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Ofwat recognise Explain’s knowledge in vulnerable and ‘hard to reach’ customer research

Research with customers living in vulnerable circumstances and other ‘hard to reach’ groups is a requirement that more and more insight and market research managers are having to address as part of their roles. Not only are regulators applying pressure on organisations to demonstrate that they are inclusive, but there is huge value for businesses to be more effective in their engagement with those who are utilising services inefficiently.

Explain Market Research has developed methodologies to engage with vulnerable and hard to reach customers, particularly within the utilities sector – a sector which is at the forefront of innovation in identifying, engaging and effectively communicating with hard to reach customers.

Regulator Ofwat urged the water industry to consider how they are interacting with vulnerable and hard to reach customers, and set out examples of how water companies should consider the expectations of what good service looks like to these customers.

Ofwat recently published our recommendations on engaging with vulnerable and hard to reach customers on their website.

Our team at Explain Research has extensive knowledge and experience in the utilities sector, having conducted research programmes on behalf of water and electricity organisations for nearly two decades, and have developed tips for engaging with vulnerable customers. See our infographic below to learn more.

Our approach is tried and tested and is embedded in our research methodologies. We are delivering key insights to our clients within the water and electricity industries, and are continuously looking at innovative ways to continue to engage with vulnerable and hard to reach customers.

For further information, please contact us today to find out more.


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Why using behavioural research can provide greater returns on your marketing spend

For many years businesses have segmented their audiences based on socio-demographics, or firmographics where they are interested in companies. These are very useful and powerful ways to slice and dice data to then formulate engagement tactics to meet the assumed needs of these groups based on what this data tells us.

For example, how much a person earns will give you an idea if they could afford your product, or if they’re a business, having greater than a certain turnover may indicate they are in the market to buy your service.

But what about going one step further? What if you were to gain deeper insight into the actual behaviours of your potential customers? Just because someone can afford your product doesn’t mean they’ll purchase it. But if you add another dimension to this data in the form of personal attitudes and behaviours, this could create a much richer picture to aid your product development, messaging and targeting – and ultimately increase revenue into your business.

For example, within the health industry, gyms can target women who are 25-40 who are likely to earn over £25,000, within a given area, with a one week free trial promotion focused on weight loss. It is more than likely this will generate some sort of return in terms of uptake, particularly around New Year. But there is opportunity for these gyms to truly understand more behavioural traits of these ladies such as:

  • the main drivers behind why women join a gym in the first place
  • the feelings that these women have before joining a gym
  • what has prevented them from joining a gym in the past
  • what behaviours they have before, during and after a session at the gym
  • the key reasons for not being able to attend a session
  • the drivers behind cancelling memberships

With this more detailed dimension, gyms can reshape their service, re-define their messaging and introduce promotional marketing to existing members to prevent churn – therefore extending the lifetime value of their customers!

Behavioural research is much more complex than research of opinions, as it requires an approach which allows the researcher to get under the skin of the audience and to identify thoughts, feelings, emotions and the actions of an individual as a consequence of these. These are usually more deeply rooted and not easy to uncover using traditional surveys.

Our expert team utilise a range of methodologies that allow us to pull together a rich picture of your customer and stakeholder types. We use qualitative approaches for collecting this type of insight that could include a mix of the following methodologies:

There are many reasons why you should consider behavioural research – here are our top five:

  1. It will provide you with another dimension and help you better understand your audience
  2. It will help form more engaging communications resulting in better returns  
  3. Products and services can be enhanced to better meet the needs of your customers
  4. You can identify weak spots in your service to address and therefore increase your customer lifetime values
  5. You will gain a competitive edge

Contact the Explain team today to find out more about the best approach for you. Please feel free to save and share our accompanying infographic.

behaviour-research-infographic-v1


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Life after the graduate scheme

By Jeni Lagan, Market Research Executive at Explain

I joined Explain Market Research on their graduate scheme in April 2015, while completing my MSc in Occupational and Organisational Psychology at Northumbria University. I was expecting to begin my career with the dreaded new-starter tasks like fetching drinks and photocopying, but how wrong I was! From the very start my team gave me comprehensive training and supported me in getting the experience I needed to succeed in the fast-paced research agency environment – data analysis, report writing, time management, and much more. From this I gained the skills and confidence to design projects from inception, deliver insightful findings, and liaise with clients at all levels.

Having begun as a Market Research Assistant, I was promoted twice during my 12 months on the programme – first to Market Research Coordinator, and then to my current project management role of Market Research Executive. I’ve also had the opportunity to complete a certificate qualification in Market & Social Research with the world’s leading research association, the Market Research Society (MRS).

I have now been an Executive for over nine months and it has been a whirlwind, but I’ve loved every minute! The challenges faced as a graduate are now responsibilities I take on day to day. There’s never a boring moment, with new clients and research projects always around the corner. Although I’m no longer on the graduate scheme, I’m still learning something new each day; even in these short nine months as an Executive my role has blossomed and developed.

Working at Explain you realise just how far teamwork will take you; in 18 months I’ve gone from using my colleagues for training and support, to providing the same guidance to our current graduates.

Why not get in touch if you’d like to find out more about our graduate recruitment? You can find my contact details on the team page of our website.

 

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Five reasons why you should understand your organisation’s customer and brand loyalty scores

We’ve all heard or read how important brand and customer loyalty is to a business – there aren’t many business professionals who will argue against that!

However there are some organisations that don’t measure or understand these. Across all sectors, whether you are large or small, a business-to-business (B2B) or business-to-consumer (B2C) provider, insight into your customer and brand loyalty will provide you with a competitive edge and add huge value to your organisation.

Here are our top five reasons why you should measure and gain insight into your organisation’s brand loyalty:

  1. It saves money in the long run – If an organisation has low brand loyalty, it has to work harder at finding new business to replace what it is losing, and therefore must spend more to achieve this. Gaining a thorough understanding of loyalty allows organisations to put the right strategies in place to retain customers.
  1. Smarter marketing – There will be a number of factors that attribute to the way your customers feel about your brand. Identifying what these factors are allows you to focus on and ultimately influence these in a positive way.
  1. Higher customer lifetime value – The higher the brand loyalty an organisation has, the higher the value of its customers, with customers staying with them and spending more over time.
  1. Higher profits – If a brand has higher loyalty, price sensitivity decreases and willingness to pay increases. Gaining an understanding of this could be an opportunity to review prices to fit with loyalty levels to get the most from the brand value.
  1. Increases new business – Loyal customers are a great sales and marketing channel. We all know the power of social media and word of mouth marketing, and an individual who is loyal to a brand will have a higher propensity to recommend it to friends and family. Finding out who these customers are and how to influence these groups to your organisation’s advantage will provide a powerful source of new business.

Having an understanding of your current levels of brand and customer loyalty and what influences these factors can be achieved using all sorts of research methodologies.

Contact us at Explain Market Research today to find out more about the research and engagement solutions we offer, including our Trust and Confidence Evaluation Tool.

customer-and-brand-loyalty-infographic-v2

 


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A guide to market research – DIY or outsource to a specialist agency?

Company budgets are always under review and managers are always under pressure to make savings, so when it comes to market research is this something that can be carried out by your own internal resource, or do you need a market research agency that specialises in this discipline to deliver this for you?

There are times when research does lend itself to being carried out externally and times when this can be carried out well internally. However, organisations do have to be careful that in their efforts to save money, it doesn’t cost the business money in the long run! Poorly constructed research can also have an impact on the public’s perception of your business, as research is another form of engagement and will leave a lasting impression on your customers and stakeholders.

Before deciding which way to go, there are a number of important factors which should be considered:

  1. In-house capability

You may not think it takes a genius to construct a survey, however experience alongside strategic and logical thinking are required in order to get the most from any research. A strategic mindset will help establish what you are trying to achieve from your survey, while logic is needed to map out the questionnaire journey, question type and determine if the outputs will meet your objectives. This may sound obvious, however it’s amazing how many surveys end up going out the door, yet the results don’t meet the initial research objectives!

A quick short online survey for example can usually be constructed by someone internally and is generally more cost effective to do so, using the various tools that are available across the internet. However, for more complex work which has high importance for your business, think carefully before using anyone who hasn’t got the experience to do this.

  1. In-house resource

If you require a methodology that involves 1,100 completed on-street or telephone surveys then carrying this out internally usually isn’t an option! This is obvious to outsource due to the number of fieldworkers that would be required and the technical capability required for telephone interviewing, such as call recording.

There are methodologies that in theory could be delivered by an internal team, such as focus groups. However it is vital that the team is proficient in focus group moderation, discussion guide creation and thematic analysis. There should also be enough moderators to handle a number of groups to be representative of the base that you are researching.

The administration and organisation of a focus group should not be overlooked.  As part of a package that a research agency offers, the administration and logistics of recruitment and session organisation are also included – this is time consuming and well thought through in terms of ideal venues, room sizes, location, equipment and so forth.  Therefore if your organisation does not have the resource to do this, then this is also an added value benefit.

  1. Market Research Society (MRS) guidelines

Most research agencies are MRS partners or members and will adhere to the guidelines set out by the MRS. These are professional standards which are put in place to ensure that research is delivered to the highest standard in terms of ethical practices, commercial value and reliability.

Research agencies often send their staff on Market Research Society courses to enhance their professional development, so that they bring more to their clients in terms of innovation and best practice.

  1. Independent research

When outsourcing to a research agency, bias is less of a concern than it would be if it was carried out by an internal team or person. Research by a third party will be carried out and delivered independently, which will impact on respondents’ openness to questions during fieldwork.

Concern of a biased approach to analysis and delivery of results is also removed when outsourcing to a specialist agency, as there is no danger of political agenda or emotional attachment to the outputs.

  1. Quality and reliability

Depending on resource available and the capability of staff within the organisation, quality and reliability of findings should be considered. You may have a team of highly trained and experienced market research specialists, however if you don’t these factors may be at risk. The importance and influence of the outputs and complexity of the research will provide a good indication as to whether your project should be outsourced to an agency who can guarantee high quality work and robust results.

Consider your options carefully, weigh up the risks and if you believe research is worth doing – it’s worth doing correctly.

Contact us today to find out more about the research and engagement solutions we offer at Explain.

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Engaging with the vulnerable and hard to reach

Vulnerable customer and ‘hard to reach’ research is a requirement that more and more insight and market research managers are having to address as part of their roles. Not only are regulators keen for organisations to demonstrate that they are inclusive, but there is huge value in businesses being more effective in their engagement with those who are in debt or utilising services inefficiently.

Vulnerable customers are often identified as those with long or short term illness, those living with disabilities or in poverty, and also customers who are elderly.

Hard to reach groups will differ depending on the organisation and the products and services which are offered, but can include:

  1. Non-English speakers
  2. Those who are in severe debt
  3. Those who have suffered a mental illness or struggle socially
  4. Individuals who have a drug or alcohol addiction
  5. Younger people who are not in education or employment
  6. Elderly who live alone and don’t have family or friends

There are many reasons why it is important for organisations to be able to reach out to audiences that can be more difficult to engage with. This can be from a socially responsible point of view, or to reduce inefficiencies. However, as the term suggests – ‘hard to reach’ is exactly that, so having the right approach is vital.

So how can an organisation grow relationships with those where there are perhaps more barriers in place that will allow them to do this?

As organisations are placing more importance on engaging with these audiences we have become experts in delivering research programmes that provide great insight into these key groups.

As every organisation is different and each of these groups are so very diverse, a one size fits all approach will not work in research. Careful thought and consideration as to how these groups can be engaged with is crucial. Below are just three important factors which need to be deliberated when putting in place research and engagement with hard to reach and vulnerable groups:

  1. Language

For example, there is little point in using technical jargon or business speak when engaging with a group of 16 year olds. This may seem obvious, however it is surprising how difficult it is to get a specific point across without making use of industry specific terms. This is very common in the healthcare sector for instance. We recently carried out research which found that although the terms ‘Primary Care’ and ‘Secondary Care’ are commonly used terms across the NHS, only 26% of the sample we spoke to actually understood the term  ‘Primary Care’.  And this isn’t just the hard to reach groups either, this is the general public.

  1. Tone

Tone is different to language, as it goes beyond the actual words used in any communications, whether a discussion guide, questionnaire, online survey or promotional material used to engage for the research. Tone should be adopted for the audience – a formal approach will not encourage those who are young to participate in any research, as this can be intimidating. Having a moderator in place who is able to adapt to the audience is vital. For questionnaires, more visuals can be used. There are lots of creative ways in which you can communicate with your respondents, to make them feel at ease and more willing to open up and participate.

  1. Methodology and Selection

Usually a methodology is largely selected on the type of insight that is required, however carrying out telephone interviews or on-street surveys as you require a quantitative analysis will gain little return with a disengaged group, while trying to recruit on-street to get people who have issues socially to come along to a focus group at a public space such as a hotel will not be successful either.  Methods such attending pre-arranged groups or community sessions are an extremely useful way to engage with the hard to reach. Not only are you going to them, they are also in their own environment so will feel naturally more comfortable and more willing to participate. Offering experiences is also a fantastic way to encourage some hard to reach groups to participate in research. Activity days that will provide them with some value and an enjoyable experience will not only encourage them as respondents to attend, but also will make individuals feel more at ease and start to participate more with a skilled moderator. Online communities which already have a specific audience type are a great way to engage with those certain groups. There are online communities available which specialise in certain profile types; for example, an online community made up of people who have a disability, or who care for those who do, is an excellent way to carry out a range of qualitative or quantitative research.

Our team at Explain Market Research are experts at putting in place research programmes with vulnerable customers and those who are hard to reach.

Contact us today to find out more.

vulnerable-and-hard-to-reach-infographic

 


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‘Trust and Confidence’ what is your score?

‘Trust and Confidence’ is a key indicator of how a range of stakeholders such as customers, potential customers, patients or members of the public view an organisation.

Over the last few years, the term ‘Trust and Confidence’ is becoming more commonly used as a key performance indicator to how well businesses are engaging with their audience across their ‘journey’ with them.3-trust-confidence

The more proactive of organisations within the utility (water, gas and electric), finance and NHS see that measuring the ‘Trust and Confidence’ of their stakeholders, is a more effective and accurate way to allow them to be more responsive to their needs and requirements – impacting positively on loyalty and satisfaction.

With competition opening up in the water industry and NHS organisations working harder to attract patients, Trust and Confidence is vital for these sectors that aren’t perhaps traditionally as ‘competitively’ driven as sectors such as retail. However with economic landscapes changing, whether you are public or private sector, understanding how you rate in ‘Trust and Confidence’ within your sector will of course provide a competitive advantage.

As experts working within regulated environments we have developed a ‘Trust and Confidence’ Evaluation Tool.

There are a number of factors that influence an individual’s ‘Trust and Confidence’ within an organisation, and we have carried out our own research to identify what these are. We then surveyed members of the public across the UK and asked them to rate their water, gas and electric, NHS and mortgage providers utilising these factors. This has resulted in Explain owning benchmark data for organisations within these sectors to compare themselves against.

This powerful insight allows organisations to track and measure against their sectors performance, identifying areas where improvements can be made.

Find out more about ‘Trust and Confidence’ by contacting Explain Market Research today.

trust and confidence fact sheet