What is Dial Testing?

Dialsmith has been in the dial testing game for a long time. We work with professional researchers, marketers, consultants and customer insights specialists. As the developer of the Perception Analyzer dial testing tools and services for focus groups and surveys, we support global clients with in-person and online research every day.

However, if you’re new to dial testing, you probably have many of the same questions we get all the time. As much as we’d love to talk with you about them, sometimes you just want to “Google It” and get a quick answer. Well, that’s where this article comes in. So, without further ado, you might be wondering…

What is Dial Testing?

Official answer is… 

Dial testing is the real-time collection and analysis of closed-ended feedback to questions and moment-to-moment feedback to live and recorded content.

Now, for the “give it to me straight” answer…

Here’s the deal; if you’re trying to find out what people are really thinking, memory stinks. Asking someone what they thought, or how they felt, about something is bound to give you all kinds of less-than-reliable results. We’ve studied this and with the help of industry and academic experts have some good resources to back this up.

So, how can dial testing help? Dial testing is how you overcome the negative impact of flawed memory and recall bias by capturing what people think in-the-moment. This is done two ways; with hand-held dials in focus groups and with an on-screen slider in surveys.

Click to read our new article Dial Testing Groups vs Traditional Focus Groups

As participants watch your content, such as ads, TV shows, presentations, etc., they use in-person dials or an online slider to give continuous, second-by-second feedback. This gives you real-time, gut reactions that you can then use to probe deeper and refine your content.

The second-by-second results are overlaid on top of the content being tested. Colored lines represent different audience segments. 

So, Dial Testing is Just for Media Testing, Right?

Oh, contraire, my friend. Dial testing is used for a heck of a lot more than that! Yes, what makes dial testing most unique is its ability to to capture moment-to-moment reactions through a dial or slider. But, those same devices can be used to ask all kinds of other questions.

For example, in a focus group, participants can use their dials to answer closed-ended questions. Some may be as simple as a gender question to help segment the moment-to-moment ratings, while others may be Likert scale or attitudinal scale questions to gauge feelings and opinions. Most any closed-ended question can be asked with the dials in a focus group.

Dial testing scale questions           Dial testing demographic question
Dial testing results for Attitudinal Scale and Discrete Choice questions

This has the added bonus of eliminating groupthink by allowing each participant to answer privately and individually before opening things up to group discussion. You’re paying every respondent, so why not hear from each of them for every question?

How Do Respondents Answer Questions with the Dials?

Good question! The dials use a 0 – 100 numeric range, but can also use any range in-between. So, for instance, for a gender question, respondents would dial 1 for Female and 2 for Male. For a 5-point Likert scale, respondents would dial between 1 – 5 for the range of Strongly Disagree-Strongly Agree. For a 5-, or 7-, or 10-point attitudinal scale, respondents would dial to the appropriate number based on the scale labels.

For every question, the moderator, as well as colleagues and clients in the viewing room, can see the results charted in real-time to help drive group discussion. Any of those questions can also be used to segment the results of moment-to-moment ratings so you can see how different subgroups reacted to the content.

How Does Dial Testing Work Online?

Online dial testing is very similar to in-person dial testing except respondents use an on-screen slider instead of the in-person Perception Analyzer dials. Video or audio content gets embedded into a survey and respondents adjust the slider continuously as they watch. There is also an optional hotkey or “take action” button that respondents can click to indicate they would take a particular action.

For example, during a TV show they may click a “tune-out” button if at some point during the show they would stop watching if they could. That moment is recorded and the respondent continues rating the show to the end.

Dial testing online - media with slider      
Overview of our online dial testing tools and moment-to-moment reporting. 

Hope we covered your basic questions about dial testing. If you’ve got follow-up questions or want to discuss how dial testing can help with a specific project you’ve got in mind, please feel free to hit us up.

Want to Dive a Bit Deeper into Dial Testing?

Here’s a video with an overview of both our in-person and online dial testing tech:

And here’s some additional recommended reading:

Dial Testing Group vs Focus Group: How Are They Different?

10 Ways Dial Testing Will Improve Your Research

Moment-to-Moment Research Playbook