A Toll-free Number Can Tell Us Something About Nonresponse

A number of years ago I experimented with using a toll-free number in an ongoing satisfaction survey for a large organization.  For a lot of reasons that I don’t need to go into here, the design was a self-administered paper questionnaire delivered in the U.S. mail; and because of an unexpectedly low response rate, I elected to send a second follow-up mailing that, among other things, included a toll-free number (that linked directly into a voice mail box where callers were not required to leave their name or contact information, although many did).

My initial thinking was that the toll-free number would be a convenient way for nonrespondents to request another copy of the questionnaire.  As it turned out, however, nearly 60% of the calls received were from people who stated that they wouldn’t or couldn’t respond to the survey request.  And we determined that the vast majority of these people either shouldn’t have been in the database in the first place or were unable to respond to the questionnaire due to design issues.

This was an important result in that we were able to get our hands around the key sources of nonresponse –  inaccuracies in the database & questionnaire design – and focus our attention in these areas.  The toll-free number did, indeed, help us explain non-response behavior.

A short presentation of this effort follows:

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