Mail Surveys and Paper Questionnaires

The U.S. postal system may seem a bit old-fashioned, but in many instances mail surveys provide higher response rates (and perhaps more representative results) than telephone surveys or online surveys. That is, if 100 households were surveyed by mail, phone, and online, it’s likely that a greater number of completed surveys would result from the mail survey. This is especially true if incentives are offered and if the topic of the survey is of moderate to high interest, such as the new car recently purchased, or the diamond engagement ring, or the music concert, etc. Mail response rates tend to be lower among downscale consumers, but this is also true for the telephone and the web.

Mail Survey Experience

Decision Analysts’ mail survey experts have managed and processed thousands of mail surveys from simple postcard invitations to online surveys, to multicell, in-home product tests, to major customer satisfaction monitoring studies, to large market structure studies, to global tracking studies. Capabilities include:

  • Postcard or letter invitations to an online survey.
  • Warranty card receipt and processing, online and offline.
  • Multipage paper questionnaires.
  • In-home usage tests.

Project Management

Decision Analyst provides complete mail survey services, including:

  • Sampling
  • Questionnaire design and layout
  • Tracking-identification coding
  • Variable inserts
  • Printing
  • Test product labeling
  • Test product packaging
  • Test product mailing or shipment
  • Insert, meter, and mail
  • Business-reply mail accounts

Mail Questionnaire Design and Layout

Since mail surveys are the original self-administered questionnaires, they need to be simple and easy to understand, with no skip patterns (if possible) and with a minimum number of open-ends. Decision Analyst has created hundreds of mail questionnaires over the years and prides itself on exemplary mail surveys. Decision Analyst’s mail survey design team can design the letterhead, postcards, questionnaires, and envelopes with your existing brand and logo or other graphics for printing.

When the informational needs of a project dictate a more complicated questionnaire design, Decision Analyst recommends programming the questionnaire online and then mailing survey invitations to potential respondents, inviting them to the online survey.


Decision Analyst utilizes Icion®, its proprietary, multivariate sampling and panel management software system, to simultaneously balance samples by geography, gender, age, income, and ethnicity with random selection of respondents within each quota cell.

All mailing lists are cleaned, dedupped, and assigned a unique ID before mailing. When appropriate, mail samples are cleaned via the NCOA database and CASS certification.

Survey Return Handling & Response Tracking

Completed questionnaires and forms are typically returned to one of Decision Analyst’s business reply accounts. Respondent participation is carefully tracked using Icion®. Once surveys are returned to Decision Analyst, the questionnaires go through editing, coding, and data entry processes, followed by data cleaning and quality assurance checks. Cross-tabulations come next, followed by analysis and reporting.

Logician® Online Reporting System

Decision Analyst’s Logician® Online Reporting Platform is one of the ways results can be delivered. As questionnaires are processed and the survey database is updated, clients can review topline results, generate real-time reports, run cross-tabs, and export results to Excel for charting and graphing.

Mail Surveys Versus Online Surveys

Mail surveys provide the widest reach, since almost everyone has a known mailing address. However, only a subset of the population may be reached by online surveys (not everyone is online) or by telephone surveys (not everyone has landline; answering machines screen calls; do-not-call list blocks many numbers, etc.).

Mail surveys are best for moderate- to high-interest product categories, where participants are most likely to respond to mail surveys.

When to use an Online Survey:

  • When the questionnaire is long and complex, involving skip patterns.
  • When the target audience is reachable via email.
  • When the results are time sensitive.

When to use a Mail Survey:

  • When the questionnaire is simple and easy to follow for respondents.
  • When you have time to wait for completed surveys.
  • When the audience is difficult to research by other methods.

Combined Mail and Online Surveys

A combined data collection approach is a solution to consider. In a combined mail and online research design, an invitation to an online survey is sent to respondents via the mail. This provides the reach of mail surveys and the questionnaire control of online surveys.

In-Home Usage Product Testing (HUTS)

Decision Analyst’s Mail Processing Department ships thousands of products each year to households in the U.S. and other countries so that those households may participate in home-usage product testing studies. Decision Analyst has evaluated thousands of consumer package goods and consumer durables using its American Consumer Opinion® panels, online research capabilities, and mail processing capabilities.

Quality Assurance

Quality assurance is exacting, and mail surveys are carefully monitored at every step in the process by Decision Analyst’s Quality Assurance Department. Before printing, all materials are carefully proofed by the Quality Assurance Department. Once the surveys are printed and inserted into the envelopes, they are inspected for completeness, matching IDs, correct product for the cell assignment, etc. As questionnaires are completed and returned, each questionnaire is checked against the original sample to prevent duplicates and uninvited respondents. Data entry accuracy is 99.95% (after data entry and 100% verification, the standard procedure).

Types of Mail Surveys

Multilingual Coding Services

In marketing research, verbatim coding is the assignment of numeric codes to various words, phrases, ideas, or concepts in text, so that the information and meaning in the text can be extracted and analyzed quantitatively. Open-ended questions in surveys generate reams of verbatim text that must be coded and analyzed. CRM systems, customer-feedback systems, customer records, competitive websites, etc., can also provide large amounts of verbatim text to code and analyze.

Coding Process

Coders begin by reading the text to be coded. As they read, they begin to build a codeframe (a list of codes by question). Then all of the open-ended answers to each question are coded. This system enables coders to move quickly through questionnaire text. All answers are carefully coded by a person trained in coding (no automated or computer coding). The results are precise codes that fully reflect the true meanings of the open-ended verbatims.

Types of Coding

Decision Analyst codes all types of open-ended verbatim answers, comments, and text across many different product categories and industries, including:

  • Open-ended verbatims from surveys (paper surveys, online surveys, comment cards, etc.).
  • Open-ended responses in customer-feedback systems.
  • Open-ended answers to phone surveys (CATI, voice, or text).
  • Voice/Video recordings from IVR systems or ethnography studies.
  • Social media text.
  • Photographs, and video files.

Multilingual Coding

Decision Analyst provides verbatim coding services for more than 30 different languages. The following languages are coded by Decision Analyst's native language coders:

  • English
  • Arabic
  • Chinese
  • Dutch
  • French
  • German
  • Hindi
  • Italian
  • Japanese
  • Portuguese
  • Russian
  • Spanish
  • Turkish

In addition, Decision Analyst codes more than 20 other languages through partner companies in their respective countries. Coding in the actual language saves time and money so that translation is not needed. If you have an unusual language to code, please check with us. We may have a partner company that can code that language.

Quality Assurance Standards

Decision Analyst adheres to rigorous and consistent quality standards. The level of coding quality is largely determined by the quality of the coders. They must be very smart, intellectually curious, and capable of great attention to detail. Decision Analyst coders are carefully trained for a minimum of six months before independent work is permitted. Decision Analyst coders average more than 15 years of marketing research coding experience.

The work of each coder on a project is carefully checked at multiple points by quality-control specialists within the department and then checked again, independently, by the Quality Assurance Department.

Cross-Tabulation Services

Decision Analyst's Tabulation experts use sophisticated software and systems to produce powerful cross-tabs and summaries that include algebraic models for scoring and analysis. Significance testing can be applied to columns and rows of tabulated results, and complex weighting schemes can be applied to the data. There are no limits on the size of the datafile.

Decision Analyst Cross-tabs may include:

  • Descriptive statistics (mean, median, standard error, standard deviation, mode)
  • Minimum and maximum values
  • Data weighting
  • Nets
  • Rankings
  • Statistical testing (T-test, , Z-test, Chi-square, ANOVA/MANOVA)
  • Topline reports
  • Up to 22 points per banner
  • Confidence intervals


Information in a database is of no value if it cannot be extracted and reported promptly and accurately. Decision Analyst has developed powerful multilevel reporting software with graphics and drill-down capabilities to speed important information to decision makers. Results and tabulations can be provided in the following formats:

  • Cross-Tabulations
    • Detailed tabular format in Word, Excel, PDF, or by paper
    • Logician® Online Reporting System
    • Charts or graphs in Word, PowerPoint, or PDF
  • Cleaned Datafiles
    • ASCII
    • Excel
    • SPSS
    • SAS
    • Access

Quality Assurance

Decision Analyst Tabulation Programmers use a strict multistep checklist when creating cross-tabulations. Each programmer’s logic is double-checked by a second programmer, and then final tables are checked by the Quality Assurance Department for a thorough review.

Advanced Statistical Analyses

Many different types of mathematical tests and analyses can be conducted on the data by using SAS, SPSS, and R-Language, such as:

  • Correlation analysis
  • Cluster analysis
  • Factor analysis
  • Multiple regression
  • Discrete modeling, choice modeling
  • Market segmentation

Questionnaire Design and Guidance

Decision Analyst provides assistance with questionnaire design before data collection begins. This is especially important for studies requiring market segmentation, choice modeling, or other advanced statistical techniques.

Survey Management and Data Processing Experience

Decision Analyst is a leading, global marketing research and analytical consulting firm with more than 45 years of experience in tabulating a multitude of studies from simple questionnaires to tracking/wave studies, to multi-country advanced analytical designs. The senior programmers have been with Decision Analyst for an average of over 10 years.

Research Support Services

If you need a cost estimate for a survey tabulation or coding project, please contact Lisa Hazen, Vice President/COO, by emailing her at, or by calling 1-800-ANALYSIS (262-5974) or 1-817-640-6166.

If you would like more information about Mail Process and Data Management Services, please contact Jerry W. Thomas, Chief Executive Officer, by emailing him at, or by calling 1-800-ANALYSIS (262-5974) or 1-817-640-6166.