Using Our Senses – A Sensory Approach To Successful Brand and Product Development

Vivien Wilton-Middlemass, Head of Sensory Research at McCallum Layton will be presenting a paper on “Using Our Senses – A Sensory Approach To Successful Brand and Product Development” at this year’s Insight Show, which takes place between 29-30th June 2010 at (Grand Hall, Olympia, London). Vivien’s session will be held on both days at the event, and will uncover:

· How to develop a successful brand/product strategy
utilising a combined sensory and consumer research
approach

· Explore the benefits of sensory research

· Using all our senses to create longer, stronger and more
profitable brands/products

If you would like to find out more information about this session or arrange a meeting with Vivien, please contact: John McCambley, Head of Brand Marketing & Communications on Tel: +44 (0)113 237 5590.

A Guide To Effective Employee Satisfaction Research

Most organisations put considerable effort into maintaining customer closeness, as this is rightly seen as a key component of running a successful business. As part of this process, it is important to remember that customer opinion can be heavily influenced by the attitude and morale of employees within your organisation, and that monitoring this is therefore crucial. Indeed, the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development goes as far as to say, “Most research confirms that the quality of people management is a better predictor of performance than business strategy, research and development or quality management” (Change Agenda on Human Capital, 2003). This being the case, monitoring staff opinions and reacting effectively to their feedback can lead not only to improved retention and productivity, but can also be reflected in improvements in customer satisfaction, and so is a critical component in the management toolkit.

This is especially true in today’s tough economic climate, where there is far less flexibility in the offer of financial rewards – employee engagement is increasingly important in retaining talent. The recession has changed the playing field for many businesses, and they are having to re-evaluate what they can do to attract, develop and retain the best people at least cost, not simply for the sake of being a good employer but to secure the financial success of their organisation.

Measuring employee perceptions is not as straightforward as just taking more notice of discussions around the water-cooler, of course; here are some tips to help you design and get the most out of your employee consultation process.

Make sure the research format is accessible to all
Every staff member should be given the chance to air their views, in a systematic and structured way. This is important in terms of being seen to be inclusive, and also to enable results to be analysed, and recommendations targeted, in as fine detail as possible. In practical terms, this means undertaking a survey to which all staff, not just a sample, are invited to participate, and careful consideration must be given to the circumstances of all existing staff, making sure they can access the survey, and have sufficient time to take part.

If you are considering an online approach, for example, remember that any field-based employees may access their e-mails much less frequently than those based in the office. It may be worth thinking about offering different methods for different categories of employee, if necessary.

A high response rate gives the results more power
Just like an election with poor turnout, a low response rate can result in people questioning the legitimacy of the results. Therefore, plans must be put in place to maximise buy-in to the study. Before the survey is distributed, publicise the fact that it will be taking place. Explain the process, stressing that it provides an opportunity for staff to give their views and that the results will help shape internal policy. This message is best communicated from someone at a senior level, as having visible senior buy-in emphasises the importance of the consultation.

The questionnaire itself can also impact response rates, as can the organisation of the fieldwork period. Questions should cover all aspects of the working experience, but it’s best to avoid a long questionnaire, as this can make it harder for busy people to find time to participate. Open ended questions in particular should be used carefully: they can provide useful, detailed feedback, but they also take longer to answer than closed questions. Finally, set a reasonable deadline for completing the survey. Ideally, staff should be given a few weeks to respond, as this should still allow any who are on annual leave during part of the fieldwork period to participate. A small number of reminder communications during the fieldwork period can also help to increase response.

Remember the importance of anonymity
Another pre-requisite of a successful employee consultation is guaranteeing that anonymity is protected and emphasised throughout the process. If there is any concern that comments could be identified by senior management, the chance of obtaining honest, open feedback is lost. Commissioning an external agency to run the consultation project, and making this clear to all staff, can make all the difference to the success of the exercise – having the results held and processed by an independent party can provide reassurance that anonymity will be ensured.

It is also useful to explain how the results will be analysed. Whilst it is common practice to break the results down by department or level of seniority, the level of drill-down does depend on the number of employees in each subgroup. A good research process will prevent the possibility of someone’s answers being identifiable because they are the only senior manager within a particular division, for example. Finally, the methodology must also allow respondents to complete the survey in private; this can make a telephone interview inappropriate if respondents are contacted in the office.

Identify feasible improvements that will make a difference
Once the fieldwork is completed, that’s when the real work begins. Whilst each result may be interesting in its own way, it’s advisable to focus on finding out what’s important to employees themselves. This can be done by identifying the issues most strongly correlated with overall satisfaction. Most employees will be happy to accept that their job cannot be perfect in every way, but may still become disenchanted if they find fault in those areas that they value most in a job. By focussing on what is most important, it should be possible to identify the most pressing problems, and then prioritise changes that can potentially make the largest difference.

Communicate the findings and the actions you intend to take
Post-survey communication can prove as important as the analysis itself. Sharing the findings with all staff is strongly recommended; if employees think you are merely paying lip service to the process without actively looking to change anything, this is only marginally better than not consulting them at all. Tell them where the results were positive, where they could have been better, and importantly, what you plan to do in response to their feedback.

Finally, follow through on your promises
Once you’ve informed staff what actions will be taken, it is vitally important to then go ahead and do what you said you would. If you don’t follow through effectively, this can engender a cynical attitude which could even result in a drop in morale. In her work on psychological contracts in organisations (1995), Rousseau observed, “We know that when employees feel that their boss or firm has broken their expectations about work and career opportunities they often feel less committed to the organisation.” And less commitment to the organisation translates into less commitment to your customers.

Keeping Customers Satisfied

Effective customer satisfaction research brings accurate feedback and valuable data, says Jonathan Pickup, B2B research manager at McCallum Layton Customer satisfaction is integral to a successful business operation and is strongly linked to customer retention. But not all businesses formally evaluate and track the changing satisfaction levels of their customers. In particular, B2B organisations tend to rely on more anecdotal feedback, provided by relationship managers or account handlers. While this can work, there is a danger that dissatisfaction can remain hidden until it is too late. Relationship managers may be reluctant to feed back minor issues that might not portray their own work in the best light.

Engaging a third party to conduct customer satisfaction research brings more rigour and independence to the process. The opportunity to speak anonymously allows customers to provide more honest feedback. A good research provider will also help you to maximise the value of your customer satisfaction measurement.
Here are some tips for getting the most out your customer satisfaction research.

1. Who to survey?
It is easy to bias your results from the start if care is not taken when compiling the list of customers to contact. The best starting point is to put together a comprehensive list of all contacts, regardless of how likely you feel they are to respond to a survey, or to answer positively.

Next, think about how you might classify your customer base. It makes sense to conduct the survey with a representative sample of customers, but there may be good reason to consider conducting research with certain subgroups. For example, your organisation may provide different products or services to different markets – and customer experiences may therefore differ widely. Similarly, you may wish to include more of your most important customers, especially if these relationships are managed differently.

2. What method?
Once you have compiled your list, consider how customers could best be contacted. Most B2B customer satisfaction research is conducted by telephone, as this usually achieves the best levels of response. If you typically communicate with your customers electronically, however, an online approach could also work. High-value customers may be interviewed face-to-face, to help reinforce the relationship.

3. What to ask?
Your results should not just measure satisfaction, but also identify the most effective steps you could take to improve perceptions. Listing the factors on which you are likely to be judged is a good starting point. Include overall satisfaction and loyalty measures, as easy reference scores that can be communicated throughout the business.

A good customer satisfaction survey would normally take about 10–15 minutes. Much longer than this and the depth and quality of customers” responses may suffer, or they may be less likely to agree to take part in the first place. If your initial draft is too long, separate the “nice-to-know” from the “need-to-know” – focus on what is important to the customer and those factors you can really do something about.

4. How often?
Many customer satisfaction projects are run as regular tracking programmes, rather than one-off surveys. This helps you to keep your finger on the pulse of customer opinion, and evaluate any actions you have taken based on previous results.

How often you need to take measurements will depend on the nature of your market. If most customers tend to build long-term relationships with your organisation, satisfaction may be a fairly stable measure that is unlikely to change dramatically in the short-term unless there are exceptional circumstances (e.g. major changes to pricing). In this case, annual tracking may be sufficient.
Conversely, if your industry is fast moving and competitive, and customers readily switch suppliers, more frequent waves may be appropriate, allowing you to identify and react to any changes in customer opinion promptly.

5. Data analysis
The analysis of customer satisfaction data tends to centre around identifying weaker areas of performance, so that improvements can be implemented. A quick scan of the results will identify the areas of service where scores are lowest.

What this does not provide, however, is any kind of prioritisation. Most customers will accept a lesser service in areas they think of as less important, as long as performance is good on the critical factors. A “key driver analysis” can be used to identify factors most closely correlated with overall satisfaction, so that you can focus first on improvements that are likely to have the greatest impact.

6. Review and refresh
Whilst the first wave of research should provide you with a greater understanding of customer opinion, it is important that future waves continue to build on this. An effective customer satisfaction tracking survey will offer much more than just a regular set of top-level figures.

The programme should be regularly reviewed to identify any new areas of interest to include in future waves. Even though the survey is designed to track data over time, this does not mean that the questionnaire cannot be changed at all, as long as care is taken not to introduce any new bias into the overall measures.

Finally, leave room in your questionnaire for a tactical response section that changes periodically. Questions can be inserted as new issues of interest arise, providing topical information to the business without needing to set up and conduct separate research studies.

The Benefits of Online Customer Closeness

Sarah Askew, Associate Director at McCallum Layton, outlines the value that online techniques can bring in helping client brands develop powerful consumer insights.

Engaging Respondents And Internal Stakeholders…
Using online techniques to carry out research is nothing new but the explosion of social networking in recent years means that the ability to converse, group together and share opinions with strangers (as well as friends and family) online has become the norm in 2010. This has had an inevitable impact on the way that brands are choosing to carry out research. Increasingly, interest is shifting from remotely collecting data about respondents – who are objects of a set research approach – to engaging with them as participants in a much more discursive and interactive research process.

I’m genuinely excited at the growth of online qualitative methodologies and the opportunities they open up for all those involved – participants, clients and researchers too. The benefits that online customer closeness (and co-creation) bring in allowing consumers and clients to have more direct interactions naturally mean that the researcher takes more of a back seat. This has meant adapting from the guiding, directional ‘moderator’ role to that of a more passive, instrumental ‘facilitator’.

This shift from traditional roles does deliver its own benefits. Having direct conversations with consumers (rather than through the researcher as a conduit for debriefing findings) can be immensely powerful and engaging for clients. If the internet has created what Marshall McLuhan termed a ‘global village’, then it seems Web 2.0 technologies allow us to create ‘research villages’, where ‘hands on’ insight and interactions are opened up to people in diverse functions across client businesses. To give you a ‘real life’ example, we’re currently in the process of running an innovation community, which, amongst other things, allows internal clients, from departments ranging from commercial strategy to operations, to have direct interaction with their customers, via online forums. Feedback from the client team has been that, whilst the experience has lifted them out of their usual comfort zone, the direct insight they’ve been able to get into customers’ opinions – and the ability to have ongoing conversations – has been invaluable.

Empowering The Respondent…
The democratisation of the research process doesn’t end with client organisations though. One of the most powerful benefits which online customer closeness has delivered, has been the empowerment of respondents to become involved in setting the research agenda. Previously, the role of ‘respondent’ has largely been a reactive one – we set questions or topics to which they give us their responses, and whilst a good moderator will always ask for respondents’ own feedback and suggestions, the process is framed and driven by what have been pre-determined as the important areas of interest. Whilst I would never suggest that we should completely hand the reins of the research agenda to respondents, online customer closeness techniques enable customers to take greater control and direct their own conversations with brands.

Powerful Insights…
Referring back to our ‘real life’ example again, some of the most insightful and interesting threads in the forums have been those generated by participants. In discussion with the client team, we’ve been able to develop – and delve deeper into – those which are most of interest to the organisation. The client team have often been surprised and fascinated by what has mattered most to their customers, giving them a refreshing perspective on the customer experience. My advice for those wishing to get close to their customers would be to open up to listening to what consumers want to tell you – rather than what you think you need to know – and don’t be afraid to communicate with customers, using online techniques. They can’t bite in a virtual conversation!

View our online services offer <http://www.mccallum-layton.co.uk/onlineservices.aspx>

Find out more about how we can help develop your approach to customer closeness, Contact:

Sarah Askew, Associate Director
T: +44 (0)113 237 5590
E: sarahaskew@mccallum-layton.co.uk

McCallum Layton Launch New Integrated Online Research Service

UK Research & Marketing Insight Consultancy McCallum Layton has launched a new online service that provides a fully integrated research and insight management solution comprised of three elements:- e-qual; e-quant and The Hub.

e-qual provides a variety of online qualitative research techniques including: focus groups, bulletin boards and bespoke web communities.

e-quant handles web-based and email-based surveys and provides online data analysis tools and reporting.

The Hub is the agency’s insight management portal through which clients can access their projects from anywhere in the world via a secure login.

Duncan McCallum, Founding Partner said “We are committed to providing our clients with additional benefits that will improve their bottom line. Our new service will not only provide clients with greater insight from their research but will also help them manage and disseminate the findings with greater speed and efficiency. Whilst providing clients with online services is not new to our agency, we have greatly enhanced our offering in this area to complement our other research services and solutions. In the last 12 months over 20 major new clients used our services including Greggs, O2, Vimto and Bosch, and we are excited about rolling out further new client services in 2010.”

McCallum Layton Sponsor MBA Award at Bradford University School of Management

This year, for the first time, we sponsored the award for the best MBA Marketing dissertation at Bradford University School of Management, which is the 16th ranked Business School in UK (Financial Times 2009 rankings). The prize, a cheque for £100, was presented by Duncan McCallum, Founding Partner at McCallum Layton at the graduation ceremony on Wednesday 2nd December, to Andrea Musci from Milan. We are delighted to also confirm that we will be sponsoring the prize next year.

Nina Reynolds, Professor of Marketing at Bradford University School of Management said “We are delighted to have McCallum Layton support our MBA and look forward to developing our strategic partnership over the coming years.”