Planning a Research Strategy


If you plan your research strategy carefully, the whole project will flow smoothly. Follow these steps:

1. Work out a schedule and budget for the project that requires the research. When is the deliverable—the document or the presentation—due? Do you have a budget for phone calls, database, or travel to libraries or other sites?

2. Visualize the deliverable. What kind of document will you need to deliver: a proposal, a report, a Website? What kind of oral presentation will you need to deliver?

3. Determine what information will need to be part of that deliverable. Draft an outline of the contents, focusing on the kinds of information that readers will expect to see in each part. For instance, if you are going to make a presentation to your supervisors about the use of e-mail in your company, your audience will expect specific information about the number of e-mails written and received by company employees, as well as the amount of time employees spend reading and writing it.

4. Determine what information you still need to acquire. Make a list of the pieces of information you don’t have. For instance, for the e-mail presentation, you might realize that you have anecdotal information about employee use of e-mail, but you don’t have any specifics.

5. Create questions you need to answer. Make a list of questions, such as the following:

    1. How many e-mails are written each day in our company?
    2. How many people receive each mail?
    3. How much server space is devoted to e-mails?
    4. How much time do people in each department spend writing and reading e-mail?

Writing the questions in a list forces you to think carefully about your topic. One question suggests another, and soon you have a lengthy list that you need to answer.

6. Conduct secondary research. For the e-mail presentation, you want to find out about e-mail usage in organizations similar to yours and what policies these organizations are implementing. You can find this information in journal articles and from Web-based sources, such as online journals, discussion groups, and bulletin boards.

7. Conduct primary research. You can answer some of your questions by consulting company records, by interviewing experts (such as the people in the Information Technology department in your company), and by conducting surveys and interviews of representative employees.

8. Evaluate your information. Once you have your information, you need to evaluate its quality: is it accurate, comprehensive, unbiased, and current?

9. Do more research. If the information you have acquired doesn’t sufficiently answer your questions, do more research. And, if you have thought of additional questions that need to be answered, do more research. When do you stop doing research? You will stop only when you think you have enough high-quality information to create the deliverable. For this reason, you will need to establish and stick to a schedule that will allow for multiple phases of research.

My Consultancy–Asif J. Mir – Management Consultant–transforms organizations where people have the freedom to be creative, a place that brings out the best in everybody–an open, fair place where people have a sense that what they do matters. For details please visit www.asifjmir.com, and my Lectures.

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Primary Research Data


Primary data consists of data that is obtained directly from the source. It is generally captured through surveys, interviews, focus groups, or other direct interactions with individuals. The use of primary data has increased dramatically over the past few years, and with the advent of bar code scanners, home shopping, interactive television, and other electronic media, the number of channels through which primary data can be collected will increase exponentially.

Primary data consists of two major types:

  • Individual level demographic data such as age, income, and home value.
  • Attitudinal and behavioral data.

In the past, primary data was often the province of market research, and was used primarily to provide direction for marketing programs that addressed large groups of customers and prospects. Demographic data was used to get a better “fix” on the characteristics of the larger market, and attitudinal data was used to provide a sense of which issues were important to various groups of customers, and therefore should be emphasized in promotional materials.

Market researchers use primarily data to identify new product opportunities or new segments within the customer file. This is usually done by sending surveys to a representative sample of customers or prospects to determine what products and services they are interested in but do not currently purchase from the firm sending the questionnaire. In this way, primary data gathered through market research surveys can lead to the development of products that are either new to the firm or, in some cases, new to the industry.

My Consultancy–Asif J. Mir – Management Consultant–transforms organizations where people have the freedom to be creative, a place that brings out the best in everybody–an open, fair place where people have a sense that what they do matters. For details please visit www.asifjmir.com, and my Lectures.

Make Skills Transfer Easy


Make it easy to transfer new skills and behavior from the training site to the job site:

  1. maximize the similiarity between the training situation and the work situation.
  2. provide adequate practice.
  3. label or identify each feature of the machine and/or step in the process.
  4. direct the trainees’ attention, to important aspects of the job. For example, if you’re training customer service representatives how to handle incoming calls, first explain the different types of calls they will encounter and how to recognize such calls.
  5. provide “heads up,” prepatory information. For example, trainee learning to become first-line supervisors often face stressful conditions, high workload, and difficult subordinates back on the job. Studies suggest you can reduce the negative impact of such events by letting trainees know they might happen.

My Consultancy–Asif J. Mir – Management Consultant–transforms organizations where people have the freedom to be creative, a place that brings out the best in everybody–an open, fair place where people have a sense that what they do matters. For details please visit www.asifjmir.com, Line of Sight

The Changing Face of Customer Service


Excellent customer service—the daily, ongoing support of a company’s offerings—is critical in creating brand identity and ultimate success. It includes answering questions, taking orders, dealing with billing issues, handling complaints, scheduling appointments, and similar activities. These essential functions can make or break an organization’s relationships with its customers. The quality of customer care can significantly impact brand identity for service, manufacturing, and consumer products companies. Because of its importance in creating impressions and sustaining customer relationships, customer service has sometimes been called the “front door” of the organization or its “face.”

 

So how has the “face” of customer service changed with the influx of technology? Long ago all customer service was provided face-to-face through direct personal interaction between employees and customers. To get service you had to visit stores or service providers in person. The telephone changed this, allowing customers to call companies and speak directly with employees. Customer service became less personal, but without a doubt more efficient, through use of the telephone. With the evolution of computer technology, customer service representatives (CSRs) became even more efficient. Through computer information systems and customer data files, CSRs are able to call up customer records at their workstations to answer questions on the spot.

 

Over time, because communication and computer technologies allowed it, large organizations began to centralize their customer service functions, consolidating into a few large call centers that could be located anywhere in the country or world. But still, in these types of call centers, customer service is for the most part an international event with customers talking directly, one-on-one with an employee.

 

The advent and rapid proliferation of the efficient, but much maligned, automated voice response systems have changed personal customer service in many organizations into menu-driven, automated exchanges. In almost every industry and any business context consumers encounter these types of systems, and many are quite frustrating—for example, when a system has a long confusing set of menu options or when no menu options seems to fit the purpose of the call. Similarly, consumers become angered when they cannot get out of the automated system easily, or when there is no option to speak to a live person.

 

Some companies have overcome these obstacles, however, and have well-designed automated telephone systems that work well for customers. This is accomplished through a form of natural-language speech recognition technology that allows customers to easily interact through the telephone in ways that are much like talking to a real person. Further, a human contact is always easy to get to if needed. Customer satisfaction is rated among the highest in any industry. One of the keys may be that the vice president of retail voice technology occupies a senior management position, showing importance placed on this function. In general, satisfaction levels for automated speech recognition systems are higher than satisfaction with touch-tone systems and in some cases are higher than for live agents.

 

Beyond automated telecom systems, explosion of the internet is also dramatically changing customer service for many companies. Service can now be provided on the internet via e-mail, website robots, FAQs, and online chat. In these cases there is no direct human interaction, and customers actually perform their own service. At Ford Motor Company’s technology that allows dealership customers to set their own service appointments, send messages regarding their specific repair needs, and monitor the status of their vehicles, all online.

 

With the relentless proliferation of technology solutions, firms are finding that expectations for customer service have changed. Customers are demanding choices in how they get customer service, whether it be over the phone, automated voice systems, via fax or email, or through internet self-service. However, while customers often enjoy technology-based service and even demand it in many cases, they dislike it when it doesn’t work reliably (a common problem), when it doesn’t seem to have any advantages over the interpersonal service alternatives, and when there are no systems in place to recover from failures. Interestingly, when things don’t work as they are supposed to on an internet site or through an automated response system, customers are quick to look for more traditional interpersonal (in person or via telephone) options, coming full circle to where we started.

 

My Consultancy–Asif J. Mir – Management Consultant–transforms organizations where people have the freedom to be creative, a place that brings out the best in everybody–an open, fair place where people have a sense that what they do matters. For details please visit www.asifjmir.com, Line of Sight

Building Shared Vision


The skills involved in building shared vision include the following:

  1. Encouraging Personal Vision. Shared visions emerge from personal visions. It is not that people only care about their own self-interest. People’s values usually include dimensions that concern family, organization, community, and even the world. Rather, it is that people’s capacity for caring is personal.
  2. Communicating and Asking for Support. Leaders must be willing to continually share their vision, rather than being the official representative of the corporate vision. They also must be prepared to ask, “Is this vision worthy of your commitment?” This can be difficult for a person used to setting goals and presuming compliance.
  3. Visioning as an ongoing process. Building shared vision is a never ending process. At any one point there will be a particular image of the future that is predominant, but that image will evolve. Today, too many managers want to dispense with the “vision business” by going off and writing the Official Vision Statement. Such statements almost always lack the vitality, freshness, and excitement of a genuine vision that comes from people asking, “What do really want to achieve?”
  4. Blending extrinsic and intrinsic visions. Many energizing visions are extrinsic, that is, they focus on achieving something relative to outsider, such as a competitor. But a goal that is limited to defeating an opponent can, once the vision is achieved, easily become a defensive posture. In contrast, intrinsic goals like creating a new type of product, taking an established product to a new level, or setting a new standard for customer satisfaction can call forth a new level of creativity and innovation. Intrinsic and extrinsic visions need to coexist; a vision solely predicated on defeating an adversary will eventually weak an organization.
  5. Distinguishing Positive from negative visions. Many organizations only truly pull together when their survival is threatened. Similarly, most social movements aim at eliminating what people don’t want: for example, anti-drug, anti-smoking movements. Negative visions carry a subtle message of powerlessness: people will only pull together when there is sufficient threat. Negative visions also tend to be sort term. Two fundamental sources of energy can motivate organizations: fear and aspiration. Fear, the energy source behind negative visions, can produce extraordinary changes in short periods, but aspiration endures as a continuing source of learning and growth.

My Consultancy–Asif J. Mir – Management Consultant–transforms organizations where people have the freedom to be creative, a place that brings out the best in everybody–an open, fair place where people have a sense that what they do matters. For details please contact www.asifjmir.com, Line of Sight

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