Convenience Sampling Defined: Pros and Cons

Verint TeamSeptember 16, 2013

Conducting a thorough survey relies on two things: willing participants and accurate data. Often, tracking down survey groups that can provide pertinent data costs a significant amount of time and money. Since feedback is a necessary component of first-class customer service and workforce optimization, savvy professionals turn to convenience sampling to get the data they need.

What Is Convenience Sampling?

Convenience sampling is a method that relies on convenient pools of respondents for the collection of data. Conducting surveys this way will cost a business fewer resources, and respondents are usually ready and willing to participate.

This is in direct contrast to random sampling, where surveyors may issue demographic questions to a wide range of participants, some of whom may be unwilling to respond.

Convenience sampling, by definition, should remain convenient. To be effective, there must be minimal criteria necessary for participation in the survey. All population members should be eligible, and members of the survey group should be easily accessible.

Convenience Sampling Example

Employee satisfaction and performance surveys are great examples of convenience sampling. These surveys are conducted from a readily accessible pool of respondents (i.e., your employees).

If employees feel their survey answers will affect their job security, there may be concerns about bias. But HR departments can implement simple tools to make these surveys anonymous. Subsequently, employees will feel more comfortable answering survey questions honestly, and organizations will receive more thoughtful insights they can act on to improve.

Why Use Convenience Sampling?

There are several reasons why organizations should opt for convenience sampling. Conducting your employee and customer feedback surveys with this method allows for a significant reduction in cost, time, and complexity. Relying on a readily available sample of participants, ease of research, and more straightforward survey rules are all aspects of convenience sampling that help organizations gather data quickly and effectively.

Convenience samples can also be used to delight dissatisfied customers. A key, often forgotten aspect of probability sampling is its dependence on external selection. Organizations are left repeatedly reminding people to take a survey in order to ensure the sample group’s representativeness.

A survey postcard presented with every bill at a restaurant is a popular convenience sampling example since there is no follow-up or encouragement to take the survey. In this particular application, dissatisfied customers are often more likely to complete such surveys, which gives the restaurant an opportunity to hear from such customers and create an opportunity to improve their satisfaction.

Accurate customer sentiment can also be captured using convenience samples. Illustrative quotes are essential to support powerful marketing tools like case studies. Convenience samples can be a great source of emotional and persuasive comments on specific topics. The survey can also provide detailed demographic profiles to shed further light on the comments shared, as well as “ideal customer” avatars.

The Pros of Convenience vs. Random Samples

Organizations that switch to a convenience sampling approach can experience significant improvements to their effectiveness. Let’s take a detailed look at some of the ways this approach will improve survey efforts:

  • Many data experts define convenience sampling as cost-effective. Business owners can cut survey costs by leveraging their existing audience. The survey delivery method can be as simple as mailing a survey invite to your in-house list or posting a link to your website or social media. Even if you want to rent a list, it’s much more affordable than a probability sample. For one recent study we quoted, it cost $800 to rent a list or $4,400 to field the same survey to a random sampling of telephone participants — quite a difference in cost!
  • Convenience sampling also requires fewer participation rules and less research. The survey becomes accessible to the entire population because there are very few necessary eligibility criteria. As a result, collecting your respondent pool becomes quick and easy, and the overall survey processing experience doesn’t complicate your back-office operations.
  • Convenience samples may provide accurate correlations. Some argue that correlation research is accurate enough with convenience samples since the study is not of proportions of the target audience but of the relationship between variables.

The ease of participation and high response rate with convenience sampling will significantly improve the depth of your survey data. The above advantages turn your surveys into an economical activity that provides thoughtful insights to you and your team.

The Cons of Convenience vs. Random Samples

Convenience sampling shouldn’t be viewed as a fool-proof data collection method. It’s not without its drawbacks. However, these disadvantages can be minimized if organizations know what to look for.

Here are a few cons to watch for when implementing convenience sampling:

  • Convenience sampling may produce biased data. Since you’re conducting your survey with a group of easily accessible participants (i.e., only people who have already attended your restaurant), your results may not be representative of the entire population. The tendency when using convenience samples is to treat the results as representative, even though they are not. Many people do not understand the theoretical underpinnings of probability sampling and treat any survey results as accurate representations of the target audience. While mainstream media outlets often will not publicize the results of surveys that use convenience samples, small media organizations often will. And they may do so without describing the methodology as a convenience sample.
  • The results of convenience samples are hard to replicate. If you analyze the results of a convenience survey by list source, you will often find dramatic differences in the answers from the different lists, often in ways that confound easy explanation.

Teams need to keep these limitations of convenience sampling in mind when using this data to make decisions that affect employees or customers. It’s also a good idea to note a convenience sample was used when conveying this information to the general public, shareholders, and other stakeholders.

Real-World Scenarios to Consider

Here are two scenarios where the drawbacks of convenience sampling played out in the real world.

  • There was the 2008 AOL poll with 272,939 votes in which 61% of respondents voted for John McCain for U.S. President and 39% for Obama. Here we see that much larger convenience samples are not more accurate than small probability samples, as we know Obama went on to win the election that year.
  • At the 2009 CASRO Data Collection Conference, Jon Krosnick compared the results of a telephone probability sample to that of seven convenience samples conducted via the Internet. Where 54% of respondents said they had recently seen a movie in the probability sample, the convenience samples varied widely, with answers ranging from 65% to 93%. Weighting the results of the convenience samples didn’t bring the answers into line with the probability sample.

What is the difference between random sampling and convenience sampling?

One of the major differences between random and convenience sampling is speed. Convenience sampling allows for faster and easier data collection than random sampling methods.

Random sampling, however, has historically produced less biased data. Since convenience sampling relies on a smaller pool of readily accessible respondents, there is a chance for the data to be skewed.

That being said, there are three quick concepts you can implement to improve the accuracy of your convenience sampling:

  • Use multiple samples
  • Repeating the survey
  • Cross-validating your data

Channeling the Power of Convenience

Convenience sampling, when used effectively, can provide organizations with all the insight they need to improve their customer service and employee experience. As long as the drawbacks are kept in mind, convenience samples can provide the necessary results at lower costs and with greater ease of implementation.

Organizations can turn to Verint to take their employee and customer communication to the next level. Our tools will help you and your organization leverage the power of AI to increase employee and customer engagement. Combining these tools with the power of convenience sampling will provide you and your team with actionable insight you can use immediately to improve performance.

Contact a Verint Systems representative today to learn more about what we can do for you.