I love secondary research. I employ the strategy of ‘if it exists, I can find it online’. I am always searching for new content for our clients online in the banking and finance, higher education, and in healthcare. One of the latest secondary research reports I came across in banking and finance was the Winning Through Customer Experience Report written by Ernst & Young. It is a global consumer banking survey conducted each year in which results are released and summarized.

Global Consumer Banking Survey

Here are my 5 key takeaways from this study:

  • Good customer experiences is vital to growth – Although overall financial stability is the number one reason people trust their financial institution (FI), “the way I am treated” was a close second. Other important elements of the customer experience (CX) and building trust included communications, quality of advice, and complaint handling. Quality of advice is a factor that RMS has been tracking over the years with our clients. More and more customers and members are expecting their financial institution to anticipate financial needs and recommend new products for them, working as almost a financial adviser to them.
  • Problems happen, financial institutions need to focus on the resolution experience – the report indicates that customers are expecting their financial institution to act as problem solvers to issues. It’s not the problem that matters but rather how the problem is handled. Our research at RMS has shown to confirm that problem resolution has the most significant impact on overall satisfaction with a financial institution. As the report indicates there is astounding upside if customers are satisfied with problem resolution and a downward spiral if they are dissatisfied. Banks and credit unions should place additional rigor and monitor these outcomes.
  • A struggle for differentiation – Although 60% of respondents do not have plans to open or close any accounts with their financial institution in the next 12 months, the report explains this cannot be interpreted as loyalty. Nearly one-quarter (22%) indicated that all financial institutions are the same and 17% stated it was too difficult or time-consuming to change. The time-consuming switch of FIs follows suit with research conducted by RMS in the past. Many view the process of switching FIs as too challenging which typically results in low customer churn among institutions. Many clients have employed “switch agents” or “switch liaisons” to help customers with this process of switching bills, automatic payments, accounts, etc. to reduce the time needed to make a change.
  • Convenience and trust trump all other factors when choosing a bank or credit union – The blue (convenience) and yellow (trust) diamonds perform high on both importance to a customer and satisfaction with that factor from their financial institution. ‘Keeping financial information safe’ and ‘protecting financial information’ are must haves which is why many FIs have adopted HIPAA-like policies. Looking for factors to help differentiate your bank or credit union from the competition? Choose the factors with high importance and low aggregate satisfaction (e.g., ‘is transparent about what they charge for and makes it clear to you how to avoid paying fees’ and ‘communicates important information clearly’.) If you can perform well on these two factors you will be ahead of the majority of your competitors.
Bank Importance vs. Satisfaction

Click to enlarge – pic taken from EY.com report comparing importance of factors compared to satisfaction with same factors

  • Segmentation is the key to understanding your customers and responding to opportunities – Many clients have undergone efforts to segment their customer base. Segments share common behaviors, expectations, preferences, and therefore solutions. It also assists with future targeted and niche strategies for new customers or members. This report sub-divided 32,000 respondents into 8 global segments: (1) self-sufficients, (2) balancers, (3) safety seekers, (4) new world adopters, (5) unhappy and unmovings, (6) elites, (7) traditionalists, and (8) upwardly mobiles. These segments can be analyzed by preferences and behaviors as well as traditional demographics such as gender, age, education, income, assets, etc.

Research & Marketing Strategies (RMS) is a market research firm that specializes in banking and credit union market research. We are based out of Syracuse, NY but we have clients across the country. If you are interested in talking more about potential market research and surveys with our firm contact our Business Development Director Sandy Baker at SandyB@RMSresults.com or by calling 1-866-567-5422.

Business Presentation

This is Part 2 of our series on successful focus group implementation. Review Part 1 tips here.

  1. Moderating Approach

The skill of the moderator can make or break the focus group. It’s best to hire a professional who has experience managing the dynamics of a focus group. It’s not uncommon for discussions to go off topic, and a good moderator will know how to get the group back on track. They’ll also be able to probe on topics that may not be explicitly stated in the moderator’s guide, but are brought up during discussion. Here are a few other tips that we routinely implement in our focus groups to maximize participation.

  • When possible, have a co-moderator present to help set up, sign participants in, and take notes. If the project requires confidentiality, ask participants to sign a confidentiality agreement, or verbally reinstate the need for confidentiality.
  • Ask participants to use the restroom and turn off electronic devices before getting started to minimize outside distractions.
  • Provide name cards for participants and moderators. We like to start with an ice breaker such as “What is your favorite TV show” or something equally light-hearted and non-controversial.
  • Inform participants (again) if you will be recording the focus group, and the level of confidentiality they can expect from their participation. Most of our recordings are used to generate transcripts, and we do not include full names in the reports.
  • Once the discussion is complete, have the co-moderator assist with distributing honorariums and obtaining signatures for the receipt of those rewards. Also be sure to label any notes obtained from the moderator and participants immediately following the discussion to avoid confusion during data analysis.
  1. Getting the Most Out of Your Data

Once the focus group discussions are complete, the fun part begins – data analysis! Not all focus groups will require full transcription of the discussions, so it is important to determine if it will be necessary to include an allotted amount in the project budget. A typical transcription will take approximately twice the amount of time it took to conduct the focus group. So a 90-minute discussion would take about three hours to transcribe. For groups where transcription is not necessary, moderator and participant notes will be utilized to complete the analysis. Below is a high-level summary of the data analysis procedures for a focus group.

  • First, the researcher will review all notes or transcripts to determine codes for major themes that exist across the focus groups.
  • Sub-categories of themes that emerge will then be determined.
  • Direct quotes will be pulled to support the themes and key findings.
  • If other modes of research were conducted, the findings from the focus groups can be triangulated to provide a basis for an executive summary in the final report. For example, if a theme from the focus groups aligns with a finding from an online survey, it would be important for the researcher to note this in the executive summary.

Research & Marketing Strategies (RMS) is a market research firm located in Syracuse, NY. If you are interested in learning more about our market research services please contact the Director of Business Development, Sandy Baker at SandyB@RMSresults.com or by calling 1-866-567-5422.

Focus groups are an insightful research option for businesses embarking on the exploratory phase of a project. Implementation of a focus group requires a moderator with the skill necessary to obtain rich data that will allow the client to take the next step in their project. Below are tips for conducting a successful focus group.

  1. Recruitment Plan

Establish your target audience prior to focus group recruitment. It may seem like an obvious strategy, but it will be important to spend the time nailing down your recruitment approach with all parties involved. For example, when planning a focus group project, consider the following:

  • Screen potential participants to ensure they meet the criteria for focus group participation.
  • Plan to recruit more participants than you’ll need; there will inevitably be one or more “no shows.”
  • Offer participants an incentive that has value to them, and make it worth their time. Cash is often the best option. We suggest a $50 minimum for 1.5 hours of the participant’s time.
  • Clearly identify the purpose of the focus group when contacting potential participants. People often assume focus groups are a scam. It’s important to let them know you are not trying to sell them something.
  • Inform them of the level of confidentiality they can expect from their participation. Will you be recording the session? Will their name be included in the report to the client?
  • Try to balance the focus group by recruiting participants that share something in common regarding the topic being investigated, but ensure they aren’t TOO much alike that it will bias your data.
  • Plan to spend time recruiting. It often takes multiple attempts to recruit someone to a focus group. If possible, implement multiple forms of recruitment (online/emails, flyers, mailers, and similar strategies).
  1. Selecting Participants

Once participant recruitment begins, it’s important to monitor the quotas for each population being recruited. For example, if you are hoping to determine gaps in available health services over a multiple county area, it will be important to monitor how many participants are recruited for each county. The number of participants should also be considered. We recommend attempting to seat a minimum of six recruited participants in order to allow for rich discussion.

You should also consider whether you will need multiple groups with the same demographics, or fewer groups with participants split based upon an important characteristic. Separate groups should be held if participants are expected to interpret the content differently, or you believe they would not feel comfortable providing truthful responses in the presence of another demographic. Examples of this include holding separate focus groups for bosses and employees, parents and children, and high socioeconomic status vs. low socioeconomic status.

  1. Implementation Strategy
  • Plan to conduct the focus group(s) at a time that is convenient for the participants. This may mean the focus group will take place before or after business hours, during lunch, or on the weekend. Many state and federal organization recognize more holidays than the average US business, so it is best to avoid scheduling the group on a holiday.
  • Provide participants with light snacks and beverages. If the discussion will be held during lunch or dinner, it is best to provide a light meal. As part of your recruitment method, specify the types of refreshments that participants can expect.
  • The location of the focus group can be vital. If your target audience is primarily made up of low socio-economic participants, plan a location along public transportation routes. If you’re trying to reach an affluent business population, a central location in a downtown setting may be a priority. Either way, choose a public setting where parking is convenient, and participants will feel safe.
  • Once a potential location is determined, it will be important to ensure that a large table and chairs will be available. We find it’s best to arrange the room in an informal manner. For example, several tables may be placed next to each other perpendicularly so that no one has their back to another participant.
  • Plan to spend a good amount of time developing the moderator’s guide, which details the implementation strategy that the moderator will use to conduct the focus group. Try to keep questions short and to the point so participants do not lose interest or have trouble comprehending. Questions should be open-ended to allow for rich discussion.

Stay tuned for additional tips on conducting a successful focus group. Research & Marketing Strategies (RMS) is a market research firm located in Syracuse, NY. If you are interested in learning more about our market research services please contact the Director of Business Development, Sandy Baker at SandyB@RMSresults.com or by calling 1-866-567-5422.

From October 20th through 22nd of 2014, I attended The Market Research Event in (not so sunny) Boca Raton, FL. The conference was a gathering of over 1,300 attendees working in market research, 150+ speakers, and over 100 exhibitors. The conference was structured to lead off with two keynote speakers in the morning followed by six separate tracks of mini-sessions throughout the day, followed by a keynote speaker to conclude each day. The six tracks of interest focused on: (1) brand insight and engagement, (2) strategic leadership, (3) insight driven innovation, (4) new technologies and methodologies, (5) insight strategy, and (6) big data and predictive analytics.

Here is my Prezi recap that I presented to the RMS staff this morning for our November session:

Market Research Trends 2015

Click here to view the Prezi

The Research Bunker is a market research blog from Research & Marketing Strategies (RMS). If you are interested in learning more about RMS or have any questions about The Market Research Event 2014 contact George Kuhn at georgek@rmsresults.com or by calling 1-866-567-5422.

Conducting in-depth interviews (IDIs) is the ideal research method for getting highly detailed responses from key stakeholders. Research & Marketing Strategies, Inc. (RMS) knows that completing IDIs allows the interviewer to probe on respondents’ answers in order to gain detailed information on a given topic. Through the use of interview techniques, the researcher can delve deeper into a topic by exploring specific issues, aspects, motivations, influences, habits, and areas of interest.

IDI Blog Photo

Here are five tips to completing IDIs successfully!

  1. Create an easy to use interview guide

An IDI guide assists researchers by helping them stay on track while completing interviews. It also allows researchers to streamline interview questions, which is especially helpful if multiple researchers are completing interviews.

  1. Write down takeaways immediately after the interview

A major advantage of completing IDIs is the ability to understand reasons behind topics of interest. The best way for a researcher to retain this information after completing an interview is to write down key information that was gathered from respondent. We find it is best for the researcher to either take brief notes during the interview, or write down your thoughts immediately following the interview.

  1. Include scaled questions for quantitative insight

Scaled questions help researchers identify similarities and differences between respondents. An example of a scaled question could be, “Please rate your level satisfaction between 1 and 5, with “1” being strongly dissatisfied and “5” being strongly satisfied.” These questions are common in surveys, but they are also useful when completing IDIs.  Asking scaled questions assigns a face value to an aspect. From here, researchers can take it a step further by asking the respondent reasons behind their number choice.

  1. Don’t be afraid to go a little off script

Structured, semi-structured, and unstructured are three types of IDI guides. Structured is where the interviewer must ask the respondent specific questions in a specific order. Unstructured is the opposite of this, and allows researchers to ask questions as they see fit. The most common type of IDI guides are semi-structured, which allows the researcher to veer slightly from the IDI guide during interviews as they see necessary. When completing IDIs researchers will inevitably neglect to ask about important information. Semi-structured IDI guides allow researchers to ask questions about key information that may have been missed. From the participant’s response, researchers may want to update questions in the IDI guide in order include it in future interviews.

  1. Take the time to say, “Thanks!”

Remember to thank your respondent for taking the time to talk to you before and after the interview. It’s simple, easy, and reminds the respondent that the information they provided will directly influence a business or project.

Research & Marketing Strategies (RMS) is a market research firm located in Syracuse, NY. If you are interested in learning more about our market research services please contact the Director of Business Development, Sandy Baker at SandyB@RMSresults.com or by calling 1-866-567-5422.


Massive open online courses (MOOCs) skyrocketed in popularity upon their emergence in the higher education market in recent years. A MOOC is an open access online class that is available to an unlimited population. They are often taught by professors who are well-known in their field of study, and the content presented is intended to be of the same quality as a traditional fee-based course.

A New York Times article named 2012 “the year of the MOOC” as several companies associated with prestigious universities began providing free, non-credit online courses. CourseraUdacity, and edX emerged as pioneers in  the appearance of MOOCs, backed by partnerships with MIT, Harvard, Berkeley, Stanford University, Columbia University, among many others. Popularity for MOOC platforms grew quickly – Coursera was able to reach 1.7 million people in the first year and half after it was founded. The initial draw to MOOCs  created a stir in the higher education industry, and colleges and universities grew increasingly concerned with how they could compete in this new educational space while their tuition continued to skyrocket. To add further anxiety to the higher education industry, many MOOCs also offered certificates of completion in the topic being taught. These certificates were offered on behalf of the instructor, not a college or university, but they drew a substantial preliminary following.


Now that a couple years have passed and the dust has settled, the industry is finding that MOOCs are not having as large of an impact on traditional learning institutions as originally thought. The MOOC system has pitfalls. Course dropout rates are high, plagiarism is common, and the time commitment is extensive. Since MOOCs often have enrollments in the thousands, instructor and student interaction is almost non-existent. The lack of support leaves many students unable to complete the course. With the ability to earn a certificate in the specialty topic, plagiarism became a common occurrence among students struggling with the course content and lack of instructor support.  To further complicate the situation, the level of quality in grading for a MOOCs course has been inconsistent, particularly for courses which do not offer content that can be run through an automatic grading platform.

On the other end of the spectrum, recent research has found that MOOC students are often highly educated adults who already hold an advanced degree, minimizing the competition with colleges and universities who are recruiting prospective learners interested in enrolling in credit-bearing programs.  Free, non-credit courses could be an attractive option to the busy professional interested in enhancing an established skill set, but the high caliber of the courses often requires a larger time commitment than a traditional non-credit enrichment course offered by a local college or university.

Although MOOCs have faced significant challenges, it is clear that they are having an impact on the higher education industry, even if not to the extent as originally predicted. Many MOOC platforms are attempting to adapt to the changing needs of the educational consumer.  Learners are becoming increasingly reliant and accustomed to digital technology. This had led to an uptick in the availability of online courses in the higher education industry. Many colleges and universities are integrating enhanced MOOC content into established curriculums. In return, MOOC platforms are attempting to draw the attention of learners interested in certificate options that are recognized in the industry being studied. Coursera and edx now offer verified certificates, which attempt to provide a “more meaningful certificate of completion” by allowing the student to share detailed course performance records. The impact of these certificates is still unclear, but the higher education industry will undoubtedly keep a close watch on the evolution of MOOCs.

Research & Marketing Strategies (RMS) is a market research firm located in Syracuse, NY. RMS specializes in higher education market research assessments. For more information on conducting a market research project, contact Sandy Baker, Director of Business Development, at SandyB@RMSresults.com or by calling 1-866-567-5422.

This blog post is a summary of a recent project completed by Research & Marketing Strategies (RMS). 

Background: A regional news publication partnered with Research & Marketing Strategies, Inc. (RMS) to conduct a readership profile survey. The publication wanted to better understand readers’ usage, interests, and work to optimize marketing materials. The market research objective was to provide the insights needed to guide improvements to news platforms, provide demographic information of users for marketing collateral, and decipher the adjustments required of content and advertising to make it a more attractive purchase for businesses.

Readership Survey

Approach: The study consisted of an online survey administered to members of the community market area for the client. Both the print and online subscriber list was used as the sample pool for the online survey. In addition, a group of core reader contact information was collected and pulled into a database for the survey. A total of 407 surveys were completed, and fieldwork lasted approximately 5 weeks.

Results: Here are some highlights of the study’s findings:

  • 93% – Percentage of respondents that read at least 1 of the last 4 copies of the publication (56% read or looked at all four)
  • 63% – Percentage of readers that have other people at work, home, or somewhere else that read or look at their copies
  • 74% – Percentage of website users that visit the site once a month or more (37% visit a few times a week or more)
  • 53% – Percentage of respondents that read emailed news – another 30% read the these emails a few times a week
  • 91% – Percentage of respondents that stated the advertising or stories were helpful to make either business or personal decisions
  • Demographic profiles of readers included: (1) level of positions within organizations, (2) titles, (3) industry, (4) size of business, (5) total revenue or sales of the organization, (6) age, (7) educational attainment, (8) household income levels, and (9) approximate net worth

Research & Marketing Strategies (RMS) is a readership survey firm located in Syracuse, NY. If you are interested in conducting a readership survey for your publication contact our Business Development Director, Sandy Baker at SandyB@RMSresults.com or by calling 1-866-567-5422. Visit our website at www.RMSresults.com.


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