Follow-up surveys and interviews with program clients is challenging for a lot of reasons. Yet, follow-up data is vital to understanding the effectiveness and long-term impact of the program. Some programs need this data to inform the design of the program, explore quality assurance, and report to stakeholders about the contributions of the program.

Text messaging with program clients is a practical strategy for conducting abbreviated surveys and interviews. The “2 Tips” below illustrate two approaches to using text messaging. As soon as the client completes the program, request a survey or short interview to be conducted in-person or over the phone. If such does not materialize, then try these two things.

Tip 1:

Text message the past client and ask if it’s OK to ask a few questions through text message. If the past client agrees, keep your questions short in the number of words used and short in the number of questions asked (Refer to examples below).

Tip 2:

Text message the past client and ask if it’s OK to ask a few questions through text message. If the past client does not respond, then once-a-week send a survey question through text to see if the past client responds whenever they are able to do so. While this approach stretches out the data collection process, it ensures that you do in fact get responses to the follow-up questions that your program needs. Something is better than zero.

Ensure confidentiality and proper handling of data

Ensure that only work phones are used and/or that a google phone number is established for all in-coming texts from past clients. Anchoring Success prefers the google phone number approach because when it comes time to move the responses into a database form or spreadsheet, the only step is to copy and paste the responses that show-up in one’s google email account. When you establish the google phone number, you must attached the new google phone number to a google email account and to an actual phone. While google accounts are initially linked to an actual cell phone, after the set-up process is done (about 5-minutes) then you can then unlink the google phone number from your cell phone so that your phone does not ring; the good news is that the text messages from past clients will still feed into the email account that is attached to the google phone number, coming in on your end as an email.

Ensure that the text responses from past clients are carefully copied and pasted into the data storage system (e.g. database or closed spreadsheet) with all needed identifying info about the participant so that responses and demographic information can be linked. This supports the integrity and accuracy of the data, ensuring that the in-coming text messages are accurately aligned with information pertaining to the past client in your database.

Check out the hand-out below that assists with wording short text messages.

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Embrace creative data collection processes. This is particularly important for programs serving client populations who face many barriers and who face daily challenges that make responding to a survey or interview their last priority.

Using text messaging to collect follow-up data may seem cumbersome, but all follow-up protocols require time and strategy. Text messaging survey and interview questions is not much more cumbersome than other follow-up methods.

Why did we develop 2 Tips videos?

The Anchoring Success team trusts the talent and sophistication of professionals in Human Services and Education organizations. We know that many professionals and organizational leaders do not have the funds to partner with specialists (like us) and/or the time to strategize on what might seem like extra projects.

Therefore, we launched these “2 Tips” videos to support you with making tweaks, adjustments, and refinements in programs and operations — doable for busy professionals in these organizations!