Examining Motivations to Refuse in Industrial Mail Surveys

Artur Baldauf
Heribert Reisinger
University of Vienna
William C. Moncrief
Texas Christian University


Besides information gathered from consumers, decision-makers in marketing also rely heavily on data collected from business organisations (McDaniel & Gates 1999). Business research is usually undertaken to analyse the competitive situation, to explore sales and marketing potentials, and to forecast sales (Hutt & Speh 1995). However, these information needs for businesses are often not met by the use of secondary data which challenge the researchers to conduct their own studies. Experimental and observational methods are frequently not as effective in business research compared with consumer research (Hutt & Speh 1995). Hence, the reliance on expert judgments and the use of survey research as methods of data collection are preferred. Mail questionnaire surveys have been heavily used in industrial studies because of their ability to collect more extensive data at reasonable cost than through other data collection methods. Unfortunately, a continuing problem in connection with mail surveys in industrial settings is the respondents refusal to co-operate, resulting in generally low response rates (Churchill 1999; Harvey 1987; Yu & Cooper 1983). While response rates for mailed questionnaires in consumer surveys can be as high as 50 to 75% (Barabba 1990; Kanuk & Berenson 1975), they typically are much lower for many business studies with 15% sometimes being considered as an acceptable level (Lincoln & Kalleberg 1985; Tomaskovic-Devey et al. 1994).