Telephone Interviews

Constant bombardment of telephone calls or messages from telemarketers or scam traps have made many of us in China skeptical and wary of phone numbers that are unfamiliar and we do not readily answer our phones unless the calling number displayed is a recognizable one.  Yet, we continue to conduct market research using telephone interviews because we feel that this methodology does have a role in data collection. 

One obvious application in market research is in quality control.  Telephone interviews are commonly used for callback audits to confirm screening criteria or for survey on customer satisfaction where respondents are spread across wide geographical areas and the client has an existing data base.  Increasingly Anovax has found even this opt-in methodology a problem with Chinese respondents!

While telephone interviews they may seem to be cost and time efficient, there are times when these advantages may not be beneficial.  There are three critical rules for successful telephone interviewing.

Length of Interview  – "The 10 Minute Rule"

Most Chinese will help to answer a few quick questions, but they do not however feel obliged to continue the interview if they feel that it is taking too much of their time or they do not wish to answer certain questions.  In our experience, telephone interviews which are more than 10 minutes long in China generally suffer from quality issue which get very much worse over 20 minutes, due to lack of commitment or disinterest if the interviewer is not engaging and the subject lacks interest.  

Establish Bon Fides

The Chinese are usually not confrontational and most Chinese consumers are happy to oblige and are willing to speak with a strange market researcher who is able to quickly establish their role as real researchers.  The key for the telephone interviewer is to establish that one is from a professional market research company trying to capture genuine information, rather than selling something. 

Telephone Interviewing is a Skill

In contrast with face to face interviews where interviewers have eye contact with respondents and are able to read other body language, telephone interviewers need to rely on verbal cues for assessing the response quality and involvement in telephone interviews.  Hence, the skill and experience of the telephone interviewer are often crucial to the success of the interview, from the initial opening of the conversation to maintaining respondent interest throughout the interview.