discussing the transition from CAPI to CATI mode of data collection in our last
blog, this blog aims to highlight protocols as well as do’s and don’ts of
telephonic interviews to increase the efficiency and reliability of data.
has ground many surveys to a halt. The rapid and devastating spread of COVID-19
suggests that face-to-face surveys will not be possible for months to come.
Researchers now wonder: Is it possible to collect survey data in the meantime? Well,
there are various alternative ways to switch to. One of them is CATI platforms.
However, the new methods require certain tricks and tips to mitigate the risk
and challenges involved. This piece aims to provide a quick read to the readers
flagging pointers to be mindful of at different stages of the phone interviews
for data collection.
being increasingly accepted for conducting live interviews. Different Softwares
such as survey, Survey Systems and SurveyCTO have introduced new ways of
auditing phone interviews. These platforms include the following features,
ensuring that the data is collecting in the most efficient, effective and relevant
- Click to dial and predictive dialling:
With a pre-installed database of respondents numbers, one can quickly call
respondents with just one click on the telephone number. This reduces the scope
of error with numbers and thereby increasing productivity.
- Manage data: This software provides
with the ease of managing data by providing various options such as designing
and coding the survey. The software puts down enumerator IDs and the respondent's number they
have to interview – related data in a tabular/excel format; manage calls that
have been successfully undertaken or were rescheduled.
- Interviewers statistics: Monitor
interviewer’s activity and productivity.
- Records all phone calls: Recorded calls
are easy to audit for quality checks as well as monitor the reasons for
various benefits of ease that comes with such software, there are certain
points that can be kept in mind while undertaking phone interviews for
collecting data to increase the efficiency of data collection. Through years of
systematic design testing, we have optimized remote practices for every stage
of data collection and processing.
designing effective phone survey
Reflect on reasons for phone calls failing to serve
- List down different reasons why phone
calls are failing.
- Categories these reasons into broad
themes. E.g. Network error, handset not available, top-up issue, etc.
Thereafter see which theme can be addressed and which can be worked around.
- Be more accurate about the database on numbers
- some do not exist, some are unreachable or are invalid.
Be more mindful of follow-up calls
- In case the interviewee is unavailable,
then make sure to go ahead with a follow-up call.
- Be more mindful of timings. Do not
call at a time when the interviewee will be busy with work or household chores.
- Maintain at least a 2-hour window
between the calls. You do not want to overwhelm the interviewee during this
Manage the Caller ID database effectively
- Given a large number of interviewers
or enumerators * a number of interviewees * a number of times the interviewer has
to call each interviewee - it can be as confusing as it sounds.
- Maintaining excel/database is
therefore extremely important. SurveyCTO and CATI can be used to optimize this
Code of Conduct
The next most crucial point in this whole process is to ensure that the researchers or
enumerators follow an ethical code of conduct for collecting primary data. Some
of the pointers are discussed below:
- Introduce yourself, your affiliation
and the objective of the call
- After communicating the objective, ask
them whether this is a good time to proceed with the call. If not, then when
can you call them again?
- Inform them about the tentative time
the whole interview will take.
- Take consent: Communicating and taking
informed consent is crucial. Given that now the data collection procedure has
shifted to virtual means, be more cautious while taking consent and make sure
the respondent understands it correctly.
- Maintain a humble and polite tone throughout.
Do’s and Don’ts
of Phone Interviews
We want to understand and address the challenges of creating a set
of efficient methods for remote data collection. Our goal is to learn the dos
and don’ts of running phone surveys in order to minimize errors and maximize
relevant data collection in times of COVID.
- Incentives: provide reimbursement or
incentives to respondents. Always make sure you cover the opportunity cost they
bear in giving you time during such difficult situations. This could be in the form of top-up, bank transfer, or other cash transfers.
- Count each follow-up question as an
individual question while preparing the tool and account for its time,
- Make sure you tweak the tool
regularly. Be thorough with your pilot to avoid unsuccessful phone surveys with
- While interviewing a female candidate,
make sure that she at ease and comfortable. Make sure that no other member of the family, especially male, is around. This may hinder her responses and will
result in biased data collection.
- Do not keep the length of the tool of
more than 15 minutes
- Do not overwhelm the respondent with
multiple calls. Make sure you catch them at a time convenient to them.
- Do not include multiple follow-up questions. Keep your questions crisp, precise, and to the point. Only include
those questions which are of utmost importance for the scope of work and
objective of the call.
Some of the social sector practitioners have also shared their success stories by documenting their own way forward:
- Take a look at the resources for adapting projects during COVID-19 by SurveyCTO, which helps understand
and mitigate the risks of CATI.
- More interesting reading is the series
of blog posts by the World Bank: Impact evaluations in the time of COVID-19, the first instalment of which shares
- RTI International shares insights on Collecting Data with Mobile Surveys in Low-and Middle-Income Countries During
- Similarly, Humanitarian Data Solutions developed a list of things
you can do to adapt your M&E Processes.