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.

How To Develop An Effective Segmentation Strategy

Dr Angela Karlsberg, head of analytics at research and insight agency McCallum Layton, explains what segmentation is, how it works and the pros and cons of different methods. She also reveals how successful segmentation can help companies increase their target audience and inform the development of new products and services.

What is segmentation?
Marketers use segmentation to identify subsets of buyers within a market who share similar needs and display similar buyer behaviour. There are many ways you can segment a group, from demographics and geography to socio-cultural factors and attitudes.

Why segment your data?
The benefits of a successful segmentation can greatly outweigh the time and costs involved in its implementation. Not only does it allow you to gain a deeper understanding of your core customers and their needs, it also helps you identify your most and least profitable customers, which will help to protect and increase revenue. The challenge is identifying the most effective segments.

How does segmentation work?
For the segmentation to be successful the segments need to be relevant and actionable in terms of their number and definition. First, you need to determine the number of segments you’re going to work with. If there are too many, it’s difficult to see what variables discriminate between them; if there are too few, you may lose valuable information about the differences between the segments.

The optimum number of segments will vary for each segmentation strategy; however a good rule of thumb is four or five segments. When deciding on the number of segments to use, marketers need to achieve a balance between the extent of discrimination and the actionability of their segments.

Once you’ve calculated the number of segments you’re going to work with, the next step is to ensure that the segmentation will be effective i.e. that each segment is genuinely different from the others.

First, you need to determine if the segments are large enough to be profitable. Your research findings will help you to quantify how many consumers are in each segment and their size in the market.

The segments must also be actionable – that is, they must allow you to develop an appropriate and unique marketing mix to attract and meet the needs of each individual segment.

Finally, consider whether it”s possible to easily reach all your different segments. To target them effectively the segments need to be linked to information that you already hold or which can easily be acquired – such as location, age, gender and socio-demographics (Mosaic and Acorn).

Tip: Make sure your segments are profitable, actionable and accessible.

How do you start to segment?
Various techniques can be used for segmenting a market but the method adopted usually depends on a trade-off between the cost of undertaking the segmentation versus the level of accuracy you need.

A priori segmentation
This simply uses pre-existing data such as socio, age, gender or geo-demographics to segment the market. However, while these segments are easy to target, they are usually quite crude.

For example, if you segment your market on age then you are assuming that people within the same age band think alike and make the same purchasing decisions, which is an unrealistic assumption.

Tip: Review all the evidence which you already have from previous research and focus on the factors that appear to drive differences in behaviour.

Usage segmentation
Customers are segmented according to their usage/purchase behaviour, such as heavy, medium, light users or buyers. This is a common technique which assumes that different usage patterns reflect underlying differences in needs and attitudes.

The segments are then profiled to establish which demographic variables drive purchase or usage behaviour within each segment.

Financial segmentation for loan use
For example, we carried out a segmentation study for a financial client where we segmented their customer base according to their past, current and further loan usage. This enabled the client to determine which segments were the most loyal, the ones most and least likely to take up product offerings, which segments had competitor products and which competitors they used.

This information was used to create a more effective marketing strategy, based on the information known about the profile of customers who fell into these segments.

Tip: Give the segments memorable names that summarise each segment”s key characteristics.

Attitudinal needs-based segmentation
The most powerful type of segmentation combines usage data with attitudinal research. The aim is to understand how people’s attitudes are linked to their usage and purchasing behaviour.

This is typically the most actionable form of segmentation as it allows you to understand what drives usage as well as which product/service attributes drive overall satisfaction within each segment. The technique for this type of segmentation is called ‘cluster analysis’; it ensures that members in each segment have similar characteristics but the segments differ from one another as much as possible.

We carried out a successful segmentation campaign for a pharmacy chain by creating an attitudinal needs-based segmentation. The segmentation was based on customers’ attitudes towards factors that would influence their choice of pharmacy and their attitudes towards health and lifestyle.

This enabled us to create a segmentation where customers within a segment had similar characteristics and needs yet each segment’s needs and characteristics were very different.

Tip: Use qualitative research prior to the segmentation to help identify all variables that might discriminate between different types of consumers.

Which segmentation method to use
There are advantages and disadvantages to each of the segmentation techniques detailed above. While ‘a priori’ segmentations are the simplest to apply and can be based on existing data, making them relatively inexpensive to carry out, they are the most crude and least powerful of the three techniques.

‘Usage’ segmentations are slightly more difficult to undertake, and yet are also relatively low in cost as they too are generally based on existing usage/purchasing data. However, the extra work required is rewarded by the production of a more meaningful segmentation which incorporates additional data over and above basic demographics.

‘Attitudinal needs-based’ segmentations are the most expensive and complicated of the three techniques. They normally involve undertaking a substantial number of usage and attitudinal surveys, which can be costly. The segmentation is based on advanced statistical techniques and is therefore the most difficult of the three techniques to undertake; however it will produce an insightful and powerful segmentation.

While the technique chosen will vary by company, in all cases the overall objective is the same – to identify significant groups of customers with differing needs and to address them effectively in order to protect and increase profits.

Tip: Review the segmentation regularly to reflect any major changes in the industry sector or market.

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.”

Fitter, Leaner Research (Greater Insight 2009)

Making your research budget stretch further in a recession is easier said than done, but by following a few simple tips, you can make your investment work harder and even enhance the insights gained.

We all know the saying ‘look after the pennies and the pounds will look after themselves’. Well, the same is true in getting the best from your insight – numerous small savings add up. Also, by following some simple rules you’ll find that your insight will be fitter, leaner and better directed. Let’s look at some areas where savings can be made.

Before spending any money, email work colleagues to make sure nothing similar has been recently undertaken. It’s not uncommon in companies for similar projects to be commissioned by different departments unbeknown to each other. To overcome this we have set-up client research libraries where a simple word search facility can find relevant material and avoid duplication of effort.
Consider whether data you already hold could be interrogated further to provide the required information. For example, amongst other things, analytics can be used on sales and customer data to build predictive models and segment customer types.
If you have an agency roster, halve it and give twice as much work to each agency. Fewer agencies doing more work will enable them to gain deeper knowledge of your company and markets. It will save time at briefing meetings, lead to more insightful results, and also give you the opportunity to negotiate retrospective discounts based on agreed spending levels.

Rather than giving the project go-ahead over the ‘phone, invite the agency to a meeting; use it to make sure your research is as focused as possible. Discuss potential outcomes, how they might help and to ensure that you squeeze every ounce of worth from the project.

Review the proposed methodology with a critical eye. Would telephone interviews do rather than face-to-face? Could the number of focus groups be halved if, for example, assumptions were made about the effects of limiting the locations sampled? Test these assumptions with a few telephone depths rather than convening full groups to cover every variable. Look for creative methodologies to provide the required information. At McCallum Layton we’ve developed a hybrid qual/quant methodology which runs simultaneously using the same sample; this can lead to substantial savings.

Keep questions focused and tightly worded – stick to the ‘must knows’; eliminate the ‘nice to knows’. Cutting 1 minute from a 5 minute telephone interview can save around 15% (unfortunately not 20% because of set-up costs). Also, do you really need 1,000 interviews when, in most cases, 400 is the optimum sample size. Maybe you could run a biannual tracking survey instead of quarterly one.
Look at your sample structure – the more complex the greater the cost. Do you really need a quota of left-handed grey haired grannies in Kent? Often, it’s easier and cheaper to let numbers fall out naturally and apply weightings to the final data.
If commissioning focus groups, consider whether it’s essential that you attend accompanied by numerous colleagues. Travel and accommodation expenses can be horrendous and nowadays you can view the groups on-line or download a video to your office the next day.

When it comes to the final report, just how detailed does it need to be? Naturally, a 2-3 page summary report of key issues will cost a lot less than a detailed report running to many pages. Instead of hard copies use on-line methods to circulate findings and recommendations; McCallum Layton’s Hub enables clients to log into their own secure area on our server and access a ‘library’ containing virtually everything to do with their project from questionnaire design to data tables. There is even a tool that enables clients to further analyse their data and design their own charts.

The above are just a few pointers, there are many more but unfortunately space constraints prevent me from detailing any more. However, I will end with a few last words of advice; don’t confuse stretching your budget with purchasing cheap research, if you look for cheap research that’s exactly what you’ll get.

Developing The Business Travel Market For Think Apartments (Case Study)

Business Issue
Sunlight Apartments approached McCallum Layton in early 2008 with an ambitious aim – to be the UK’s premier provider of serviced apartments by 2010. Their serviced apartments are designed to offer business and leisure travellers a stylish, comfortable, fully furnished alternative to staying in hotels, for stays from 1 day to 1 year, and at a price which can compete with hotel room rates.

Research was needed to feed into all areas of their strategy – marketing activities, ‘product’ provision, operations and the
re-branding of the company. Strategically, refreshing the brand and growing their revenue from the business travel market were priorities but, to do this effectively, the team at Sunlight Apartments (now Think Apartments) first needed to better understand the market – what customers want, how they buy, how to target them and, critically, how they could be motivated to consider serviced apartments as a viable alternative to hotels.

Our Approach
It was critical for the Marketing Team that the research should provide some hard figures upon which they could forecast sales and target their activities, so we carried out initial desk research, sourcing data which allowed them to build up a profile of business travellers. The challenge was then to understand the needs of three key client groups – Travel Management Companies (who source and book accommodation on behalf of corporate clients), aggregators (third-party distributors) and corporate travel buyers.

The qualitative research that followed was challenging from the outset, not only in terms of tracking down business buyers of corporate travel (who hold myriad different roles within different companies) but in persuading corporate contacts to give up precious time to share information and opinions.

Result
Based on our research findings, Sunlight Apartments was
re-branded to Think Apartments and was successfully launched.

Insights from the research have been influential in guiding the design of new marketing materials, as well as helping to focus the design of the apartments themselves. Location, for example, was found to be the key criteria for corporate travel buyers when choosing accommodation. In response to this, Think Apartments’ advertising showcases breathtaking aerial shots of London, highlighting the close proximity of the apartments to some of London’s most visited areas, and has already helped their business grow by 14% in 2008 with pre-bookings for 2009 already at 70% of 2008 annual levels (as of February 2009).

Stewart Moore, Group Marketing Director at Think Apartments says: “Following the research, we were able to more accurately identify key targets and adjust the message within the exhibition space which has already helped drive very strong pre-bookings for 2009 and ahead of expectations especially given the current economic climate.”

To find out more about Think Apartments, visit: http://www.think-apartments.com/