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The following post was written by Mark Dengler, President at RMS.

In the market research world, the voice of the customer (VoC) is key to understanding and managing customer experiences as well as enhancing product/service design. You should always be listening to your customers and what they are saying, whether it be directly to your organization’s staff, indirectly through consumer review websites, or social media. The vast majority of all companies primarily compete based upon customer experience. Therefore, listening to your customers is vital to a company’s long term growth and success. Customer interests, wants and needs are constantly changing. By doing VoC research, your organization can stay abreast of ever changing customer preferences. Unfortunately, actual customer feedback data is used only a small percentage of times when making a decision that affects them. As a recent article I read stated, “If you don’t understand customer market perceptions or how interactions with your firm are being experienced by your customers, it’s nearly impossible to regularly meet, much less exceed, customer expectations or to improve your organization’s performance (Michael Hinshaw, CEO, McorpCX).” And that really is what we’re all looking for—long-term customer relationships earned by exceeding their expectations.

Findings obtained from VoC work will keep your organization competitive, driving product/service enhancements. Actual VoC work should incorporate both qualitative and quantitative research techniques. It should be ongoing, and results should be thoroughly reviewed by management staff. The information obtained should capture information tied to identifying customer needs, expectations, loyalty, and usage intentions. Moreover, it allows for organizations to develop customized marketing strategies that can be used in targeted campaigns. We now live in an age of one-to-one marketing versus one-to-many marketing strategies (one size fits all). It is important to note that VoC is not customer satisfaction research. VoC focuses on learning and assessing customer expectations, whereas customer satisfaction aims at measuring customer experience. Both activities are vitally important and provide organizations with valuable information. Finally, be sure to look at all sources available to “listen to your customer.” This includes regular debriefs with the sales force team, the customer service department and/or anyone else along your distribution chain who has a direct touch point with the customer. With the rapid growth of social media, customer feedback should be regularly monitored. In today’s fast paced marketplace, “hearing voices” is often a very good trait, particularly when it’s your customers’ voices. Listening to and acting upon these voices is what is ultimately going to help set your company apart from its competition. The need to implement a VoC strategy is vital for your organization’s long term success.

RMS is a full-service market research firm. If you are interested in learning more about our research capabilities, please contact Sandy Baker, our Senior Director of Business Development & Corporate Strategy at SandyB@RMSresults.com or by calling 1-866-567-5422. Visit our website at RMSresults.com.

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During the fall, we see an uptick in research on district perception and public opinion from our secondary education clients. It’s common for school districts to gauge the community’s perception on proposed curriculum, budget, and instructional changes prior to the public vote the following spring, or prior to implementation. By conducting the research, the district has an opportunity to determine whether the proposed changes meet the needs of residents, and if not, how the district can update the plan to garner public support. The research is often carried out through the implementation of online surveys, in-depth interviews, or focus groups and includes a myriad of district and community members. To gain a wealth of valuable insight from various stakeholder groups, districts should plan to speak with community members, parents, district staff, and alumni. The stakeholder groups of interest will provide a wide variety of perception vantage points and present the district with a comprehensive view on the topic being researched.  Below are some additional thoughts on how district perception and public opinion research can help your school.

Test Proposed Changes

Curriculum has been an increasingly hot topic for our K-12 clients in recent years, and many districts have either undergone or are considering substantial changes to the content being delivered in the classroom. Curriculum realignment continues to be a trending topic in the industry, as states and districts assess the success of the Common Core while attempting to administer a curriculum that prepares students for the changing workforce needs. Although in many instances major curriculum realignment in public schools is mandated by the NYS Department of Education, we’ve found that the districts who engage the community, parents, and staff during the preparatory phase often have a more supportive network during the rollout stage. We’re also keeping an eye on the emergence of the concept of year-round instruction. One such approach is the 45/15 calendar option. With this approach, classroom instruction begins in late July and students begin a cycle of approximately 45 days of instruction followed by 15 days of school vacation. Supporters hope the approach will address the issue of content loss by reducing the amount of consecutive time off from instruction. Prior to implementation of these changes, the district has an opportunity to reach the community and discuss their approach, promote the benefits of the new curriculum or calendar, and ensure that local voices are heard.

District perception research is also a valuable tool for gauging community support for proposed budget changes. Perhaps the district needs new turf for the athletic fields, or computer labs need to be updated. Reaching community members through an online survey is a great way to reach pockets of the community the district may not have been able to contact through traditional methods. This provides the district with the ability to discuss the proposed changes, identify the impact on the average taxpayer, and explain how the project will be subsidized if funding beyond taxpayer dollars is expected.

Identify Community Perception of the District

Another benefit of conducting district opinion research is identifying the strengths and areas of opportunity within the district. The research should involve parents, community members, staff, and alumni in order to capture a representative view of stakeholders.  The market research firm should collaborate with the district to identify potential research topics, which may include questions pertaining to the community perception of how the district excels, what makes it unique, and how it compares to other local districts. Perhaps administration would also like to gauge what influences someone to move to the district – this is the perfect medium to identify that information. Resulting research data will provide the district with the insight needed to determine where they’re already raising the bar, but also where improvements can be made to make the district more competitive.

RMS is a full-service market research firm and has a long history in conducting K-12 district opinion and public opinion research. If you are interested in learning more about our research capabilities, please contact Sandy Baker, our Senior Director of Business Development & Corporate Strategy at SandyB@RMSresults.com or by calling 1-866-567-5422. Visit our website at RMSresults.com.

We recently conducted a 2016 election survey amongst our RMS ViewPoint Research Panel, as well as Central New York residents. Respondents were not asked who they would be voting for, however, they were asked about their overall impression of the elections. Below is a summary of some of the results.

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RMS is a full-service market research firm located in Syracuse, NY. If you are interested in learning more about our research capabilities, please contact Sandy Baker, our Senior Director of Business Development & Corporate Strategy at SandyB@RMSresults.com or by calling 1-866-567-5422. Visit our website at www.RMSresults.com.

mystery-shopping

Mystery shopping is a popular research method used to gather feedback from an audience. It’s common for mystery shopping to be conducted in-person, but can also be conducted via phone or by making online inquiries. Mystery shopping is not solely used for retail research, as it is commonly known for. During a mystery shop, a trained researcher evaluates several factors that impact their experience. If they are rating an in-person experience at a restaurant, retail shop, or event facility, the researcher will often evaluate factors such as food, staff interactions, and/or amenities. Telephone mystery shops are insightful for companies which employ customer service representatives that interact with clients/customers over the phone. Researchers can evaluate the experience by acting as a customer and investigating factors such as the friendliness of staff, knowledge of staff, and speed of resolution. Mystery shops are also valuable for companies providing an online service or product. Researchers may gather mystery shopping data by performing actions such as filling out an online inquiry form, making a purchase, or utilizing the online “chat” feature to evaluate the customer service experience. Regardless of the where the mystery shopping takes place, the researcher should be prepared to assess the factors most important to your company by developing an evaluation form. Results will allow your organization to obtain feedback regarding the customer experience and determine areas of opportunity to increase your competitiveness in the market. Below are three tips when preparing for a mystery shopping project.

Be Informed

A great market research firm will do their due diligence and ensure their mystery shoppers are informed on the company’s products, services, location(s), and other factors that may impact the research. To gather rich data, it’s imperative that the mystery shopper be comfortable with their surroundings (in the case of an in-person mystery shop), and be familiar with what the company offers so they are prepared to handle any unexpected questions from a customer service associate or staff member. Now that technology plays a large role in the guest experience for many businesses, it’s important for mystery shoppers to visit the company website and review social media accounts to get a picture of the company prior to conducting the research.

Create an Evaluation Form

In order to collect great data, the market research firm should create an evaluation form, including questions which address all factors that the client would like feedback on. This form should be created prior to conducting mystery shops, and is filled out by the researcher following the event.  Some mystery shops may also require a scenario which outlines the “role” that the mystery shopper should play when collecting data. The goal is to investigate potential paths of the customer experience by determining how the staff deals with the inquiry/issue. This is popular among banks and credit unions evaluating their customer service and banking procedures. RMS has also created in-depth mystery shopping scenarios for law firms investigating their competitors, and medical practices investigating the patient experience. With mystery shopping, the possibilities are nearly endless and can be customized to fit the needs of any business.

Ensure Objective Feedback

A third party is a key element to protecting the confidentiality of the project and ensuring the collection of quality data. If a company were to use its own staff, there is a risk that employees would recognize the employee and ultimately discredit the project findings. Even in large organizations where an employee could be pulled from another branch or location, there is a conflict of interest since the employee is invested in the success of the company. This makes it more difficult for them to provide constructive criticism which may ultimately be the information needed to make the company more competitive in the market. For the mystery shopping project to be successful, the researcher needs to be completely objective and take on the persona of a customer.

RMS is a full-service market research firm and has conducted mystery shops in a wide array of settings (hotels, banks, credit unions, law firms, medical practices, and retail environments). If you are interested in learning more about our research capabilities, please contact Sandy Baker, our Senior Director of Business Development & Corporate Strategy at SandyB@RMSresults.com or by calling 1-866-567-5422. Visit our website at www.RMSresults.com.

An intercept survey is a research method used to gather on-site feedback from an audience. Intercept surveys are often used at events, restaurants, conferences, and in shopping malls to collect patron perception information. During an intercept survey, the interviewer may approach a patron to ask about their experience at the event, facility or restaurant. Results from the intercept surveys allow the client organization to obtain feedback from their target audience while the information is still fresh in their minds. Below are three tips when preparing for an intercept survey project.

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Keep It Short

Intercept survey respondents are typically “on-the-go.” They may be going to purchase something at a concession stand during halftime, or leaving the facility after the event. To ensure the research company and end client is represented in a positive fashion, it’s important for the intercept survey to be short. At RMS, whenever possible we try to ensure the intercept survey is around 5 minutes or less. A great market research firm will be knowledgeable in survey creation techniques and constructing creative questions in order to obtain the maximum amount of information in a short amount of time.

Be Flexible

Depending upon the respondent’s comfort level with technology, the interviewer may complete the survey for the respondent, or provide them with a tablet to complete on their own. It’s important for interviewers to be equipped with the proper equipment when conducting intercept surveys. In our experience, tablets work best, and allow the interviewer to adapt to the survey environment. For example, we’ve learned that in a stadium, Wi-Fi reception may be spotty and our interviewers need to be equipped with wireless hot spots to ensure they have access to the internet in order to connect to the digital survey. To make sure we are always flexible with our environment, we also have an offline survey option which allows our interviewers to collect survey responses without needing the internet to save them.

Make it Worth Their While

Over the years we have found that even a small incentive has a positive impact on the intercept survey response rate. The bottom line is – make it worth their while. It doesn’t need to be expensive. We have had great success in offering rewards such as a $2.50 coffee shop gift card, credits for a free movie rental or Amazon purchase, or a coupon for a free drink or food item at the venue where the surveys are being conducted. When providing an incentive, it’s also important to consider the timing of the intercept survey as it relates to the incentive. For example, if you’re distributing a coupon for a free beverage at a football stadium, it would be best to conduct the intercept interviews around halftime rather than the end of the game. Enough time will have passed for patrons to provide their perception of the stadium and facilities, while also ensuring they still have time to use their free beverage coupon.

RMS is a full-service market research firm with a long history of conducting intercept surveys in a wide array of settings. If you are interested in learning more about our research capabilities, please contact Sandy Baker, our Senior Director of Business Development & Corporate Strategy at SandyB@RMSresults.com or by calling 1-866-567-5422. Visit our website at www.RMSresults.com.

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

Background: A school transportation organization recently partnered with Research & Marketing Strategies, Inc. (RMS) to conduct sales strategy research. The client wanted to better understand customer satisfaction and perception of services provided by the organization. The market research objective was to provide decision-making insights needed to determine how the client may better serve their primary client base in the future.

Approach:  The RMS Analytics team collected data from current, prospective, and former customers via a blinded online survey and in-depth telephone interviews (IDIs). During blinded research, the client’s identity is not disclosed to the participant. To hone in on the customer satisfaction with the services provided by the organization, RMS created an online survey script and interview guide which were reviewed and approved by the client prior to commencing fieldwork. Questions focused on how the respondent rated the satisfaction with particular services, customer service perceptions, satisfaction with the company’s sales strategy, as well as interest level in services that the client considered adding to their suite of offerings. Fieldwork lasted approximately two weeks for the in-depth interviews, and one week for the online survey. Following the data collection and analysis period, a comprehensive report was delivered to the client, which included a visual dashboard of the findings, as well as next steps and recommendations.

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

  • The research identified the areas where the organization excels in serving its customers, including excellent customer service, and the dependability of the organization.
  • Top service needs desired by customers were identified, which included education and training, parts delivery, online parts catalog and ordering, and vehicle body repair service.
  • Since the client interacts with three distinct stakeholder groups during the buying process, RMS identified the most desired information by stakeholder group to streamline the sales strategy and improve the customer experience.
  • To further increase the satisfaction of current clients, as well as gain additional market share, RMS identified a niche market offering that the organization may offer to simplify the buying process and entice competitor customers.

RMS is a full-service market research firm located in Syracuse, NY. If you are interested in learning more about our research capabilities, please contact Sandy Baker, our Senior Director of Business Development & Corporate Strategy at SandyB@RMSresults.com or by calling 1-866-567-5422. Visit our website at www.RMSresults.com.

RMS recently released the RMS ViewPoint Panel Book—a dynamic and graphic first edition detailing the demographics of our research panel. Check out some features of the new Panel Book below!

Demographics

Explore the data everyone wants to know about. We’ve created eye-catching graphics to showcase the demographics and workforce data of our entire panel. Consumer behaviors give you a detailed look into what our panel members plan to purchase, are interested in purchasing, their online shopping habits, media usage, and much more. More than half (55%) of the RMS ViewPoint panel members live in Central New York, with 74% residing in New York State and 26% living outside of New York State. Of those panelists 72% of them have children in their household under the age of 18.

Panel Book demographics page-05

Consumer Behaviors

The RMS ViewPoint Panel book gives you a detailed look into what our panel members plan to purchase, are interested in purchasing, their online shopping habits, media use and much more. For example, 46% of panel members watch more than 10 hours of television per week, while 21% watch 7-9 hours and 21% watch 4-6 hours per week. In terms of preferred news sources, 77% of panel members obtain their news from television, 73% visit websites, 56% review social media outlets, and 43% read printed sources. To dive deeper into our panel members’ behaviors, we asked them to identify their interests. We found that panel members are interested in a myriad of topics, including: health and wellness (70%), travel (58%), art and entertainment (58%), and beauty and style (46%).

Panel Book consumer behaviors-10

Central NY Appeal

With Syracuse being a top rated test market, the panel book demonstrates how Onondaga County mirrors the U.S. population. Onondaga County has become the choice market to test and re­fine campaigns and products before a product launch due to its striking representation of the US population as a whole. RMS ViewPoint is a valuable yet cost-effective resource for organizations planning to conduct product testing, gauge advertising effectiveness, or determine the desires of their target market.

Click here to view a copy of the new RMS ViewPoint Panel Book!

RMS is a full-service market research firm located in Syracuse, NY. If you are interested in learning more about our research capabilities, please contact Sandy Baker, our Senior Director of Business Development & Corporate Strategy at SandyB@RMSresults.com or by calling 1-866-567-5422. Visit our website at www.RMSresults.com.

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