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Survey Design Software

Access and information about web-based survey design

Advanced Features in Qualtrics

Activate the SMS feature.


Paying for the SMS text messaging.

According to NYU's contract with Qualtrics, NYU pays for both incoming and outgoing text messages to participants

  • There is a cost for both incoming and outgoing messages to NYU.  That cost is $0.01 per message.  So if you conduct a 3 question survey, you'll likely incur a $0.07 cost (3 questions, 3 answers, and 1 'thank you' or confirmation message at the end).
  • When NYU purchased the SMS feature, it also purchased a bucket of 50,000 text messages for $500.  NYU can keep track of how many of those are used within your administration page in Qualtrics.

In addition, please review the following information regarding the size /  length of the question that will determine how many messages are sent per question in a survey. 

  • Essentially, common wisdom about SMS is that each message is limited to 160 characters. However, it turns out that the real limitation is the amount of information sent over - 140 bytes, or 1120 bits. Most characters are encoded to take up 7 bits of data per character, and since 1120/7=160, that's where you get the 160 character limit.
  • As it turns out, many characters (including foreign characters) actually take up 16 bits of data. When one such character is introduced into an SMS message, everything else in the message is also switched to 16 bit encoding. This changes your character limit to 1120/16=70 characters.
  • Let's say you have an SMS survey with an 80 character question. This fits quite comfortably within the regular SMS limit of 160 characters, so your survey will only take 1 "message" up when you first send it out. However, if you add a 16 bit character to the SMS message, the limit shrinks down to 70 characters. Now your first message will take up 2 "messages," since it exceeds the 70 character limit. This means that certain messages will more than double the cost of sending out SMS surveys.

Qualtrics SMS text program is based on the assumption that the receiver of the text has an unlimited text data plan.  Therefore, Qualtrics SMS feature will generate a text to be sent (no charge to the user to send the text via the Qualtric server,) but there may be a cost to the receiver of the text to respond to the survey that was sent to them depending on their cell plan.    

Again, just to clarify, in our communication with Qualtrics, we discovered that there is an assumption that potential survey participants receiving text messages have an unlimited data plan for their cellular service.  As we know this is not so for all survey participants (esp. with pre-paid phone plans and international plans,) therefore it is up to the researcher distributing the survey to determine how best to handle the cost of responding to a text message that may be passed to the potential survey participants.  
Due to this issue in cost in/directly being transferred to respondents, NYU has made the SMS feature accessible to researchers through a request only system, so we have the opportunity to alert you to potential fees.  For more questions please contact


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