For this second installment in the higher education trends series, we revisited industry trends to determine client priorities for the remainder of 2016.  We’ve noticed interest among our higher education clients in digital investments, predictive analytics, stackable certificates, and prioritizing student retention. Through our research and interactions with clients, we’ve compiled a list of trends that we believe will be integral to the industry for the rest of the year. The first installment in the higher education trends series can be found here.

  1. Investment in Digital Initiatives

Website: Institution’s are becoming more cognizant of the role that the college website plays in the brand’s image. As a result, we’ve noticed an increasing focus on website personalization and optimization.  Websites that provide the visitor with a personalized experienced are building a visitor profile. Each time that visitor returns to the website, the content becomes more targeted based on their browsing history. Once an action is taken (e.g., downloading an application, making an inquiry, scheduling a campus visit, etc.), all previously anonymous data can be tied to the University’s CRM system and used by various teams (e.g., enrollment, financial aid, alumni affairs, etc.). Through tele-depth interviews to test website usability, institutions are able to determine how to best optimize its website experience and where there are areas of opportunities for personalization.

Mobile: Mobile-friendly marketing strategies are not a new topic for many higher education institutions, but enhanced rigor is being placed around ensuring the college’s website is mobile-friendly, and online courses can be accessed across multiple platforms (e.g., mobile, tablet, laptop, etc.). Essentially, mobile-friendly content boils down to three principles: – it must be easy to navigate, with fast download times, and provide a rewarding experience. Moreover, the information being sought should be available, such as a program brochure. Similar to the section above, tele-depth interviews can test mobile strategies to ensure the user experience is satisfactory across mobile applications.

Social Media: Many higher education institutions have been engaging with their stakeholders through social media for many years, but we’re noticing that more colleges are using social media as a recruitment tool. Admissions departments are using the readily available and seemingly endless number of social media platforms to research prospective students, and influence admissions decisions. To ensure that the institution is utilizing the social media platforms that resonate most with their target audiences, a prospective learner survey can be used to determine social media platform preferences and how they would like the institution to interact with them on each.

  1. Predictive Analytics

Institutions are under growing pressure to prove its value as it pertains to student success during college and after graduation. To do so, administrators are tapping into big data to develop predictive tools, allowing faculty and staff to help students showing signs of poor outcomes. An issue that many institutions grapple with is how to get the multitude of systems utilized within the college to talk to each other (e.g., getting data from Blackboard talk to a CRM program used by a different department). The industry has made strides to overcome this issue by adopting the Caliper Analyltics Interoperability Standard. The standard is a set of common definitions for what constitutes learning activity data, and how it is communicated back to institutions. Essentially that means that institutions who are concerned about having easy access to data across programs  are going to want its in-house data platforms to abide by the standards; in turn ensuring that its institutional data can be accessed  with other internal platforms. By having data accessible across programs, institutions can empower students, teachers, staff, and administrators with data that influences the learning process and identifies learning weaknesses.

  1. Stackable Certificates

As alternative learning methods are becoming more popular, stackable certificates options are more prevalent. Stackable certificates allow students to receive credit for professional experience as it relates to their program of study. In some cases, these credits qualify them for certification or advanced credentials.  The benefit to students is that is saves them time and money when completing a degree or certificate. The benefit to the institution is the ability to entice potentially new demographics (i.e., professionals and employers). Prospective students with professional experience may want to go back to college to obtain a degree or certificate in their field, but have previously been deterred by the need to take courses they could otherwise place out of if given the option. With the availability of stackable certificates, employers have access to an affordable option for keeping staff updated on cutting edge industry changes.

  1. Prioritizing Student Retention

It’s clear that student retention impacts the perceived quality of an institution. To reduce student attrition, institutions are investing more in understanding the reasons students leave the college and developing strategies to keep them engaged and enrolled. Tinto’s Model of Student Retention was developed in 1975 by Vincent Tinto and is still widely accepted. The model suggests that “a student’s likelihood of graduating is directly correlated with the degree to which the student is academically and socially integrated into the institution.” A 2015 retention benchmark poll for higher education institutions supported the model, recommending that student learning and campus integration must be a priority to promote retention. To do so, institutions are implementing retention strategies such as: academic support programs, honors programs, practical work experiences, first-year student programs, and one-on-one advising sessions as part of the mandatory curriculum. For online learners, institutions are making online faculty training and academic advising mandatory. To take a step further, institutions are also conducting satisfaction research with current and former students to determine reasons (and potential reasons) for attrition and identify areas of opportunity.

Stay tuned for updated higher education trends throughout the year! Research & Marketing Strategies, Inc. (RMS) is a market research firm located in Syracuse, NY. If you are interested in learning more about our higher education market research services, please contact the Senior Director of Business Development & Corporate Strategy, Sandy Baker 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, Inc. (RMS).

Background: Following the completion of an occupational supply and demand research project, a higher education institution in Maryland partnered with Research & Marketing Strategies, Inc. (RMS) to conduct a competitive analysis. The client wanted to better understand the current and potential competition for an online Executive Master of Public Health (MPH) degree. The market research objective was to provide decision-making insights needed to determine whether the program would be viable in the current and projected market space, considering area competitors in higher education.

Approach:  The competitive analysis research period lasted approximately three weeks, with a comprehensive report delivered the following week. To hone in on the higher education competition for the online Executive MPH program, RMS completed a comparative analysis of competitors in Maryland, as well as neighboring states.  Competitive data were gathered using available higher education databases as well as input from the client team. Among the client’s potential competitors for programs similar to the proposed Executive MPH degree, RMS reviewed conferring degrees or certificates in the region, conferred-degree/certificate rates, and accreditation-based peer sets. For each competitor, RMS scanned program differentiators, comparing the college to the potential competitors (e.g., distinctive features, program composition, credit hour requirements, and modes of delivery), branding and marketing tactics employed, subject matter specializations and target audiences, accreditation, estimated enrollment, and/or tuition/fee schedules.

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

  • Competition within the region for the proposed online program is minimal (with no competitors in two neighboring states), providing the client with an opportunity to close the gap on a workforce need (as determined through previously completed occupational supply and demand research).
  • Of the minimal competition in the region, RMS profiled the program of the top three competitors and identified program characteristics (credit hours, tuition, application deadlines, scholarship options etc.) that will provide insight to shape the curriculum development process of the proposed program.
  • Results from occupational supply and demand research and competitive analysis research suggest a regional market that is primed for an online Executive MPH degree. To round out the completed research, RMS recommended the client implement a prospective student survey to determine regional learner interest in the proposed program. Although the labor market is in need of Executive MPH graduates, and regional competition is minimal, it will be critical to determine if there is enough interest in the proposed program to sustain enrollment.

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.

As consumers become more hyper-connected, industries are feeling the continual push to adapt in today’s digital revolution. When it comes to creating optimal customer service, the banking and finance industry has the opportunity to leverage new mobile technology. Before joining a bank, many customers assess the organization’s website, mobile, social media, and overall digital presence as well as current banking rates (APRs). Below are three customer experience trends in the banking and finance industry.




  1. Find the best way to share

Previously, banks thought the idea of omnichannel would allow them to communicate with consumers effectively. Omnichannel is the sharing of messages through multiple channels. The idea here is that people prefer to communicate through different mediums. Therefore, banks should give consumers the ability to reach customer service representatives through a preferred medium (e.g., in person, over the phone, on social media, through a website, etc.). However, not all messages are received similarly over different mediums, which could potentially create detrimental issues for your brand (i.e. customers likely will have different expectations for resolving customer service on Twitter as they do via phone, online, and in-person). Through this evolution, the use of an optichannel became the new standard. Optichannel is the delivery of a message through the best channel. Organizations should determine the best channel for providing customers with the brand information they desire. To ensure an optimal customer experience, organizations should ask customers about their channel preferences for the various messages they may receive from the brand.

  1. Digital payments are in your future

As the number of consumers that make at least one payment via their mobile phone each week rises, digital payments through an online website and a mobile app are becoming a must have for banks and credit unions. Not only must these services be available, but they must be personalized and easy to use. For example, some customers may prefer to make regularly scheduled credit card payments, while others pay their balance in full each month. In addition to providing individualized payment options, the process must be streamlined, easy to use, and it must work. For example if mobile check deposit is available, it should be simple for customers to select the amount being deposited, take a picture of the physical check, and receive a confirmation that the deposit to their account was made.

  1. Blockchain technology

Somewhat known as new technology underpinning bitcoin, blockchain is emerging and could revolutionize the way the banking and finance industry is currently doing business. Instead of relying on a paper trail to tell the digital truth, blockchain technology relies on computer-based algorithms. Records are kept on multiple computers that are isolated, meaning that attempting to falsify a record is nearly impossible. This allows companies to keep transparent and fool-proof records. This means tracking financial agreements, money, and banking/financial communication could be made simpler, faster, and more reliable, which is top of mind for consumers.

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 and 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:  Research & Marketing Strategies, Inc. (RMS) recently served as a project evaluator for a multi-year arts initiative. The arts initiative included a collaboration of arts organizations whose goal was to experiment with new programming and engage additional and new audience members through funding provided by a group of funding partners. The market research objective was to evaluate the outcomes and impacts of the project as specified in the logic model.

Approach: The three-part evaluation included (1) in-depth interviews and (2) an online survey with arts organizations, funding partners, and project staff; and (3) a detailed review of project documentation. The interviews lasted approximately 20 minutes, while the survey took roughly 10 minutes to complete and was provided to participants via email. Survey and interview participants were selected from the contact list provided by the client. The project logic model was used in conjunction with results from the in-depth interviews, online survey, and document review to determine the success of the initiative in meeting the pre-defined project goals. Following the initial evaluation project, the client re-engaged RMS to conduct a Visioning Exercise, where the study’s findings were highlighted and discussed in a mini focus-group style meeting. The goal of the Visioning Exercise was to determine next steps for the arts initiative following the end of the project funding period.

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

  • Increased collaboration among participating arts organizations, funding to experiment with new approaches, and review of regional demographic information provided by a project consultant were major drivers of the initiative’s success.
  • Arts organizations participating in the initiative felt the collaboration among organizations should continue after the project funding is exhausted.
  • Participants felt the initiative could have met more of its goals if additional businesses had been engaged, and more reporting and assistance around audience development had been provided to participating arts organizations.
  • A local economic lull resulting in insufficient funding to create arts opportunities from area corporations and minimal disposable income for local patrons were mentioned as the biggest factors that impact their local arts community.
  • Despite the perceived challenges of the economic situation, a majority of participants felt their local arts community has improved over the past five years and will be even better in the next five years. Increased collaboration among arts organizations participating in the initiative was credited with the improvement.
  • Arts organizations feel they would be more successful in the coming year if they were able to expand their audience, identify funding opportunities for creating and marketing art, and increase awareness of the arts among their local community.

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.

The following post was co-written with Hilary Ranucci, Business Development Coordinator at RMS.


Colleges and Universities are no stranger to market research, but we’ve noticed an uptick in K-12 school districts seeking market research services. To make the most informed decisions about your school district, you should have a strong understanding of your community, both past and present. Below are some common market research projects that school districts will benefit from the most.

Community Awareness Studies
The best way to gauge the perception of your district is to reach out to the very community that it is serving. Surveys can be conducted via mail, telephone, or online to capture a large volume of quantitative data, while focus groups will add a qualitative component to the research. Information gained from community awareness studies can include indicators of quality within a district (strengths), unique attributes, the school district image, and overall value ratings in curriculum content areas.

Graduate Surveys
Speaking to past students will provide the school district with a wealth of satisfaction information. Graduate surveys are typically conducted online or via phone, and questions are aimed at learning how satisfied graduates were with their education and how well-prepared they were for their post-graduation plans. Data gathered from the surveys will allow the district to determine which programs, content, or classes may need to be improved, and identify those are providing the most value. A knowledgeable market research vendor will help your school district determine how far back in the graduate database you will need to go when surveying to answer your research questions. Our clients have also found that graduate surveys are useful for creating and/or keeping an alumni base engaged for future initiatives.

Parent Surveys or Interviews
Parents are becoming increasingly interested and involved in the education their child(ren) receive. As a key community stakeholder, this demographic can provide valuable insight. Surveys can be conducted online or via phone, and interviews may take place in person or via phone. Survey questions should identify satisfaction with education policy, curriculum/programs, communication from the school district, and overall satisfaction with the services provided by the school district. Trending topics that we are also seeing become more prevalent in parent surveys include learning about perceived school safety, scheduling, and budget. Your market research consultant should work with you to determine the appropriate method to reach your parent audience, and which questions will produce the most valuable insight.

Employee Satisfaction Surveys
Employee satisfaction surveys are not limited to the business world. Like any other business operation, school districts should look internally for areas of opportunity. Staff immersed in the daily operation of school district will provide important insight into the perception and satisfaction with the school district as a workplace. We’ve noticed there is a direct link between strong employee engagement and organizational success. Online employee surveys are a powerful means to measure employee satisfaction and engagement. Perhaps most importantly, employee satisfaction surveys give the employees an anonymous outlet to note the aspects of their job and workplace that are most enjoyable, and identify areas of opportunity that would make them more engaged and loyal. Survey questions should focus on identifying areas where the school district is excelling and where they should improve, as well as finding ways to motivate employees. An important component to the employee satisfaction surveying process is the use of the data by school district. Once employees have voiced their opinion, it is important to let them know how the school district plans to use the feedback to improve their working experience.

RMS has worked with many school districts and conducted the studies outlined above. If you are interested in learning more about our research capabilities, please contact Sandy Baker, our Senior Director of Business Development and 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: Onondaga County Water Authority (OCWA) partnered with Research & Marketing Strategies, Inc. (RMS) to conduct a study regarding its current satisfaction, loyalty, image, and needs among customers. The client wanted to better understand key drivers of customer satisfaction and loyalty, awareness levels of services offered at OCWA, and identify pricing options. The market research objective was to gather the insights needed for OCWA to provide an improved customer experience.

Approach: The study consisted of a telephone survey which resulted in 616 completions with a margin of error of +/- 3.95 at the 95% confidence interval. This means that there was strong statistical reliability in the sampling. The survey took approximately 10 minutes to complete, and was administered using Computer Assisted Telephone Interviewing (CATI) software. RMS utilized its onsite call center QualiSight and experienced telesurveyor staff for the telephone survey fieldwork. Survey participants were selected from the client database list provided by OCWA. The project was complete in approximately eight weeks.

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

  • Nearly all (99%) of survey respondents felt OCWA water service is reliable.
  • A large majority (93%) of survey respondents highly rated water quality provided by OCWA.
  • Most survey respondents (91%) felt water provided by OCWA is safe.
  • OCWA’s in-house customer service staff and employees in the field were both favorably rated by 97% of survey respondents.
  • Water was considered the most critical utility service by survey respondents (vs. gas, electric, phone, etc.).
  • Very few respondents (4%) did not have a favorable opinion of OCWA, and only 3% thought the cost of water provided by OCWA is not a good deal.

The announcement from OCWA regarding survey results can be found here.

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.

The following post was written by Samadhi Moreno, Healthcare Research Associate at RMS.


I recently listened to a new AHRQ Podcast on the common concerns and misconceptions regarding the CAHPS surveys. The title of the podcast series was “CAHPS Surveys: Sorting Fact from Fiction” by Rebecca Anhang-Price.

CAHPS results are used for pay per performance measures and are publicly reported to encourage consumer’s involvement in their healthcare and promote quality improvement initiatives. Survey results impact reimbursement, so it is important to understand the common misconceptions providers may have regarding CAHPS surveys.

Some of the important points of the podcast include:

  • It is a common misconception that patient surveys do not provide valid information about care quality. The Institute of Medicine identifies patient centeredness as an important element of quality of care. The CAHPS surveys offer valid and reliable data to measure patient centeredness and patient experience.
  • CAHPS surveys measure patient experience, which is an important factor in quality of care that can only be measured by patient surveys. Good patient experience is correlated with good clinical outcomes, and is the reason CAHPS surveys are used for payment programs and performance measures.
  • CAHPS Survey offer patients an opportunity to voice their opinions. The results in contrast, help patients choose a provider based on the experience of care.
  • There seems to be a common misconception on whether patients are “knowledgeable” enough to report good care. However, if we take a look at the CAHPS surveys, these instruments ask patients to report on their experience of care. Patients are the best source for this type of information because they experience the care first hand. The CAHPS surveys do not assess any type of technical work, but rather complement existing technical measures.
  • Patient’s experience is not influenced by whether the physician chooses a treatment protocol that fulfills the patient desires, but focuses on how well the providers communicate about the treatment option chosen. There is no evidence that offering unnecessary care will increase CAHPS scores in providers.
  • There are certain strategies physicians can utilize to improve patient experience, such as:
    • Involving the patient in the decision making process
    • Discussing the context of the patient’s requests
    • Proposing alternatives to patient requests
  • Lastly, providers might be concerned with how the patient population served can affect the providers CAHPS scores. However, CAHPS scores included in the publically reported results are case-mix adjusted to account for the variation in the populations served by physicians.

Research & Marketing Strategies (RMS) is a full service marketing and market research and consulting firm located in Baldwinsville, NY. As an approved CAHPS Vendor,  RMS’ Healthcare Department is composed of two divisions:(1) Healthcare Analytics and (2) Healthcare Practice Transformation. The Healthcare Analytics team is responsible for several aspects of the CAHPS Survey Administrations including the following product lines:  HCAHPS®, HH-CAHPS®, CG-CAHPS®, and ICH CAHPS®. The Practice Transformation team handles the coordination of quality initiatives to assist clients achieving Patient Centered Medical Home (PCMH) recognition. To learn more about our healthcare services, contact Sandy Baker, 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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