What are telephone interviews?

Telephone interviews, as the name suggests, are a form of market research carried out over the telephone. Telephone interviews can also be referred to as CATI interviews (Computer Aided Telephone interviews).

During a telephone interview, the interviewer is guided by a market research questionnaire and records the answers given by the respondent either through pre-coded lists or by entering verbatim responses.


Types of telephone interviews

There are three main types of telephone interviews for market research, depending on the objectives of the research project:

  • Structured telephone interviews – are usually shorter and consist of closed questions. Used to gather quantitative data.
  • Semi-structured telephone interviews – consist of a mixture of closed and open questions to gather quantitative and qualitative data.
  • In-depth telephone interviews – consist of mainly open-ended questions to gather qualitative data. These interviews are longer in length and a discussion guide of topics is often used instead of a structured questionnaire.

Telephone interviews work best when you want to include several open-ended questions in a questionnaire to gather qualitative data.

benefits of telephone interviews


What are the benefits of telephone interviews?

There are a number of benefits to conducting telephone interviews over other research methods:

  • Questions are properly understood – The interviews are guided by an interviewer. This ensures that the questions are understood as intended. The interviewer can clarify any misunderstandings, leading to higher quality data being collected.
  • Large amounts of data from each individual – Telephone interviews can last up to over an hour. This means that you can gather a lot of data from each respondent.
  • Provides the opportunity to dig deeper – Telephone interviews provide the chance to dig deeper into any interesting points mentioned by the respondent. The interviewer can probe the respondent to gather more information on a topic.
  • Higher response rates – Telephone interviews normally result in higher response rates as the interviewer can set up appointments with respondents and chase any warm leads.
  • Improved respondent screening – Telephone interviews provide an effective way of screening respondents to ensure you are speaking to the most appropriate person before beginning the interview. The interviewer speaks to the respondent directly, so you know who you have spoken to. This is not the case in online research where you cannot always know exactly who has answered the survey.
  • Flexibility – Different types of questions can be used in a telephone questionnaire. A discussion guide can be used to guide a conversation instead of a questionnaire being used as a script, allowing for more flexibility during the interview.
  • Often the only way to reach b2b audiences – In b2b research, telephone interviews are often the best way to collect data from hard to reach respondents. Many roles and industries are poorly represented on online panels, so telephone interviews are the only way to reach them.
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