Article #37: Interviewer Suite from Voxco

Tim Macer reviews Voxco's Interviewer Suite, a Canadian CATI system making waves in the UK

A CATI above the rest


It was during 1999 that the largely unknown software producer Info ZÈro Un courted publicity by changing its name to Voxco and opening a satellite office in London. Now, the long-awaited Windows GUI version of its CATI package really gives Voxco something to shout about.
This Montreal-based developer has built up a loyal user base, largely in North America and France, with two significant users in the UK. Among its users, Interviewer Suite has an enviable reputation for being the CATI system that never crashes. Voxco's London office reports huge interest in its CATI and web offering from other CATI users dissatisfied with the inflexibility of their existing packages.
Interviewer Suite on Windows is a very attractive solution. I checked that it covered all the basic must-haves of any CATI system, which it does and in many cases does in a uniquely imaginative way. This is a system that is ready to go that extra mile with you. Its highly intuitive visual questionnaire designer will design surveys for CATI or web, but if you prefer working in Word, you can mark up the questionnaire and then import it for researcher or technician to prepare it for interviewing. Inside the questionnaire builder there are many tricks and shortcuts combined with emphasis on reusability that make the visual programming experience a productive one - and one that is equally accessible to the non-technical user.
Testing a script is just a mouse click away, as is creating simulated interviews, which you can force down particular routes in the questionnaire, unlike the random scatter you get with most other systems. As it integrates closely with its own Stat XP analysis suite (DOS, but Windows version coming), researchers would find it easy to be designing the analysis at the same time as the questionnaire.
What I did not like about the design module was the need to manually calculate a field size on each question, which was clumsy and could cause errors. This is largely unchanged from the DOS version and could do with being simplified, as could the unintuitive logic definition for routing.

Interviewer Suite: pros and cons


Very stable: never crashes
Flexibility in handling openends
Poweful sample, quota and call management
Web integration


Unhelpful manual
Unintuitive selection logic

There is a lot in it for interviewers and supervisors too. All the different tools are simply set out as toolbar icons. A smart predictive dialling system also offers voice capture of openended data, which are then handled simply and efficiently by the built in coding module.
The package excels with its approach to sample management and quota control. Replicate samples, which are common in the US, together with some unique abilities to perform quota "smoothing" by up-weighting low-incidence sub-samples means the support offered is a supervisor's dream.

Interviewer Suite has an enviable reputation for being the CATI system that never crashes

Callback management can be as simple or as complicated as you want, and you can cut and paste sets of rules or whole calling strategies from previous studies. This pattern for imaginative and practical solutions is evidenced across the whole range of modules. Export capabilities are well supported too, including MS Office, SPSS and triple-S.
UK agency MORPACE International has used Interviewer Suite on DOS for three years and is trialling the Windows version. Director Sue Fox told Research, "This is our third CATI package. We've done much more with Interviewer than we could with our previous package. Eighty percent of our work is done in more than one language and the ability to go between different languages is particularly useful. In fact, we've never had the situation when the

Voxco software could not facilitate our really complicated questionnaires. Voxco is much more reactive and much more open to ideas for upgrading the package."
Luigi Federico at MORPACE had programmed in other language-based CATI packages before moving to Interviewer. Asked if the lack of a scripting language made it hard to program complex studies, he replied: "It has been fantastic. We tend to do a lot of complicated screening and quota control and we've done six or seven hundred question studies with really complex routing. If anything it is more difficult, if you are dealing with scripting, to pick up on an error in your programming."
London-based Industrial Research Bureau has used Interviewer on DOS for a mixture of B2B and specialist engineering surveys for close to three years. Senior Project Manager Mike Stevens considers the system ideal for users without a background in DP. He said "One of the things we like is its ability to handle openends. It is very flexible. The DOS version has been very stable. In the last three years we I can only think of two occasions when we had problems."
The only criticisms from users were for the rather cryptic manuals. Voxco are tackling this with integrated online help for the Windows version - hopefully with clearer explanations too. Let us hope the migration to Windows, with its reputation for freezes and crashes, does not sully the program's excellent reputation for stability.

Voxco. 020 7251 5388

Tim Macer writes as an independent specialist in software for market research. His website is at

Published in Research, the magazine of the Market Research Society, January 2000, Issue 404.

© Copyright Tim Macer/Market Research Society 1999. All rights reserved. Reproduced with permission.

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