Customer Experience

Why are online surveys better than CATI surveys in 2023?

May 10, 2022

9 mins read

Manisha Khandelwal


There have been many research methodologies except pen and paper surveys now. The most common ones are CATI and online surveys. 

But which one should you opt for?

Changing one research methodology to another is no small decision. So pick the one your respondents like. 

Identify where you get most responses, where your respondents are comfortable, and where they are most honest, and go ahead with that.

Now both methodologies have their benefits and limitations. So, let’s first understand them one by one.

CATI – Computer Assisted Telephone Interview

I recently bought a car. And after 3 days, while working, I received a call from the dealer asking me several questions about my buying experience. 

I answered two of his questions but he went on and on and I got irritated. I disconnected the call and blocked the caller.

These surveys are called CATI or telephone surveys.

In the CATI interview (Computer-Aided Telephone Interview), there is an agent or interviewer who calls the respondents and asks a set of predefined questions over the call. All the responses are either automatically recorded by software or manually recorded by the agent/interviewer.

Where is CATI useful?

1. Qualitative research

CATI surveys are the best approach when you want to create deep conversations with your respondents. Especially when you have open-ended questions where you want to know deep insights about why the customer purchased from you, what they like, what they don’t, how did they get to know about you, and more

But, why qualitative research?

  • It allows interviewers to probe the respondents for follow-up questions and get detailed insights. 
  • It’s easier for the respondents to share/explain their experience in detail over a call as compared to writing it down on a survey.
  • Over phone surveys, the agents can empathize with the unhappy customers, humanize their interaction, and resolve their issues properly.
  • It builds a relationship with the customer as they feel like they are being cared for.

Note: Before calling a respondent, it is advisable to take their permission to discuss their experience with the brand.

2. Product concept/ideation research

CATI/telephone surveys are also best used when you want to test an idea or a concept. Because then you need to understand your customer. You need to know what are their challenges, what kind of resolutions are they looking for, how lucrative can your product be, its usage, and many more things. Basically understand the behavior of the customer. And that can only be done via CATI surveys. 

Where are CATI surveys not useful?

Quantitative research

CATI is not useful for quantitative research. 

Let’s take an example, you have a 20-questions survey where 20 factors need to be rated. On the telephone survey, the interviewer would have to read out every question and it can be really tedious for the customer. So, they drop off the call leading to a low response rate.

What are the disadvantages of CATI?

1. Agent Training

When it comes to CATI, ​​the agents need to be trained on how to talk to the respondents, empathize with them, understand their issues, gather qualitative feedback, and punch it into the system. And not just that, the objective of each survey should be shared with them as clearly as possible so that they communicate those questions to the respondents the right way. 

Even then, there is a communication gap between the respondents and the agents as they neither put in the effort nor they care about what the respondents feel about the brand.

2. Low Response Rate

The response from the CATI survey is much lower.


Because respondents process information differently, especially when the questions are asked verbally versus when they are asked visually.

During the CATI/telephone survey, the questions are read to them aloud. They need to listen and understand the question and contemplate their responses. And the interviewer engaging with the respondent controls the pace of the interview. For this very reason, the respondents may be less forthcoming and may not give honest responses.

3. Small Data Sample

How many respondents can a single agent call in a day? Let’s say 20. Now, to have research data of 15000 respondents, CATI will require a massive number of resources, and the cost will be too high. Plus, gathering such kind of customer data, analyzing it, and creating reports will take months. 

That’s why CATI surveys can be used for smaller samples, but when it comes to the larger sample, other research methodologies should be opted for. 

4. Data Manipulation

Agents on phone surveys tend to manipulate the results. For example, on a rating question of 10, if the respondent wants to score 7 or 8, they persuade them to give a score of 10. Or they request them to give a high score now and see results later. 

This skews the response and delivers unreliable data. 

Now that we know about computer-assisted telephone interviews or CATI, let’s talk about online surveys.

Online surveys

After a year of buying the car, I got its service done. Now, after one day of the service, again I received a survey but it was over the mail. I opened my mailbox in as per my availability and answered all their 5 questions. These surveys are called online surveys. 

Online surveys are the surveys sent to the respondents on their preferred channels such as email, WhatsApp, in-app, chat, etc. by CX software. And all the responses are automatically stored in the software or CRM (if integrated).

Online surveys are also commonly known as CAWI (Computer-Aided Web Interview) surveys.

Where are online surveys useful?

1. Quantitative research

If you just bought a car and want to understand how satisfied your customer is with their buying experience, send a simple satisfaction survey online. This will only take them a minute and you’ll know how effective is your process. 

For this kind of closed-ended question, online surveys are the best. Because the respondents can simply review the questions and answer them swiftly.

2. Product concept validation research

After a discussion with the respondents when you’ve identified the right concept, online surveys can help you validate those ideas. 

When it comes to visuals or videos that are required for concept testing or advertising research, online surveys are the best bet as they can also provide anonymity to the respondents.

Why are online surveys useful?

1. High response rate and better response quality

In the online surveys, respondents share their responses at their own pace and can see/read all the questions on the screen in their own time.

That’s why, during the CATI interviews, the responses are mostly positive as they verbally have to give them to the other person, but online surveys are much more honest and reliable.

2. Large data sample with real-time feedback

While sending an online survey, all you need to do is create a survey and share it with the relevant audience. No matter how big or small your audience is. You can send the survey from 10 people to 10 thousands of people within a few minutes. And you will receive all the feedback in real-time.

And not just that, online surveys provide you with real-time feedback. For every response you get, you can simply see it on the dashboard. Also, you can analyze all the open-ended responses with the text analysis and identify top customer complaints and sentiments in no time.

3. Affordable costing

The costs of online surveys are incredibly less than CATI. The CATI surveys are charged per successful call, on the other hand, in the case of online surveys you can start with free trials of the CX software and when you start getting enough responses, you can opt for the paid version. 

With online surveys, you save around 70% of your survey cost as compared to telephone surveys.


If CATI interview costs between 5-10 dollars per respondent, WhatsApp and email surveys cost between 1-3 dollars and sometimes even less. 

We recently did a project with Astra Honda Motor and they received 40 thousand responses. The cost of the project was 35000$ and CPI was less than 1 dollar.

Where are online surveys not useful?

Deeper Conversations

As discussed above, the biggest disadvantage of online surveys is that you cannot ask too many questions from the respondents. If you have more than 5 questions, it is always advisable to schedule a call with the respondent and discuss it with them over it. 

For instance, when you want qualitative feedback, respondents are usually much more delighted to share their experiences and answer your questions over the call instead of writing everything down. 

CATI vs Online surveys

online vs cati surveys

Factors that can help you decide which survey methodology to use

1. Demographics

Where you are launching the survey also impacts the type of survey methodology you should be using. 

For example, in the US, approx 97% of the adults have either a landline or mobile phone, while 77% of the households have internet access. In this case, CATI surveys are better.

While, when it comes to the companies, they will keep the email addresses updated but may not update the telephone numbers regularly. That’s why one should opt for online surveys here.

2. Target Audience

The target audience should also be taken into consideration when choosing the survey methodology.

For example, for the target advice that is above the age of 50 and is not very familiar with the internet, the CATI surveys are better. On the other hand, when it comes to the IT audience, online surveys are the best option.

3. Project Timeline
For every research, the project timeline is of key importance. Online surveys give you feedback in real-time on the other hand, CATI interviews or surveys take days to give you the results. And not just that, analyzing the data and creating a report may take a month. By the time, you identify an issue and resolve them, you might lose some good business. 

To Summarise

Both CATI and online surveys have their own advantages and disadvantages. The one you choose should depend on the objective you have. 

If you want to give online surveys a try, take a free demo. →

Manisha Khandelwal

Senior Content Marketer at SurveySensum

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