Thinking of researching a part of your market, customer satisfaction levels, or internal culture, but don't know where to start? Here are a few things you will need to consider before appointing a research agency:
Step 1. Identify the area of investigation. The majority of research projects start with a problem where it has been identified that staff are under performing, or customers are ignoring a call to action, dropping out early in their web journey or preferring a competitor's products and services. You will start by simply registering the issue. This needn't be a concise research question but it should be discussed with other key members of your organisation who may have a different perspective.
Step 2. Who do you want to gather information from? You will need to carefully consider who your research population will consist of in order to gain the best results. For example, is it your entire customer base or a specific segment? An international or regional market? Here you will begin to narrow the field and get an idea of how big the project will need to be. In addition, by identifying the research population your research agency will assign a methodology or type of research that matches the needs and capabilities of your audience.
Step 3. How are you likely to use the information? Will it be embedded in your marketing or broader development strategy? Will you use the findings as a PR tool? Answering these questions will help you to manage the scale of your project and the presentation of your findings as it will identify who will have visibility of the research results and what internal changes are likely to happen post-research.
Step 4. Think about budget. How much do you realistically have to spend on this project and on annual research? Not only will budget determine the scope and scale of your research project, it will also impact upon the choice of research styles. For example NPS, Benchmarking, and some Customer Satisfaction surveys require repetition on a monthly, quarterly, bi-annual or even annual basis. Hence knowing your budget early on has a real impact on the measurements taken during research.
Step 5. Assign a project lead. It is important to assign a project lead to any research project even when you are outsourcing the data collection, analysis and delivery of findings. This will make the entire process run smoothly and ensure that the project stays on track with a focus on the area of investigation. It is very easy to have your project hijacked by other departments, but questionnaires and surveys can quickly become long-winded and diluted making findings difficult to digest.
Once you have completed steps 1 - 5 you are ready to start planning your insight. Some of the above steps may seem a little daunting but breaking the early thought processes down into small steps will really help your agency to get a head start. If you are finding the task too daunting, or are simply too busy with your day-to-day role, talk to our team who will be happy to help you.
We prefer to speak a universal language. But for those occasions when you will need your insight and research to stand up to scrutiny, here is our jargon busting guide:
Qualitative Methodology - All research methods seeking quality or detailed information.
Quantitative Methodology - All research methods seeking many responses or answers in quantity.
Data Collection - The process of collecting information, conducting survey or interviews.
Population & Sample - The population refers to the size of your overall audience, whilst a sample is a slice or representation of that population.
Random Sampling - Randomly selecting participants from the population according to no particular characteristic.
Random Stratified Sampling - Adopting a strategy such as segmenting the population by customer type or account size (for example) and then randomly selecting respondents from each segment.
Stratified Sampling - Adopting a precise strategy for selection of participants according to age, location, shopping habits, for example.
Confidence Interval - The confidence interval is also known as the margin of error and appears as a plus-or-minus figure along side the confidence level. Selecting a confidence interval effects the sample size (increase or decrease) with a general rule being; the smaller the confidence interval, the greater the sample size required to represent the entire population. In practice a confidence interval of +/- 5 would equate to being certain that if a question was answered by whole population, that the same answer would be given, give or take 3% either way. So if 55% of the sample answered 'yes' to a specific question the confidence interval of +/- 3 would allow you to assume between 52% and 58% of the full population would have answered 'yes'.
Confidence Level - The confidence level, expressed as a percentage (95% for example), tells us how certain we can be that the result is representative of the entire population and falls within the confidence interval margin of error. When combining the confidence level with the confidence interval we would say that we are 95% sure that the true percentage (representing the entire population) is between 52% and 58%.
Q. I have a missed call from Mackman Research. Who are you and why did you call me?
A. If you have missed a call from one of our research team, don't panic. We have contacted you because you are a client or customer of a business or organisation who has instructed us to conduct research on their behalf. Depending on your relationship to them, the research may consist of a satisfaction or perception survey, or may require a more in-depth conversation to gather your valued opinion. We are not a call centre and have been given your contact details by the business that you trade with or the organisation with which you are associated. You should have received communication with the details of the research project either by post or email that gives you an opportunity to opt out of the survey. Please contact us if you would like to opt out. Alternatively, wait for one of our researchers to call you back to arrange a convenient time to speak.
Q. I'd like to survey my customers, is a postal survey the best way to reach them?
A. Not necessarily. Postal surveys still offer a great method of data collection when seeking engagement from communities and distinct geographical locations. They work well for those who are unlikely to have digital capabilities or technologies at hand. However, it is worth noting that postal surveys can be unreliable as it is hard to determine who (within a household) completed the survey. Response rates can also be very low and end up costing more with repeat mailings. When thinking about a research method it is worth keeping a open mind and instead concentrating on formulating a research question(s). Your research specialist will help you select the most appropriate method.
Q. How long will a research project take?
A. A typical research project lasts from 8 - 12 weeks from start to finish. Timescales are dependant on the data collection method and the availability of respondents. For example, street polls can take less than 4 weeks to design, gather data and produce findings. That is because they offer instant responses. On the other end of the scale, satisfaction surveys for premium service brands can take up to 12 weeks. This is particularly the case when conversing with senior professionals who require specific time slots to be made in order to participate.
Q. We're thinking of running a satisfaction survey. Can we ask people about new products at the same time?
A. It is important that the focus of your research stays on track. It may be tempting to ask questions outside of the satisfaction remit, but such attempts will cause either questionnaire fatigue or suspicion as to the intention of your/our approach. Remaining focused on your research question really will produce rich and valuable data.
Q. I'd like to sit in on a focus, group is that possible?
A. Generally we wouldn't advise that our clients be present during focus groups. This is because your presence may influence subjects' responses. We will however spend considerable time with you to ensure that you are happy with the lines of inquiry. We will also share our script with you prior to the focus group taking place, giving you the opportunity to input any additional questions.
Q. I've taken part in a survey over the telephone. What will you do with my answers?
A. You can be assured that your response will be treated in the strictest of confidence. Your name and contact details will not be attributed to your answers at any time. Your answers will be stripped of their identifying features and will only appear as part of combined results (on aggregate), and our client will view these results in a report which includes graphs and quotes. Your data will be deleted from all of our systems once the project has come to an end (usually within 12 weeks).
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