Frequently Asked Questions
- What is automated telephone polling?
- How reliable is automated polling?
- Is this only used by politics?
- How much does it cost?
- How much will it cost to get 500 completes?
- How do I improve my response rate?
- How much do inbound calls cost?
- How long will it take me to get 500 completes?
- How much lead-time do I need before running my survey?
- Do you support international calling?
- How do I pay?
Creating Your Poll
- Will they hear a robot voice?
- How do I record sound?
- Does my voice talent need to access my account?
- Won't studio-recorded audio sound much better?
- Is there if-then logic?
- What kinds of questions can I ask?
- Do you repeat questions?
- Do you pause between questions?
- What is the best way to phrase my questions?
- How does voice recording work?
- Can I leave an answering machine message?
- Can you do rotations (variations)?
Running Your Poll
- Can I run the same poll multiple times?
- Can you do inbound surveys?
- Can you do web surveys?
- If I'm doing an inbound survey, how are repeat calls treated?
- When is the best time of day to run a poll?
- Can I run until I get a certain number of completed responses?
- Can I run the same poll multiple times, but to different groups?
- Do you have an example phone list?
- How do I enter non-US phone numbers?
- Can my phone list include additional information?
- Do you call the phone list at random?
- How quickly do you make calls? Can I slow it down?
- How do retries work?
- Can I avoid calling the same person over and over again?
- I ran a survey yesterday. I want to run another survey today, calling back only the people who didn't answer the phone before.
- Why does it mean when my survey stops for the day? Isn't it done?
- How does answering machine detection work?
- Can I pause my survey?
- How do I change the settings for a running survey?
- Phone Numbers
- Getting Results
- What's Allowed
What is automated telephone polling?
Automated phone surveys are phone calls where a recorded voice asks you questions and you type in responses on your keypad (e.g. "Who will get your vote for mayor? Press 1 for Joe..."). This provides a fast and affordable way to get answers from real people.
How reliable is automated polling?
Recent research suggests that automated polling is just as accurate at predicting election results as live-interviewer polls, at a fraction of the cost. See our blog post: How Accurate are Automated Polls?
Is this only used by politics?
No, Precision Polling is used for a variety of purposes: customer satisfaction surveys, market research, international field research, and even union and non-profit member management.
How much does it cost?
For outbound surveys, we charge 10 cents per call in the United States (prices vary by country). There are no setup fees or minimum. We deduct 10 cents when the call is dialed; you pay the same regardless of the outcome (e.g. if a person picks up and completes a full survey, or it's an answering machine, or if it's busy). Note that if your call goes on for a very long time (over 5 minutes), we might charge additionally for that call.
How much will it cost to get 500 completes?
To get 500 responses with a 5% response rate, you will need to make 10,000 calls. At $0.10 per call, the total cost would be $1000. If you have a higher response rate, you will pay less. For political polls, we typically see a resonse rate between 3-7%, with 5% as the median. To calculate cost based on the number of completes you desire, and your expected response rate, use our Poll Cost Calculator.
How do I improve my response rate?
The cost of a survey depends almost entirely on the response rate. Here are our Top 10 Ways to Improve Your Poll’s Response Rate.
How much do inbound calls cost?
We support inbound surveys, too. Each call costs 10¢ per five minutes of connection time. For example, a 2 minute call would cost 10¢; a 4 minute call would cost 10¢; a 9 minute call would cost 20¢.
How long will it take me to get 500 completes?
Our system makes tens of thousands of calls an hour. Most 500-complete surveys finish in less than half an hour. You can choose a lower call rate if you'd prefer that your survey covers a longer time window.
How much lead-time do I need before running my survey?
None at all - that's the beauty of a self-service system. You could create a survey at 5:30pm and run it at 6pm.
Do you support international calling?
Yes! We can call out to most countries. See our International Calling page.
Creating Your Poll
Will they hear a robot voice?
No (unless you want them to). Your poll will have a human voice. If you test a poll before recording any sounds, we will fill in with a temporary machine-generated voice. But of course, you should record a human voice for each section.
How do I record sound?
You can record audio in one of two ways:
- Call into our toll-free phone number, and follow the instructions to say your questions; or
- Record the audio in a studio, and upload the mp3 files
Does my voice talent need to access my account?
No. We allow you to email simple instructions to your voice talent, so all they have to do is call a phone number and read from a script.
Won't studio-recorded audio sound much better?
Phone lines are low-fidelity, so the higher audio quality of a studio recording doesn't come through very well. In practice, a recording made from a telephone is almost as good.
Is there if-then logic?
Yes, we suport branching logic based on the answer to a question. For example: if they pick "No", then go to question #14.
What kinds of questions can I ask?
When you add a section to your poll, you pick its type. It can be:
- Multiple choice question
- Speech-only section
- Enter a number (e.g. zip code)
- Rate on a scale (e.g. from 1 to 5)
- Record their voice (with optional automated speech-to-text transcription)
- Patch through to another phone number
Do you repeat questions?
Yes. For each question, we ask the question. Then we pause for a few seconds. Then we ask the question again. If someone still hasn't answered, we will hang up. Pressing the star key (*) repeats the question.
Do you pause between questions?
Yes. After somone presses the keypad to give their answer, we wait a second before going on to the next question. This gives portable phone users time to get the phone back to their ear.
What is the best way to phrase my questions?
In general, the polling industry has found that the most effective way to phrase multiple choice questions is: (a) say the question; (b) say the list of options; and finally (c) say the options again, with press-number instructions. For example: Who will you vote for? Bob, or Claire? Press 1 for Bob. Press 2 for Claire.
How does voice recording work?
For a "record your voice at the beep" section, we will record the speaker's voice and make it available to you as an mp3 file. We stop recording if the respondant presses the pound key, or is silent for 5 seconds. The audio may be up to two minutes long for outbound calls, or ten minutes for inbound calls.
We provide an easy-to-use interface for transcribing the audio later. For outbound surveys, we also offer the option for automatic voice-to-text transcription.
Can I leave an answering machine message?
Yes! When designing your survey, you may specify a special answering machine message. If, on the final call attempt to a particular number, we reach their answering machine, then we will leave your message.
Can you do rotations (variations)?
Yes! You may specify alternate versions of the same question, with different ordering of options. We will record which variation each person heard. Learn more about variations.
Running Your Poll
Can I run the same poll multiple times?
Yes! You could, for example, run the same survey once a week and compare how results change over time.
Can you do inbound surveys?
Yes! When you click to run your survey, you pick between running it as an outbound survey or a dial-in survey. The dial-in survey can get its own phone number (or even a toll-free number). You can even run the same survey in multiple ways.
Can you do web surveys?
For web surveys, please visit SurveyMonkey. Create and publish online surveys in minutes, and view results graphically and in real time.
If I'm doing an inbound survey, how are repeat calls treated?
When you run an inbound survey, the same person could call multiple times. You have an option to pick whether each dial-in attempt overwrites the previous one, or if they can be recorded separately. The same applies for web-surveys, too.
When is the best time of day to run a poll?
You can pick when to run your poll, between 9am to 9pm. We have found that the highest response rate is from about 6:30pm to 8:30pm on weekdays, and about 4:00pm to 7:30pm on weekends.
Can I run until I get a certain number of completed responses?
Yes. You can decide when a poll run counts as "finished"; either, you get a target number of completes, or you call everyone on the list. Note that it's possible that we overshoot the number of completes a bit, because we'll stop calling additional numbers when you hit your target - but some of the ongoing phone calls may turn into additional completes.
Can I run the same poll multiple times, but to different groups?
Yes. You may run the same poll any number of times, to different phone lists (or even to the same phone list). This is a good way to do tracking polls over time, or to compare the answers in different demographic groups.
Do you have an example phone list?
Yup; just click here for an example comma-separated-values (CSV) file. We are flexible in how you format this file. You can pick any column names you like, or have different columns. You may format phone numbers as "1-206-555-1111", "206 555 1111", "2065551111", etc.
How do I enter non-US phone numbers?
We do our best to guess when a phone number is outside the United States, but to avoid ambiguity, it's best to format phone numbers starting as "+ COUNTRY-CODE...". For example, a New Zealand phone number would be "+64...".
Can my phone list include additional information?
Yes. In fact, it's a good idea to include any relevant demographic information in your phone list, like gender and age. We will automatically determine which columns are phone numbers. When your poll run is finished, you can download a spreadsheet of your original phone columns plus answers to each question.
Do you call the phone list at random?
Yes. Each time you run a survey, we randomly pick which number to dial next from your phone list.
How quickly do you make calls? Can I slow it down?
You get to pick how fast we make calls. By default, we run as quickly as possible, making tens of thousands of calls an hour. You can pick a slower rate, in which case we'll make a steady trickle of phone calls.
How do retries work?
If there is a busy signal, no answer, or answering machine, you can choose to retry up to 5 times, after waiting at least hour (or more). Each retry will be billed as an additional phone call. On the final attempt, if your poll has an answering machine message and if it's picked up by an answering machine, we will leave your message.
Can I avoid calling the same person over and over again?
Yes. If you want to run multiple surveys using phone lists that might overlap, you can opt to skip calling people who already participated in another of your surveys recently
I ran a survey yesterday. I want to run another survey today, calling back only the people who didn't answer the phone before.
Just run your new survey using the same phone list. When you set it up, make sure to check the box Skip recent participants. We won't call back people who took your survey (or who started to take your survey), but we will call back phone numbers that were busy, did not answer, or that went straight to an answering machine.
Why does it mean when my survey stops for the day? Isn't it done?
If your survey has not hit its completion criteria (a certain number of completes, or finished calling everyone on a list) and it is later than the allowed times to call for the day, we will stop calling. We will start again automatically the next day. This can be a potential source of confusion if you are doing retries. For example, suppose I want to call everyone on my list betwee 6:30pm and 8:00pm, and will retry up to 3 times, waiting at least an hour between retries. If I call someone at 6:31pm and get a busy signal, I might retry them at 7:31pm. When 8:00pm rolls around, I might have already called everyone on my list at least once, but need to call some people back a second or third time. Our system tells you that we're done for the day, but will start again tomorrow - because we need to finish doing the retries.
How does answering machine detection work?
You can choose whether or not to enable answering machine detection. To detect answering machines, we pause for between 2-5 seconds at the start of the call and analyze the sound to determine if it was picked up by a person or machine.
Can I pause my survey?
Yes, you may click to "Pause" any running survey. This will stop us from calling out to any more phone numbers, but we will finish up any ongoing calls. You may later "Continue" if you like.
Can I get my own phone number?
Absolutely. For only $3/month, you can immediately requisition a phone number in a given area code. You can use this for an inbound survey, or as the caller-id for a dial-out survey.
What about toll-free numbers?
We also support toll-free numbers, for the same price of $3/month. However, we do charge a bit more for calls to toll-free numbers - 20¢ per five minutes instead of 10¢ per five minutes.
For dial-out surveys, can I use a caller-id in my area code?
Yes! In fact, we strongly encourage obtaining a caller-id specific to the region you are calling, to boost your response rate.
Can I use my organization's phone number as the caller-id?
Yes, we can allow you to dial out using your organization's phone number as the caller ID. Please contact us and we'll set this up for you.
Can I download my results into Excel? SPSS?
Yes. You can download your results into a CSV format (which Excel can open), or SPSS format.
What is in the downloaded results?
The downloaded results include any columns that were present in the original phone list; plus answers to each question; plus information about the call, including its final status.
Do you include partial results?
Yes. When you download results, you may choose whether to include just completes; completes and partial results; or everything.
Are results in real-time?
Yes. The results page is generated on the fly, so you can see results as they arrive.
How do crosstabs work?
On the results page, you can click on the "Crosstabs" button and set up crosstabs based on any column in the phone list and/or answers to questions. Click here for more details.
How does weighting work?
If the sample of people does not match your target demographic, we make it easy to weight your results to account for over- and under-represented groups. Click here for more details.
What kind of calls are allowed?
We only support legal and ethically clear use-cases. We do not allow telemarketing calls (which are subject to FCC and FTC regulations and includes charitable solicitations) or questionable political advertising, such as push polling. While our system technically supports robo-calling, we are better suited to data-collection than message-blasting. For more information about allowable uses, see the Precision Polling Acceptable Use Policy.
Can I call mobile phones?
In the United States, you are not allowed to call a mobile phone unless you have a established relationship with the person you are calling. If they are a member of your organization, it's OK to call them.
Who is responsible for calls made?
You are legally responsible for the calls you make. This includes making sure that you're allowed to call the phone numbers that you provide, and meeting any requirements about the content of your survey. Some states don't allow automated phone calls at all. We'll certainly do our best to guide you, but we are not lawyers.
What are the disclosure requirements?
For political calls, different states and cities have different disclosure requirements. These sometimes depend on the kind of call being made, and who is paying for it. You should talk with your lawyer to find out what is required. Generally speaking, it's a good idea to say your organizaton's name and phone number at the end of your survey. (Some states may require disclosure at the start of your poll, or other information).
Why do I have to "Get Verified"?
Before you can make a high volume of dial-out calls, we need to make sure that you are legitimate and aware of the above responsibilities. You let us know when you are ready to go, and we will get in touch with you and verify your account. This typically happens within one business day.