FTS gauges user satisfaction

FTS gauges user satisfaction

Agency offers free phone time in return for federal execs' survey responses

By William Jackson

GCN Staff

The Federal Technology Service in November pioneered a direct-mail survey using prepaid phone cards to gauge government users' satisfaction with its services.

The cards went out to 1,200 randomly selected senior officials, said Kevin O'Toole, FTS director of business development and tactical operations. Those who responded got a reward: 15 free long-distance telephone minutes.

'Customer feedback has exceeded our expectations and has been extremely positive,' O'Toole said.

The FTS user survey gave respondents 15 free long-distance minutes for answering questions using telephone keypads.

The Interactive Survey Prepaid Phone Card is a new wrinkle in surveys, introduced by MCI WorldCom Inc. in September. FTS was the first organization to survey using the cards, said Denise Smith, product and promotional channel manager for MCI WorldCom Prepaid Services.

Recipients activated the cards by dialing a toll-free number and answering a short list of questions from their telephone keypads.

FTS, which retails information technology goods and services to government users, earns its keep by adding a fee to sales.

'Surveys are important as a litmus test for how our customers view our products and services,' O'Toole said. 'Unlike a traditional survey, which uses long questionnaires, the phone card survey is brief, allows for anonymity and rewards customers for talking to us.'

Early response rates with the cards ranged from 25 percent to 50 percent, compared with 2 percent to 25 percent for other survey methods such as direct mail, telephone and in-person questioning. FTS' overall response rate was 30 percent to 40 percent, Smith said.

An estimated $300 million worth of prepaid cards are sold for promotional uses each year.

MCI WorldCom customizes the design of the survey cards and helps develop a list of survey questions.

The carrier hires professional voice-over artists to record the questions and sets up a voice response unit for answers.

Results are automatically compiled and made available over the Web, said Chris Smith, MCI WorldCom director of prepaid channel marketing.

An organization pays 50 cents per completed survey. The additional cost of giving away long-distance time ranges from 4.5 cents per minute to 7 cents per minute.

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