced at no cost with a new expiration and the balance left intact. Gift cards do have a higher activation fee, which is how banks make their money for producing the card and maintaining the account until the funds are used. But they hold an advantage over the other formats, as they can be used anywhere and typically don’t expire.

Here is a list of common fees for Gift Cards.:

Fee Type Amount Charged
Activation Fee $5.95 per card
Inactivity Fee* $5 per month
Lost/Stolen Card Reissue Fee $10 per occurrence
Standard Delivery $25 per order
Express Delivery $35 per order


*Assessed each month after 12 consecutive months of inactivity, after the Card Activation Date or anytime thereafter.

Unlike other mail survey companies, DataForce has a relationship with the banks, so we are able to provide regular Gift Cards in bulk that don’t expire, as well as Closed Loop and Prepaid Rewards Cards. Learn more>

Final Thoughts

    • All 3 types of Incentive Gift Cards are useful. The one you choose will largely depend on your target audience and your budget.
    • If you plan to use Rewards Gift Cards, make sure to ask for the opportunity to split the funds from unused balances.
    • Do not refer to Rewards Cards as Gift Cards or you will be subject to the laws that govern them.

If you’d like more information on gift card incentives, incentive fulfillment or mail surveys in general, contact us today.