Face to face data collection, through surveys or an interview, is an effective method of retrieving information mainly because of the actual presence of the interviewer. They are able to assist respondents with any difficulties encountered, such as not understanding questions or any reticence with revealing certain aspects of the answer. Face to face meetings mean that any hiccups in the process can be ironed out in a personal, effective way.
Data collection via the direct, face to face method is similar to collection via a phone in that the questions may originate from the same, scripted version. In essence, the face to face survey is the phone survey without the phone.
Phone surveys may also allow for questions and deviations on the part of the respondent who has difficulty with any aspect of the survey. Speed and cost are an advantage of this type of collection; phone data collection can be both time and cost effective, compared to face to face.
However, the telephone call may come at an inopportune moment for the respondent, resulting in a negative survey or a refusal to participate. The respondent may have a disability that prevents them from answering questions via the telephone (such as being hearing impaired). Many people simply do not like the ‘cold calling’ associated with phone data collection and will have a negative response to the phone call.
Less time is given to the respondent’s answer to a question in this method. The anonymity of the caller tends to result in cautious responses, as data privacy cannot be assured quite as readily.
Face to face meetings allows for much more complex data to be collected, and in greater amounts. Telephone calls will be tolerated for less time than direct meetings, because of the personal aspect that is lacking in the former, but present in the latter.
Response rates tend to be much higher in face to face meetings, because of this personal touch. The interviewer can control the meeting and ensure that the most appropriate type of data is being collected, often steering the respondent through a selected pathway of questions that their answers are leaning towards. This is difficult to achieve over the phone, where tone of voice (positive and negative) is less easy to pick up, and facial expressions cannot be read. The meanings behind many of the replies, therefore, may not be interpreted accurately by a telephone call.
The validity of answers can be tested with effect in a person to person meeting. Depths can be explored and accuracy maintained. Respondents can take the time to look up products or information at their own pace.
Face to face meetings are more time consuming than the telephone alternative, however because the results tend to be much more effective in providing greater detail, hidden depths to answers and control over the respondent in a friendly, personal environment, face to face meetings are, for many, a stronger method of data collection