Archive for the ‘Qualitative Research’ Category

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When it comes to focus groups, it’s crucial to recruit the right participants. Typically a focus group includes a small number of people, often between 8 to 12 participants, plus a moderator that helps guide the discussion. The moderator’s goal is to get participants to answer the pre-defined questions in the moderator’s guide, but also to get the respondents engaged with each other in order to facilitate an in-depth discussion on the topic at hand.

So how do you get the right people for the job?

Define the Purpose of the Focus Group – Before you start recruiting members for your focus group, you’ll need to clearly identify the goal of the discussion, which will influence the information gathered. Once you have narrowed down the topics and discussion questions, you’ll have a better understanding of who is best qualified to participate in your focus group. For example, if the goal of the focus group is to test a new product, you will want to identify participants who have used similar products or are interested in similar products.

Screen Participants – Prospective focus group participants are often pre-screened to ensure the selected individuals meet the client’s qualifications. For example, they may have a similar understanding of the product or services being discussed, or they may have different experiences/perspectives that the client wishes to learn more about. With a focus group you want a member that is either a current, lapsed, or prospective user of the product or service under investigation. This will allow the participant to have more knowledge and understanding when participating in the discussion, and will lead to higher quality data.

There are many ways to recruit participants for focus groups, but we have found success in boosting posts on social media. This allows you to reach out to members in a specific region with similar interests, often at a lower cost than other recruitment strategies. Another recruitment strategy is using a customer list, and is likely the most cost-effective solution if the information is available. Customer lists often have current customers as well as leads, which allows you to recruit focus group participants who are already interested in your product and can provide greater insight than those without a demonstrated interest or experience. Recently we have also noticed an uptick in interest in creating a custom research panel. Some companies are creating their own research panel by recruiting current and prospective users who opt-in to provide ongoing feedback. Members are pre-screened and vetted for research projects as they arise. Having an established research panel allows your company to have consumers “at the ready” for any research ventures you plan to conduct, ultimately lowering the cost of future research by gathering participants in a short amount of time. Research panels are also great for companies planning to conduct multiple research studies.

Pick the Right Location – When deciding on a location to hold the focus group, we recommend looking for a facility that is equipped to host focus groups (such as the RMS focus group facility). Focus group facilities are often equipped with digital video and audio equipment needed to record the discussion. This is necessary if the discussion needs to be transcribed, and is a major benefit when it comes to analysis of the data. Another benefit is the presence of a two-way mirror. The mirror allows those on the other side to see into the discussion room, although the participants cannot see beyond the mirror. We find that clients often like to have the option to witness the discussion, and have the opportunity to direct the moderator regarding questions that may arise during the focus group. In instances where a focus group facility is not available, RMS has also coordinated with local hotels and convention centers to coordinate the technical and logistical details of the focus group. Depending on the type of research you’re conducting, it may be important to host the focus group(s) close to those who plan to participate in the discussion. For example, if the study is gathering information on a regional product or service it would be beneficial to conduct the focus group in the sales region in order to connect with members of that community.

Offer an Incentive – It is very hard to get people to volunteer their time to participate without incentives. Incentives can range from offering them to keep or try out the product or service, to cash reimbursement for their time, or a mix of both. We often base the amount of a cash incentive on how long you plan the discussion to take, and also what amount we feel is needed keep the participants engaged and motivated. On average the incentives range from $50 – $300. As an example, we have provided $50 incentives to college students providing feedback on their experience at the institution they attend, while we have given physician’s $300 for a lengthier focus group discussion. The $50 for a short amount of time was enough to keep the college students engaged, while the $300 was necessary to recruit and engage the physicians due to their higher income and more demanding schedules.

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 http://www.RMSresults.com.

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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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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.

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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.

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

Background: An organization that creates outdoor gardening products partnered with Research & Marketing Strategies, Inc. (RMS) to conduct a product perception study. The client wanted to test the market perception of several new product concepts. The market research objectives were to (1) evaluate awareness of the product, (2) learn the shopping habits of target consumers, (3) measure the interest of each new product concept, (4) determine the anticipated price of each concept, and (5) obtain feedback regarding features that are most liked and/or features that need improvement.

Approach: The study consisted of a five minute online survey sent to RMS ViewPoint Research Panel members. The RMS ViewPoint Research Panel is representative of both the United States population and Central New York in particular, an area with a long history as one of the nation’s top test markets. The RMS Analytics team developed the 31-question survey in consultation with the client. The survey covered various topics which gauged shopping habits, current product awareness, new product interest, anticipated price, and most/least preferred features. Survey results allowed the RMS team to identify key consumers and segment the data by consumer group throughout the report. Fieldwork lasted approximately two weeks, with a total of 487 responses collected. After the completion of fieldwork, RMS provided the client with an in-depth report that included a dashboard, executive summary, data tables which highlighted responses from key consumers, as well as next steps and recommendations.

Results (A few highlights of the study’s findings):

  • As a result of survey responses provided, the RMS Analytics team identified target consumers as those who currently own products similar to those tested and are likely to make purchases of comparable products in the future.
  • The data revealed which product was favored by respondents and why that concept was more preferable than the other concepts tested.
  • Features that were most and least preferred were identified to provide the client with the insight needed to make design alterations and message enhancements before producing the product.
  • The research revealed an anticipated cost to determine a competitive price point for each new product concept.
  • Overall feedback was gathered and analyzed which provided the client with the direction needed to produce the ideal product and market it effectively.

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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The following post was co-written with Zach Shaw, Panel Associate at RMS


What is Qualitative Research?

Qualitative research is a non-numerical method used to discover and understand consumer behavior, beliefs, attitudes, experiences, and interactions. Qualitative data is often implemented during the exploratory phase of the research, using unstructured or semi structured techniques to facilitate an open dialogue with the participant(s). Giving the participant more freedom in their response allows them to provide more detail than can be gathered through closed-ended quantitative research. Instead of looking for statistical comparisons, qualitative researchers will evaluate the gathered data to identify trends given by the recipients, and implement solutions.

Types of Qualitative Research:

  • Focus Groups – A focus group includes a small number of people (often 10 or less) brought together to participate in a guided discussion by a moderator. The discussion focuses on specific products, topics, or services, and follows a pre-determined focus group moderator’s guide. The moderator’s guide outlines the questions to be covered, as well as the topics for which the moderator should expect to probe deeper for additional explanation.
  • Intercept Surveys –An intercept survey is a very brief, in-person interview with a participant and an interviewer. For example, the interviewer might approach someone leaving a retail store and ask them a few questions about their experience.
  • In-Depth Interviews (IDIs) –IDIs often take the form of a one-on-one discussion between an interviewer and participant. The interviewer typically follows a semi-structured interview guide, developed prior to the conversation, to direct the discussion. It is common for IDIs to be completed in-person, over the phone, or via the web.
  • Mystery Shopping – Mystery shopping is used to measure the quality of a service, compliance with regulations, or to gather specific information about products and services. This method allows the client to obtain competitive information without being involved in the process. Mystery shoppers often gather this information through telephone calls or by visiting the store and acting as a customer.

Why do Qualitative research?

Qualitative research can be used at any phase of research, but is most commonly done as a first or last step in the research cycle. It can be very valuable when developing new products or marketing initiatives that are looking to gauge consumer perceptions. Qualitative data allows the researcher to have in-depth discussions with participants and allows the researcher to gather more detailed information on consumer needs, behaviors, desires, routines, and a range of other information that companies use for designing products and services. The depth of qualitative research allows the researcher to uncover contextual details that may be overlooked in quantitative research.

What is Quantitative Research?

Quantitative research looks for patterns in numeric data and is generally better for confirming and clarifying a research hypothesis. Applying statistical tests to numerical data provides a better understanding of trends, allowing the researcher to make more informed statements about the results. RMS customizes each questionnaire to the needs of the client, but many of the questionnaires follow a structured outline and are primarily made up of closed-ended questions with provided response options for the participant to choose from. This structured approach to research is different than the more conversational approach used in qualitative research.

Types of Quantitative research:

  • Mail/Paper Surveys – A mail or paper survey is a questionnaire that is completed by the participant on a hard copy rather than in digital form. These types of surveys can either be distributed via postal mail or given to the recipient in person to complete. Mail or paper surveys are a great option for populations which may not have easy access to a computer or the internet, but are known for often having a lower response rate than other types of quantitative research.
  • Mixed Mode – Mixed mode research involves more than one type of data collection. For example, data may be collected with a combination of research methods to reach the desired populations. Phone surveys could be used to collect data from an older population who is more likely to have a landline; online surveys may be distributed to those younger than the population receiving the phone surveys, and paper surveys would be used to collect data from the subset of the population who does not have immediate access to a phone or the internet. A mixed-mode approach allows the researcher to ensure data is collected from the target population of interest, with a mode that is most comfortable to that population.
  • Online Surveys – An online survey is a digital version of a questionnaire. Participants may be sent a survey link that is embedded within an email, or they may access it on a social media post, which they can complete online.
  • Telephone Surveys – A telephone survey is completed over the phone. The interviewer takes the participant through the questionnaire question by question.

Why do Quantitative research?

Quantitative research often gathers a larger number of responses, allowing the researcher to make more reliable assumptions regarding the resulting data. Quantitative research questions can be used to measure consumer feelings, satisfaction, and other factors in a structured form, giving the recipient limited response options.  This quantifiable approach to research is a great option when a client has a sense of what their target audience thinks, feels, or expects, but would like to further test their assumptions.

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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