Messaging to Improve Response Rates: Effectiveness of Pre-Survey SMS Messages

7 Pages Posted: 30 Apr 2021

Date Written: April 2021

Abstract

Response rates remain low in phone surveys compared to face-to-face data collection (see here for a similar brief on response rates). This is especially true for random digit dial (RDD) or similar “cold call” phone surveys, which are necessary in the absence of a sample frame of reliable phone numbers. This brief presents early evidence from a series of experiments IPA conducted in 4 countries during 2020 to learn whether pre-survey messages, typically SMS texts, improve the rates at which respondents answer the phone, and complete the interview, with the ultimate goal of increasing the productivity of phone surveys. We find that, on average, SMS messages improve the rate at which respondents complete the survey relative to no message. This change is not driven by the rate at which respondents answer the phone, but by survey completion conditional on starting the survey. Random variation in message content had no significant effect on the rate at which respondents answer and complete phone surveys. The sample that resulted from the SMS message treatment had a composition that was on average younger and less likely to be predicted to be in poverty than the other treatment and control groups.

Keywords: research methods, phone surveys, response rates

Suggested Citation

Dillon, Andrew and Glazerman, Steven and Rosenbaum, Michael, Messaging to Improve Response Rates: Effectiveness of Pre-Survey SMS Messages (April 2021). Global Poverty Research Lab Working Paper No. 21-106, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3836960 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.3836960

Andrew Dillon (Contact Author)

Northwestern University - Kellogg School of Management ( email )

2001 Sheridan Road
Evanston, IL 60208
United States

Steven Glazerman

Innovations for Poverty Action ( email )

1731 Connecticut Ave, 4th floor
New Haven, CT 20009
United States

Michael Rosenbaum

Innovations for Poverty Action ( email )

1731 Connecticut Ave, 4th floor
New Haven, CT 20009
United States

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