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Insight Center Resources

Industry knowledge to help you grow your business

Providing Online Response Options on Paper Surveys

Historically, most customer opinion/satisfaction surveys were conducted via paper. More recently, many institutions prefer to use email distribution that links to a web-based survey. Email distribution offers many advantages over paper, most notably:

  • The lower costs, which includes printing, outgoing and return envelopes and postage, form scanning, hand data entry and written comment transcription
  • Email appeals to many respondents as being more ecologically responsible
  • Can generate a quicker survey response compared to paper

Harland Clarke Digital’s Research & Insights, we often include a web link on the printed-paper survey, offering the respondent the opportunity to respond to the survey online, rather than returning the paper survey — thus eliminating all the costs mentioned above. The web link can be a generic URL, but it is recommended that it be a PURL, which is a personalized link tied back to a specific respondent.

Looking at eight recent paper-based projects that also offered the option to respond to the survey online via a ULR/PURL, the impact of the web-response option varies widely — anywhere from 5% to 34% of the respondents opted to use the URL/PURL.

David's Chart

So the question is, what are the benefits of using URL/PURLs over only offering a paper survey? The “cost” savings will add up, which could amount to hundreds of dollars in savings on a modest-sized project. The additional benefit of printing the ULR/PURL is the quickness in which the survey is completed, which means the data is available much sooner.

A URL/PURL printed on the survey may not dramatically impact the response rate, but it definitely will not decrease it.  It will, however, lower administration costs associated with processing the returned surveys. And, based on the eight projects I looked at, you can count on between 5% and 17% (34% may be exceptional) of the respondents opting for the online response option and consider how much money that could save you in the long run.