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What is CATI Survey: Advantages, Disadvantages, Working & More

Apr 21, 2022

6 mins read

Manisha khandelwal

Have you recently bought a car?

After buying a car or any other product, you must have received a phone call asking for your feedback on the purchase.

On the call, an interviewer will talk about your buying experience, product experience, or service experience.

This phone call is called CATI – Computer-Assisted Telephonic Interview.

Let’s understand this.

So, what is CATI?

CATI or computer-assisted telephonic interview is a traditional research method where interviewers ask some questions from the respondents over the phone call. Basically, the interviewer reads a set questionnaire from the computer, gathers respondents’ answers, and punches it into the system (or sometimes the software automatically records it). CATI is similar to paper surveys, except everything is done online. 

But, why CATI or say – telephone surveys?

CATI basically is a better alternative to the traditional pen and paper data collection process. It creates more of a casual relationship with the respondents as they directly share their feedback with the surveying organization. And unlike paper surveys, the interviewers only have to focus on gathering the feedback instead of bothering about the complex work of managing that feedback. This helps them create a better relationship with the respondents and improves the data quality.

The survey organization could be a brand or a third-party agency. 

Then, how does CATI work?

All the interviewers need is a phone and an internet connection. The contact info of the respondents is automatically displayed to them in the CATI interface. All they have to do is follow the script (which includes the introduction of the survey, the questionnaire, and the conclusion) shared on the screen and punch in the respondents’ feedback. Or many CATI software automatically records the responses. 

An ideal CATI software helps you set and manage respondents’ call records with no data loss, quota, or delays, helps you schedule appointments, and manages the database as per the administrator’s settings. It also helps you check the answers’ coherence, lets you set control questions, adds logic to the questionnaire, and pauses the interview if the answers are not being recorded properly. 

Here’s an example of how CATI software survey flow works.

cati software survey flow

Now that we’ve defined what CATI or telephone surveys are, let’s understand their pros and cons.

Advantages and Disadvantages of CATI

CATI survey method comes with a few good advantages. Let’s take a look at them:

Advantages of CATI

  1. Cost-Effective: As compared to face-to-face surveys, CATI surveys are cost-effective as everything can be done remotely.
  2. Higher Response Rates: Not everyone can reach out to meet you. So, compared to face-to-face surveys, CATI surveys deliver a much higher response rate. 
  3. Demographics: As everything is online, you don’t need to be physically present with the respondents. During emergencies or conflict areas, CATI serves as the better option.
  4. Immediate response: Unlike emails, you can gather immediate responses from the respondents.
  5. Personalization: Since you are directly talking to the respondents, you can add a personal touch to your calls, creating a relationship with them. However, this is not applicable if a third party is taking your CATI surveys. 
  6. Eliminates manual errors: When you use a good CATI software, it automatically captures all the respondents’ feedback eliminating all the processing errors, manual mistakes, and redundancies and improving uploading time.
  7. Qualitative feedback: CATI or telephone surveys are best used for qualitative interviews where you need to have a conversation with the respondent to understand their feedback and explain your questions properly.

While there are many advantages to CATI, it comes with its drawbacks. Here are some of the few.

Disadvantages of CATI

  1. Interviewer training: Interviewers don’t know about your business and neither do they care, especially third parties. Questions have different meanings if not asked properly. That’s why, for every research, you need to train the field agents or interviewers on how to ask those questions. 
  2. Low Data Quality: When respondents get confused about a question, they ask interviewers about it. When the interviewers don’t know how to respond, respondents get frustrated and do not answer properly leading to low data quality.
  3. Less honest answers: Respondents are much more polite over the call as compared to the online surveys. That’s why they give much higher ratings than they actually want to.
  4. No one has the time for long questionnaires: Sometimes your surveys are more than 15 questions long, do you believe the respondent has time to answer those questions? They don’t, they simply disconnect the call.
  5. Low response rate: You have to understand that telephone surveys interrupt you while you work. And especially if they take too much time you simply don’t respond. That’s why they have low response rates.
  6. No concept or ad testing: There are many companies trying it over CATI, but it really is not advisable to explain a concept to a respondent over the phone.
  7. Not real-time: It takes a minimum of a month for an agency to run an analysis on CATI surveys. When you call a dissatisfied customer after a month of their interaction with you, they usually don’t even remember it. Moreover, by the time you get the analysis and act on the feedback, it’s already too late.
  8. Cost: On average, you have to pay between 5-10 dollars per response for a CATI survey. Now, if you have to gather 20k responses every year that means 100k-200k dollars a year, which is too much. There are much better and more affordable ways to gather responses.

Not just drawbacks, there are a few challenges that CATI counters.

Challenges while using CATI

  1. Not just the survey questions, interviewers must be trained on the CATI software as well so that they can use it properly.
  2. Sometimes the questionnaires get scripted incorrectly into the software. The interviewers must have an idea of the objective of the survey so that they’ll identify such mistakes.
  3. Some CATI software doesn’t give an option to go back and edit previous answers. This sometimes leads to low data quality.
  4. When there are two surveys taking place simultaneously, the analysis of the data gets hampered.

But if CATI or telephone surveys is not the right approach, what is?

Digital Surveys!

Introducing Digital surveys

Digital surveys or online surveys are questionnaires sent to the respondents on the channels they prefer. It can be emails, chatbots, in-app, WhatsApp, etc; allowing them to take the survey in their own time and speed.

And not just that, digital surveys can be personalized and analyzed much more lucratively. 

But how are they better than CATI surveys?

CATI surveys vs Digital surveys

CATI Surveys vs Digital Surveys

Many big organizations like Manulife, Daimler, and Inodlife have shifted from CATI surveys to online surveys.

Read their case study → 

If you also face some of the challenges mentioned with the CATI surveys, try out online surveys!

 

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