Do paper surveys still have a future ?

Do paper surveys still have a future in an age of online, SMS, tablet and kiosk based feedback solutions? The answer is a resounding ‘yes’.

Sure, the cost of paper, printing and postage are all on the rise. Then there’s the cost of scanning or transcribing feedback from paper forms into whatever system you’re going to use to analyse and report on your findings. Add to that the time taken to actually get the feedback in the first place (you print and post out the survey, wait possibly weeks for the returns and then wait again for the responses to be batched, scanned and processed…).


These are all compelling reasons not to use paper - just consider the limited cost and immediacy of an online survey in comparison. However that's not the end of the story.


So why do so many organisations persist in using paper?

It’s potentially because paper surveys are the best option available for the target population that’s being reached.

I’ll give you an example. We helped the NHS to gain feedbackfrom remote rural communities, often with an elderly demographic. The target population immediately presented us with challenges:

Firstly, a large proportion of the people we were trying to reach simply weren’t tech-savvy. Many of them didn’t have access to, or a desire to use a computer. This might be changing but for now it remains a challenge.

Secondly, the remoteness of the community equated to poor network coverage. Any type of faster broadband hadn’t yet reached this part of the country, limiting options for digital solutions.

Add to these key factors a third one – some of the elderly patients we were trying to reach had visual impairment. They simply found a paper survey easier to read as black ink on paper offers a better resolution than a computer screen.

In a situation like this, paper was clearly the best way forward, albeit complemented by free standing and counter-mounted kiosks at local GP surgeries and hospitals.


As with any survey, the design of the survey is important to make it accessible and effective. The questions you ask and how you present them, the journey the patient or respondent takes and the medium for the survey are all aspects that should be considered, to ensure the respondent is able to give you their valuable feedback.

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Written by Andy Childerhouse

Andy is ViewPoint's Chief Operating Officer.

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