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7 Things About Field Data Collection Your Boss Wants To Know

Mathew Maniyamkott

10 min read

While getting a survey done to understand the opinion of your customers is much needed, the subsequent field data collection will tell a lot about the business’ follow-up plans to work on the feedback. Don’t rely on paper forms as they only add to the clutter, confusion and the inefficiency, although, sometimes, they are unavoidable. There are offline survey apps that let you continue the field data collection process within the same form which makes a big difference as it saves time and there is no need to learn new processes.

Field data collection- I believe in innovation and that the way you get innovation is to fund research and learn the basic facts.”

Remember that the research is only as good as the data that drives it, which is why choosing the right field data collection method is of prime importance. Let’s say you sell products to C-suite executives, then you cannot have focus groups of random people, you can only have CEOs as a part of the focus group. Focus Groups might not be one of the best methods for field data collection because CEOs value their time more and might not have the time to be available for an in-person focus group discussion. An email survey or a phone call would be an ideal way for field data collection when your product serves top-level executives.

The 4 Field Data Collection Techniques You Can Choose From

There are four field data collection techniques that you are going to see here. There is no best field data collection method since each of the techniques depend on the type of solution that is needed. The four field data collection techniques which are widely used are: Observation, Questionnaire, Interviews and Focus Group Discussion.

Field Data Collection Technique #1: Observation

It is easily one of the simplest techniques to employ in field data collection although it can be tiring and takes a lot of effort just observing people over a significant period of time. It can be a quick method for field data collection because it can be done from a public place and doesn’t usually need permission from a third-party.

It could be as simple as collecting the number of people who walk into a mall or cross a particular road in a day. There is very less infrastructure required for this and it can be done at a pretty cheap budget too.

Field Data Collection Technique #2: Questionnaires

They are easily one of the most popular methods of data collection and it is usually administered through emails, phone, online and even printed questionnaires. The best thing about Survey Questionnaires is that you can structure the questions in a format in which you can get the maximum output. The respondents can also get back in a time that is most convenient to them. They get to think at their own pace too.

Field Data Collection Technique #3: Interviews

While interviews can be time-consuming, you can best understand the psyche of the respondents and can get better responses than normal by interacting with them deeply. Interviews cover the disadvantages posed by the other two methods of field data collection mentioned above. You can ensure that the answers are interpreted correctly when it comes to this method as the interviewer is also present. A well-trained interviewer can increase the response rate by many notches. If your field data collection involves complex topics, then without a doubt, taking interviews is the best option as you want nuanced answers given after much thought.

Field Data Collection Technique #4: Focus Group Discussion

A focus group discussion involves a bunch of people who have similar backgrounds and it is used to explore the beliefs, experiences, and motivations of each of the participants. In a field data collection survey, focus group discussion gains prominence because it is used to provide data to enhance, change or create a product or service. FGD becomes extremely useful if you use it to obtain detailed information about personal, group feelings, opinions and more.

Field data collection-“He who asks is a fool for five minutes. He who does not ask is a fool forever.”

Now that we have discussed briefly field data collection, here are 7 things that your boss should know to make sure that the business runs smoothly:

1. Plan the Field Data Collection Process Properly

It is easy to go overboard and ask all sorts of questions, even the ones that are not relevant to the field data collection process. Here are 3 questions that you need to keep in mind:

  • What exactly is the objective of this field data collection exercise?
  • What information do you have in hand?
  • What information will you need to use?

Once you know the questions that need to be asked, the next step involves budgeting to get this task done. This is why it is prudent to stick to the most important questions and not ask for information that is not directly related to the objective of the field data collection exercise as each question adds to the cost.

While collecting data on mobile (read online) might be the best way to go about it, this might not always be possible, for example, the respondent might be your customer at a restaurant or someone who is watching a play in your theater.

Here’s what can be done. Information can be taken on hand-held devices, the entries can be stored on the cloud and can subsequently be added to online survey tools.

2. Build an Effective Survey

The design of your field data collection survey has a huge impact in terms of the number of respondents, but also in how the data is collected, processed and analyzed. As we have mentioned above, do not ask questions just because you can. Ask only the most relevant questions since each irrelevant question can disturb the flow of the respondent as they might not like being asked questions that are unnecessary.

Choose how you want the questions to be asked, should it be open-ended questions or provide answers which the respondents themselves can choose. The latter means that the respondents will find it easy to fill the field data collection survey and you can arrive at a conclusion sooner than expected.

The methods that you use to distribute for the field data collection process is of utmost importance because it makes the highest impact as not all methods are relevant. Also, make sure if the respondent needs to furnish supporting reference information for the data that is being collected.

Field data collection-Research is to see what everybody else has seen, and to think what nobody else has thought.

Here are some tips on building an effective field data collection survey. Below are some of the best practices that need to be followed:

  • Make the questions completely relevant and to the point

When you stay focused on the most important questions, the respondent understands that you respect their time and they will be more than inclined to give the most value in the field data collection survey. Keeping optional questions can detract people from getting the most relevant information.

  • Use straightforward language

Do not use language that might not be understandable in a single reading. Remember that the respondents want to get done with the survey in the shortest possible time and rarely think for a few seconds to fill out the form, which is why you need to use simple language. Do not use technical jargons unless really necessary and if you happen to, then make sure you explain the meaning as well. The best surveys are the ones which doesn’t hog too much time for the respondent.

  • List questions in an order

It is a given that the name of the respondent if asked is usually the first or second question. Imagine someone is filling out a field data collection survey form and they are asked for their name in the second page of the form. Such a non-cohesive order is odd and will not make your respondents comfortable.

3. Mobile Data Collection is the Best Option Out There!

You can eliminate pen and paper-based surveys when using mobile-based surveys. When using mobile field data collection, the data is entered into the system only once which reduces the errors significantly. When using mobile for field data collection, you can analyze the data in real-time.

Mobile forms come with a lot of significant features like calculators, conditional questions and so on. The field data collection using mobile systems doesn’t only allow text, but other formats like images, videos and so on. It not only increases the value of the field data collection but also increases the reliability as there are a lot of methods in which you can use the data.

With smartphone being adopted at such a rapid pace, it is no wonder that companies are building offline data collection apps for end users and critical business functions. Knowing what attracts a user to a product or service is the biggest learning that you can do to make your company successful. Mobile-based field data collection is also cheaper not because you save on paper, but it cuts the expense of people having to work long hours and collect data.

4. Test the Field Data Collection Process

Field data collection-The goal is to transform data into information, and information into insight.”

Sure, you might have systems in place to conduct the field data collection process. Testing the field data collection methods can save you a lot of time if you are doing it for the first time. There are a lot of things that can go wrong when you are using a new technology, the software can go kaput, there might not be enough connectivity and so on.

These processes only become smooth when you have done it many times, this is why it is essential that you reduce any friction that could possibly happen by testing the field data collection process in advance. Testing ensures that all the systems are in place to complete a seamless field data collection process. Through testing, you will know if the data collection process needs to be improved and if yes, which are the areas where it needs to be done.

5. Field Data Collection Requires a Lot of Resources

Field data collection- “The bad news for our industry is that we periodically forget that people are notoriously bad at telling us the truth.”

There are chances of errors occurring when collecting the data and also due to connectivity issues which can derail the entire field data collection process. The business needs to create well-defined forms that are understandable and attractive to the respondent. There should be a plan set in place as to how the field data collection is going to unfold.

The resources that one would need in a field data collection process would include the following- designer, copywriter, technical personnel, someone who can work with the survey software, analytics expert and so on. Getting feedback from customers using the field data collection process is a long drawn approach and a lot of work goes into achieving this.

6. List your Plans with the Data Once it is Collected

Here are some of the things that you need to do post the field data collection process.

  • Give and get feedback on how it went

Look out how the entire field data collection process pans out. Are the methods with which the data is collected fool-proof? Look for ways in which the field data collection process could be bettered. How do the respondents react when they are posed with the survey form on the PoS device? Does your team need extra training or resources to make changes in the field data collection survey process?

  • Process the data

The job is not done once the data is received, in fact, the work has only started once the field data collection process is over. If the survey was taken using a paper, then the entire data needs to be input on an excel sheet and if it was on a mobile device whose data was subsequently saved into the cloud, then you need to export the data.

  • Analyze the data received

Dig deep into your data and analyze the results of your survey, put them into graphs, charts, and numbers to gain different perspectives. Once you know how you have affected your customers and how they find value from you, there is a lot you can do with the data.

  • Distribute the findings

Once you have analyzed the findings, the next step is to distribute it to various stakeholders including your clients and respondents who should get a copy too. The charts, maps, graphics, and reports that you prepared can help you tell a story about the kind of value that you offer to your customers. As we have mentioned earlier, automate as much as possible with third-party tools.

7. Features that You Need to Have

Field data collection-If you want to understand today, you have to search yesterday.

Creating complex forms becomes a must when you are in a business that has a lot of data associated with it, which is why you need powerful form creation options to smoothen the field data collection process. Here are some of the top features that you need to have for the field data collection process:

  • Capturing images

Collecting images from the camera or from the gallery. It should also allow only for photos that clears a certain benchmark.

  • Offline Data Collection

The ability to collect data from anywhere, even without internet connection. The field data collection a.k.a offline survey app should be able to save the data offline and sync it when there is a connection.

  • Monitoring and Tracking data

Collect baseline data when the project starts, monitor the interactions that happen and use it to assess the behavior in the future. It should also come with filters using which you can search for any entity.

  • Skip Logic

The ability to use conditional logic so that respondents who are not part of a particular question don’t have to waste time in even reading it. Creating custom paths based on previous answers shortens the survey cycle.

  • Ability to capture audio

The app should also come with the ability to record audio interviews and subsequently convert them into readable text format so that it can be processed and analyzed further.


As with most important things, there are a lot of factors that you need to keep in mind to conduct a field data collection process. Field data collection usually comes with demographic restrictions and along with it, a few associated problems too. There are logistical challenges too in terms of the ability to have access to the right equipment, tools and making sure they work at the right time. To give an example, Google Home and Echo Dot which uses speech recognition technologies would not be able to understand or collect hours of speech data from people of varying backgrounds, ethnicity and accent, without field data collection.

An efficient field data collection process means lesser costs, high customer satisfaction, reduction in overhead costs and more, all of which directly contribute to your firm’s profitability.

Mathew Maniyamkott

Guest Blogger at SurveySparrow

Regular contributor to various magazines. Passionate about entrepreneurship, startups, marketing, and productivity.

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