Telephone Surveys and their Actual Purpose Content from the guide to life, the universe and everything

Telephone Surveys and their Actual Purpose

8 Conversations

  • Telephone Surveyor: Hello, my name is Joe Schmoe1. I am calling from an independent market research company on topics of current interest.

  • Interviewee: A survey? I'll just hang up.


Ah, you know it all too well. Telephone surveyors, the evil entities that have been spreading like a cancer across the United States, calling you purposely at the most inconvenient times and asking you if you would like to spend 30 minutes talking about underwear and television.

The Difference between a Telemarketer and a Telephone Market Researcher

'Telephone surveyors', or more technically, telephone market researchers, are not telemarketers. Telemarketers, or telephone solicitors, are people who call over the phone and try to sell items. Telephone market researchers, on the other hand, are calling only to get your opinions on items and ask you questions. Usually, when a person calls to give you a survey, they will say they are calling from a 'market research firm', a 'public opinion polling firm', or some similar phrase. These surveys are, surprisingly, actually helpful to you, as they provide the company with your opinions and thus allows it to better suit its products or services to your wants.

Another important thing to remember is that with most surveys, the market researcher is not calling from the actual company itself. The company pays a 'market research firm' a large sum of money to conduct the research for them.

How to Recognise a Survey

Of course, the question on everyone's mind is, 'What if it's not a surveyor? What if it's a salesperson, trying to sell me some new long-distance service or all-in-one grill?'

It's simple. First, say 'I don't want to buy anything'.

Then comes the important part:

Don't immediately slam down the receiver. Of course it is tempting to do, but if you do that, you'll never know whether it's a survey or not. Most likely, the surveyor will be glad to say, 'We're not selling anything, sir/ma'am'. Surveyors get a great deal of satisfaction from saying this line, especially when the person then says, 'Oh, well, that's alright then' and does the survey.

Why they Ask you these Questions

The important thing to remember is that the surveyor is asking you these questions in order to make their money. The majority of the people who conduct these surveyors care as much about underwear and obscure television shows as you do.

The reason the company (this being the company that is paying the market research firm to ask the questions) asks for this information is simply and honestly this; they want to know what their customers think. If they know what their customers think, they can then create products and commercials based on that.

For example, The Yellow River Brewing Company, a fictional beer company, wants to know if people are aware of their type of beer. They also want to know if the majority of the people who are aware of their beer are viewers of NFL Football. Then, if a large amount of NFL Football fans drink Yellow River Beer, that company can run a commercial during the Super Bowl, during which they will attract their target audience to buy more Yellow River Beer.

However, sometimes a survey may have questions that are inconceivably different and have no relation to each other whatsoever. If you happen to be on such a survey, you may be on what is sort of a smorgasbord of surveys. In other words, several different companies pay a small amount of money to be on this survey rather than paying a large amount for a larger survey of only their questions. Therefore, one survey may be on various topics. It is also then important to remember that if at one point in a survey you are not interested in the questions, you may get to another point in the survey that you are interested in. A survey may range from the brands of mustard you are aware of to the NCAA playoffs. You never know. Therefore, it is wise to sit through the boring parts because there may be something that interests you.

Where they Got your Phone Number

This depends on the type of survey. For some of them, the company that pays the market research firm gives it a list of the phone numbers of its customers, so that only their customers are called. For others, the phone numbers are simply computer generated. Quite often, random numbers in certain area codes will just be picked. This creates a large amount of problems with the actual phone interviewers, because it is a common occurrence to dial a number and get 'This number has been disconnected', or 'You have dialled a non-working phone'.

Your phone number is never associated with the responses you give. The same goes for your name. Companies aren't interested in your name or number. If a person asks for your name in a survey, it is only because companies pay a large amount of money to the market research firms who conduct the surveys. The company may call you later to make sure that everything was done as professionally as possible and the interviewer did not falsify your answers. If the company finds out its survey was not conducted properly, it may cancel it and conduct it through a different market research firm.

The Bottom Line

Market research surveys are not the most terrible thing in the world. They are conducted so that a company can better understand its market and what it needs and wants. In addition, the people calling you are not mindless jerks who enjoy harassing others over the phone. They are doing a job and earning their money. Therefore, next time you receive a call from some 'unknown caller', don't hang up immediately. First understand that your opinions will directly influence the current market, and that the people calling you are simply doing their job. If you think ten minutes taking a survey is a long time, imagine six hours a day giving them.

1This is an arbitrary name. No offense is meant to anyone who happens to have that name and who does not want to be associated with telephone surveyors.

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