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Do You Really Need Offline Surveys? We Did Some Research and Here’s What We Found

You think offline feedback is obsolete. The researcher with their pen and paper, the questionnaire in the mail, the phone interview: if not obsolete, they certainly are fewer. But that doesn’t mean offline surveys are out of the game.

It’s the digital age. Offline feedback has evolved, the same as everything else. Offline surveys can now be conducted through feedback apps on mobile tablets and smartphones. And of course, the traditional methods are still in use, even if not as ubiquitous as before. But the one thing that remains unchanged is this: your respondents don’t need to access the internet while filling out offline surveys.

No internet?! While this may seem incongruent in today’s digital age, the fact is that offline surveys have their advantages. Here’s how offline surveys can actually work well for your organization. And in some situations, taking offline feedback can actually be better suited than online surveys.

Offline Surveys Can Reach Respondents Who Lack Internet Access

The number one benefit to offline surveys is that they allow you to reach people without internet access. You also don’t require an internet connection for collecting data. Since offline surveys can be conducted offline, without internet access, they are a great advantage in certain situations.

Say you run an NGO. You’d like to know what the people who benefit from your services think about your organization. You want to know whether the services and support they receive from you is actually benefiting them. You want to know how you can make things better still. Given the nature of your respondents, they may have limited or no access to the internet. In these cases, a feedback app installed in a smartphone, or a feedback software in a tablet is a great way to reach your respondents. Your respondents can answer the survey without using the internet, and you can always download or upload the data once you’re back online.

They Can Reduce Sampling and Response Bias

Since not everyone you want to survey has internet access, conducting an online survey can leave you open to sampling and response bias. Despite the widespread adoption of the internet, especially in countries like the United States, concerns remain about the representativeness of internet minorities in online surveys.

Not all people representative of the population you want to survey may have internet access. You may not be able to access the opinions of a substantive number of people. Another concern about the representativeness of online samples stems from the fact that people are more likely to take a survey if the subject matter interests them. This can lead to self-selection and “participation bias”. Neither of those improves the quality of a survey. Offline surveys, when used in the right context, can offer a solution for removing sampling, response and participation bias.

This research found that for surveys on topics such as consumer goods and lifestyle issues, you can use both offline and online surveys “without incurring significant bias”. For businesses that have known target markets with internet access, online surveys are a good bet. However, offline surveys are the answer to survey situations that require a representative sample of the public. For opinion polls, public policy polls, field research and more, offline surveys in combination with online and other survey methods may be the answer you are looking for.

Offline Feedback Offers a Wide Reach

We’ve established that offline feedback through apps and tablets don’t need internet access to work. They offer a versatility that online feedback methods lack. You can collect offline surveys anywhere, in rural areas, in shopping malls, even in public transport. Offline surveys, therefore, offer you a wide reach.

Offline surveys are a great feedback mechanism if you want the patrons visiting your restaurant to give you their opinions on the food, wine, service or ambiance. Or perhaps you’d like customer feedback on your services from customers who visit your bank branch. Maybe you want to know if your big-business clients are happy with your work. Or you are a non-profit that really wants to do better by your beneficiaries. In any of these scenarios, feedback app-based offline surveys are ideal. And, you don’t always need to tote a survey tablet around. If your customers come to you, you can set up at offline tablet-based kiosk survey for them to leave their responses on.

Offline Feedback Can Help You Close the Feedback Loop Faster

Which brings me to my next point. Offline surveys are a great way to connect to your respondents face-to-face. There are a number of benefits to this type of interaction. You get an opportunity to interact with your respondents in real-time, so you can resolve their problems immediately.

Banks rely on this type of feedback to close the loop on their customers in real time. Banking representatives will often ask customers to fill out offline surveys on mobiles or tablets at the branch. Thanks to real-time notification features on survey apps that can be received on the device itself, bank representatives and branch managers can resolve customer issues immediately. This is especially important as banking and financial services experience high churn. Offline surveys that help with immediate problem resolution are a boon.

Offline Surveys Can Provide Rich, Detailed Data

Personalized interaction isn’t just good for closing the feedback loop. It can also help you build better relationships with your respondents. This is especially important if your business relies on solid client relationships. Face-to-face interactions afford you the opportunity to gain a wealth of information by reading body language, facial expressions, tone of voice and more. And offline surveys give you a chance to take customer feedback immediately after a transaction. Because the transaction is so fresh in the customer’s mind, you’re likely to get detailed feedback, that’s more accurate.

They Can Increase Response Rates

That’s not all, real-time, face-to-face interactions can help you improve the response rate on your surveys. Online surveys can have low response rates, thanks to the increase in spam messages. Another reason is that people can read part of a survey online and choose not to complete it. That is, respondents can self-select during online surveys. On the other hand, during offline surveys, an interviewer can gently nudge a respondent to continue filling a survey.

With a little training, survey interviewers can get respondents to answer questions accurately, in detail, with as little response bias as possible. While you must guard against the interviewer and social desirability effects, the fact that offline surveys allow interviewers to be present can be a good thing. Interviewers can motivate respondents to complete a survey, reassure them regarding anonymity of responses, identify and question bogus responses, pick cues like mood and other contextual factors that might influence responses, according to this research.  

Done Right, They Improve Survey Validity

Offline feedback surveys can also limit, if not completely solve, the problem of controlling access. There’s nothing to prevent respondents from asking their children, parents, friends to fill out an online survey on their behalf. This problem can affect the internal validity of your research. Offline surveys circumvent this problem and can improve internal validity.  

And offline feedback doesn’t just work through paper now. You can use offline surveys across technologies, from Android and iOS to the web. Thanks to these technological changes, offline surveys can now remove many of the disadvantages of traditional face-to-face and phone interviews. Offline surveys on tablets, kiosks and even mobile apps can include skip-logic, a randomized question order to prevent question-order bias, drop-down selection menus and more.

Offline feedback surveys and apps have their place in market research and more. You can use them for many things. From detailed customer feedback to offline surveys for employee surveys and face-to-face interactions. You can conduct your offline surveys to ensure representativeness from users who may not have access to the internet. The possibilities are endless. An offline survey app or feedback management software can help you receive and manage feedback effectively, whatever the situation. Check out Zonka’s comprehensive feedback management software to manage your feedback effectively.

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