1530.0 - ABS Forms Design Standards Manual, 2010  
ARCHIVED ISSUE Released at 11:30 AM (CANBERRA TIME) 25/01/2010  First Issue
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Contents >> Survey Letters >> Survey Letters-Introduction


While aspects of these standards will be of interest to those outside the ABS, they were developed for internal use. As such, some information contained in these standards will not be applicable to an external audience. ABS staff should refer to the Corporate Manuals database for the most recent version of these documents, as some details (names, phone numbers etc.) have been removed from the online version.



There are many different letters in use across the ABS. This document covers the general standards and guidelines for business survey letters, although many of the principles included will apply to other letters. Issues specific to induction letters, pre-approach letters, covering letters or reminder letters can be found in the topic specific sections of this chapter of the Forms Design Standards Manual. If a style of letter is not covered here, please contact either Data Collection Methodology (DCM) section or the Provider Contact Unit for further information.

These standards are primarily concerned with printed letters, although emails and faxes are also sent by the ABS to survey participants. In general, the text of emails and faxes should be of the same high standard as a printed letter. The specific standards for emails are covered by the final section in this chapter. Specific standards for letters sent by fax are included in the Survey Fax Design Standards in this manual.

These standards were developed in part using research presented to the Business Provider Relations Strategy Committee in 2004.

The following describes the letters that are most commonly used by the ABS.
Pre-approach letters (new on/continuing)

Pre-approach letters are mailed to respondents prior to the enumeration of a survey. The aim of this correspondence is to inform respondents of the survey's imminent arrival as well as briefly explain the purpose of the survey and the respondent's role in it. In the ABS, pre-approach letters are also called induction letters, contact letters, pre-despatch letters, primary approach letters and "new-on" letters. See Survey Letters-Pre-Approach Letters for further details. For the purpose of these standards pre-approach letters have been broken into 2 categories. The difference between these categories is briefly explained below.

The pre-approach, new-on letter is used when:
  • the survey is new; or
  • the respondent is new to the survey.
This letter briefly alerts the respondent to the ensuing arrival of the survey form. As the provider may not have been selected in an ABS survey before, the letter explains why their business or organisation is being surveyed as well as what is being requested of them. This letter will also include a broad time period within which the survey will arrive and a specific due date for the return of the form to the ABS. This type of letter may include an information sheet which provides the respondent with detailed information regarding the survey.

Pre-approach continuing letters are sent to respondents who have already completed at least one cycle of the survey. This letter will alert respondents that the next round of the survey is due to commence very soon. This letter will also explain to respondents their continuing role in the survey and what is requested of them. It will include the broad time period within which the survey will arrive may have a specific due date for return to the ABS. Most importantly, pre-approach letters to continuing respondents will acknowledge and thank the respondents for their assistance in the previous enumeration periods.
Induction letter

The induction letter is a special pre-approach letter for new-ons that requests contact details. This allows for the survey to be sent directly to the most appropriate contact person in the business. See Survey Letters-Induction Letters for further details and an example.
Information sheet

The information sheet can be included with pre-approach letters or cover letters, especially those to new respondents to help them understand their selection in an ABS survey. The Information sheet explains in detail any extra information about the survey the respondent might find useful that is not already explained on the form itself. See Survey Letters-Information Sheets for further details.
Covering letters (new on/continuing)

Covering letters detail the reason the survey is being run and what the provider (new or continuing) needs to do to comply with the ABS. The covering letter is sent with the survey form and includes a due date for the form's return. See Survey Letters-Covering Letters for further details and an example. The differences between the two covering letters are explained below.

The new-on covering letter is sent to respondents who have not been part of the survey before, whether the survey is new or continuing. The letter explains in greater detail than the pre-approach letters described above, the survey topic, the reason the respondent has been selected and what they are required to do. As this may be the first contact the respondent has had with the ABS, this letter is very important to assist with their understanding of the organisation and its important role.

The continuing covering letter is sent to respondents who have been part of at least one survey cycle. Similarly, this covering letter is more detailed than the pre-approach letters, covering the survey topic, the reason the respondent has been selected and their role. Because this respondent has been in the survey for at least one other cycle the letter should acknowledge and thank them for their assistance in the previous enumeration periods.
First reminder

The first reminder is sent to respondents if the ABS has not received the survey form and the due date has elapsed. It is a gentle reminder which assumes the respondent has forgotten to respond and requests that they do so as soon as possible. See Survey Letters-Reminder Letters for further details and examples.
Second reminder

The second reminder is sent to respondents who have not yet responded to requests to return the form. Generally, these respondents should have been sent the first reminder or may have received other forms of communication with the ABS requesting they respond to the survey. The second reminder contains a stronger message requesting information and detailing the capability of the ABS to direct the respondent to respond. See Survey Letters-Reminder Letters for further details and examples.
Third reminder

The third reminder contains the strongest message. It is sent to respondents who have failed to comply with all other requests for information. The letter is clearly marked as urgent. It details the capability of the ABS to direct the respondent to comply and the consequences of not complying with the request to provide data. See Survey Letters-Reminder Letters for further details and examples.
Electronic communications

Any e-communications with respondents (whether the content of a particular message is sensitive/ confidential, or not) should be secured/encrypted as per Government and ABS policy. ABS policy discourages the use of insecure e-mail, for example, email addresses on forms or other material, particularly for specific individuals. The concern is that this form of contact will encourage respondents to send the ABS confidential information, the security of which cannot be ensured.

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