Encouraging respondents to book their own interview appointments could reduce survey costs, study finds

6 September 2013

Encouraging respondents to contact an interviewer to book their own interview appointment could reduce the cost of longitudinal surveys, new research from the Centre for Longitudinal Studies (CLS) suggests.

CLS researchers conducted an experiment to test the effectiveness of encouraging survey participants to become ‘early-birds’ by booking an appointment with their interviewer on a date that suited them. This approach aimed to save costs by reducing the time and effort interviewers often spend trying to make contact with respondents.  

The experiment was conducted among more than 1,000 households included in the Innovation Panel of Understanding Society: The UK Household Longitudinal Survey.

The study found that fewer interviewer calls were needed for respondents who took up the early-bird offer than those who did not. Respondents who were offered a small financial incentive to book their own appointment were almost twice as likely to take up the early-bird offer as those who were encouraged with an ‘appeal to altruism’.

As relatively few people took up the offer, however, there was no reduction in the overall amount of interviewer calls required. 

The researchers note that these results indicate the ‘early-bird’ approach has the potential to reduce the time and cost of survey fieldwork if more people took up the offer, but that further research is needed to explore how respondents can be encouraged to do so. This could include increasing the value of the financial incentive or investigating different ways of marketing the offer.

In the current context of declining survey response rates and increasing costs, this study contributes to important ongoing research into improving fieldwork efficiency.

Read the full paper

Can encouraging respondents to contact interviewers to make appointments boost co-operation rates and save costs? Evidence from a randomised experiment in the UK’, by Matt Brown and Lisa Calderwood, is the latest addition to the CLS Working Paper series.