Running commentary

Taking the questionnaire to the respondent is easier with an ECC, reports
Tim Macer

To conduct kiosk interviewing – self-completion with keypad or touchscreen – you inevitably need to take the respondent to the questionnaire; but a new handheld self-completion device, has the advantage that you can take the questionnaire to the respondent – much as you would a conventional printed questionnaire.
The Electronic Comment Card, manufactured by JTECH Communications in the USA and distributed by Call Systems Technology in the UK, consists of a handheld data capture device with a small LCD display and a keypad of chunky buttons that respondents use to scroll up and down the display screen, punch in responses and navigate through the questionnaire. In the back office, there is also a cradle for charging several devices and transferring data to a PC either directly or via a modem link.
ECC has proved popular in the hospitality industry and is currently being rolled out in TGI Fridays across the US. It’s shortly to be introduced here by Whitbread into one of its restaurant chains. For restaurants, the device is packaged as an insert to a pocket-book sized wallet which is used to deliver a customer’s bill to the table – though the product lends itself to a variety of presentation formats. Currently, it is offered either with a simple numeric keypad plus ‘yes’, ‘no’ and arrow keys, or alternatively, with a smaller format but more comprehensive QWERTY keyboard. Instructions and prompts on screen tell the respondent what to do, and it is very easy for anyone capable of using a pocket calculator to complete an interview quickly and accurately.
Questionnaires are created in a simple Windows-based authoring tool on a PC. The questionnaire editor seemed flexible and easy to use within the constraints of the ECC device. Questions may be single or multiple choice with up to ten pre-coded answers, or a numeric response,
JTECH's Electronic Comment Card
  • Improves response rate on self-completion
  • Foolproof for respondents
  • Instant access to results


  • Closed questions only
  • Questions restricted to a dozen answers
  • Questionnaire testing is fiddly

which is ideal for rating scales as well as conventional quantity or cost questions. Open-ended questions are possible on devices with the alphabetic keypad but require a level of skill and patience that effectively rules them out for anything other than the odd word or perhaps UK postcodes.
Routing logic allows skips based on previous answers by setting a ‘go to’ on the answer. While this is simple to write, it does preclude more complex logical combinations such as rule-based selections, or routing based on the answer to a much earlier question. Neither can individual answers be excluded from the list presented.
Hidden timers can be set throughout the interview and can be used to detect cheating from respondents or staff. Texts can be give a display time, which is useful for prompts and messages that can move on automatically after a few seconds. Timed texts can also be used with questions to overcome the restriction of only 80 characters on screen, if a longer preamble is required.
A six-hour charge will last a typical working day and there are no effective limits on the number of questions or the number of completed interviews a device can hold. In any case, these can be downloaded frequently for
up-to-the minute results from its built-in reporting tool. These automatic reports are ideal for customer satisfaction surveys but a bit restricted for general MR applications.
Libby Wilkinson, group marketing manager for Quantum Exhibitions used ECC to automate her visitor and exhibitor research at last year’s Restaurant Show in London. “Our temporary exhibition staff found it very simple to operate – we definitely got more responses than with paper and pencil. One member of staff was initially very anti, but she actually got more responses than anyone else and became quite an enthusiast.”
Commenting on the limitations of the device over paper, Wilkinson points out: “The main restriction is that you can’t ask ‘why’ questions, but it is not a major one. If you use this, it’s a case of finding your way round the restrictions. The fact you get such a good response and can get the data so quickly means the benefits outweigh the disadvantages.”

JTECH's UK Distributors:

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, March 2002, Issue 430.

© Copyright Tim Macer/Market Research Society 2002. All rights reserved. Reproduced with permission.

top of page | Back to list of reviews