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By Jeffrey Schneider

As the digital world continues to reshape the way we communicate and conduct business, many companies in the hospitality arena today still look to traditional paper surveys for gathering more reliable, quantifiable data, despite the growth of online surveying.

Although it may seem counterintuitive, paper surveys are more likely to secure the participation of identified target consumers. This is partly because respondents can review the questions and immediately gauge how long it will take to finish the survey.  When they know how long the survey will take, they are more likely to take the time to complete all questions. In addition, businesses such as hotels and restaurants can effectively use paper surveys for targeting customers on-site and, with the right approach or incentives, garner a high rate of participation and completion.

Other advantages to using paper surveys are that specific demographics can be targeted and detailed data can be collected. Tracking surveys enable organizations to reach the same or similar demographics and modify questions over time. This allows for more specific information or customer perceptions to be gauged. Customer satisfaction surveys conducted over a long period of time create a measurement system that allows businesses in today’s hospitality sector to modify or adjust services or strategies in an ongoing process. Yearly, quarterly or monthly comparisons of results collected on-site continue to prove valuable to a business’s bottom line.  

The typical paper survey fills two sides of a standard sheet of paper. In the case of a paper survey mailed to a target audience, respondents are more likely to focus on and answer questions than to power up their computers and follow a link for completing an online questionnaire. There are often too many steps and too much effort involved to complete the online survey. Not knowing how long the survey will take to complete, and moving from page to page to page of questions, often results with people quitting before completing the full online survey.

The hospitality industry is well positioned to secure quality data from on-site surveys.  Restaurants and hotels have the opportunity to query customers on-site over a long period of time. A large international hotel chain can collect information from its guests during their visits. Surveys can be designed in multiple languages, and data from multiple countries can be easily combined into one reviewable data set. Consistent, long-term, on-site paper surveying allows the chain to gather meaningful customer insights and experience feedback that allows it to improve operations.  Additionally, changes in customer desires and attitudes toward a business or its staff can be assessed, and areas for improvement can be identified quickly. In some instances operational changes can be made in real time.

Questions on new subjects can be added to ongoing on-site or mailed paper surveys for gauging respondents’ reactions to new products and services as they are rolled out. This allows hotel and restaurant businesses to maintain a continuous dialogue with customers, affording them the opportunity to ensure that strategic goals are in line with customer service needs and expectations.

The key to the success of paper surveys, especially those given to customers on-site, is that there must be an incentive or reason for the person to complete the survey. We recognize that many people will not even fill out a short survey; they don’t want to be bothered or are just not in the right frame of mind. Offering incentives, such as loyalty rewards points, coupons or discounts, are often enough to entice patrons to answer the questions; for example, offering a guest a beverage when checking into or out of a hotel.

In some instances it is better to mail surveys to target audiences. Mailed surveys may take longer to gather data, but they are very reliable in terms of identifying who is completing them; the individual to whom the survey is mailed is likely to be the individual who completes it. Although there is a cost to conducting mailed surveys, the higher quality of the data gleaned compared to data retrieved online cannot and should not be overlooked.  

Getting customers to fill out a paper survey is only the first step in the process since the information must then be turned into usable data. Fortunately, software technology that scans and digitizes the information – even written answers –simplifies this task. Paper can be scanned and processed, with data returned in just a few days in most instances. This allows data to be rapidly analyzed and the information presented quickly to decision makers.

Paper offers a valuable bridge to the digital world. Armed with accurate, detailed data, hotels and restaurants can make intelligent marketing decisions and fine-tune their customer service approaches. Accurate data secured from a quality pool of respondents is extremely valuable for their business operations.

Using paper surveys to collect information allows these businesses to take customers’ pulses and discover what is and what is not working in promoting customer loyalty and sales.

The internet has been integrated into nearly every aspect of modern life, and it is certain to become even more engrained into our personal and business lives. However, when customers are effectively encouraged to complete mailed surveys or provide information on-site, the quality of the data collected on paper is unmatched. We may be operating in the digital age, but it is clear that paper still has its place in the hospitality sector.

About Jeffrey Schneider

This article was provided by Jeffrey Schneider, Executive Vice President Research & Development for OSC World, an international provider and pioneer in data capturing and processing services for Fortune 100 companies and market research firms. For more information, visit

Contact: Jeffrey Schneider


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