Is an Online Survey Right For You? Advantages and Disadvantages of Different Survey Formats

Your organization is preparing to carry out a customer satisfaction survey, and the only question that remains is the type of survey that should be used. Will it be a person administered survey, with a clerk manually asking clients the questions in the store? Will it be a computer administered survey available online? Or perhaps you’ll leave surveys at the register and have customers take them and fill them out on their own time?

All of these techniques have their advantages and their drawbacks. In this post, we’ll take a look at the pros and cons of using each.

Person Administered Survey

In this survey, an interviewer reads questions to the respondent, either face to face or over the phone, and records his or her answers.


  • The easiest method for the respondent. All they have to do is answer the questions and no additional work is required.
  • The interviewer can adapt the survey for each respondent. Additional clarification about the questions, if needed, can be offered.
  • You get instant feedback from the respondent. There’s no waiting time for the results, they are delivered right away, and you can assure that every question is answered.


  • Slow speed. Individually asking respondents to answer the survey and recording their responses is a time consuming process.
  • Costly. The labour and time costs to carry out the survey can be high.
  • Potential for error. If a question in misread, misheard or improperly recorded, the results could be skewed.
  • Interview evaluation apprehension. Certain respondents could be hesitant to be completely truthful when speaking to an interviewer is fear of being judged, and this could lead to biased results.


Self Administered Survey

In this method, the respondent completes the survey on his/her own.


  • Lower cost. No costs to administer the survey, as respondents do it themselves.
  • Respondent freedom. Respondents have more time to complete the survey and control the pace at which they do so, making it easier and more convenient for them to respond.
  • No interview evaluation apprehension.


  • Respondent controls the survey. They might not send it in on time or at all.
  • Lack of monitoring. No one available to clarify questions or encourage respondent.


Online Surveys

The respondent completes the survey online and submits it electronically.


  • Speed and reach. A large amount of people can be reached in an extremely short period of time.
  • Relatively low cost. Survey/person costs and time costs are reduced.
  • Real-time capture of Data. Responses are received in real time and can be analyzed immediately.
  • Ability to include videos and graphics in questions.
  • No interview evaluation apprehension.


  • Technical know-how is required. Time will be required to learn survey software (We strive to make this as easy as possible with FluidSurveys).
  • Technical glitches could occur in data collection or analysis – these can be avoided with a survey dry-run before deployment.

At the end of the day, the type of survey you choose has to be the right fit for the type of information you want to collect. Complicated questions and fewer desired respondents would be better suited with a person administered survey, while a large sample size would be a better fit with an online survey. Cost, time and resources also have to be taken into account. Carefully choosing your survey method is an important step in the research process, as important as designing your questionnaire and gathering responses.

The good news is that FluidSurveys supports multi-mode data collection and can be used in either of the 3 methods above. Customers frequently use the software to record responses during an in-person or telephone interview. For self-administered surveys, customers usually leave a laptop or tablet-pc on site to allow for respondents to fill in the answers on site. Finally, the software can obviously be used for online surveys administered via the web as well. Another great advantage of FluidSurveys is that one can easily distinguish between data gathered from each mode and can also see results in aggregate view.

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