Our approach is to develop a research strategy that best fits the needs and structure of your organisation. However, most customer or user research we develop for clients focuses on three key components: customer loyalty, experience and value. We aim to generate insights that will help focus and improve customer relationships with your organisation.
The nature of customers’ experiences can vary considerably between organisations. Comparing the act of buying a product from a bricks and mortar or online shop is quite different from an interaction with a government or member organisation where there is no or limited choice and where service is critical.
ASR understands the generic metrics that apply to all customer interactions, but we also work with you to develop and help you track metrics that are specific to your sector or product / service type. For example, rewarding water saving is important to water customers while having safe, working-order equipment right when it is needed is critic for equipment hire.
We apply rating scales that make it easy to measure and track changes and we design reports that are simple to distribute and understand. We also know that using the insights of open-ended comments is powerful when trying to understand what is important to customers.
Types of customer research that ASR has engaged in recently include:
- Water supply, including domestic and major commercial customers
- Residents in privately provided student accommodation
- Users of hire equipment
- Specialist moulding providers
- Switch gear manufacturers and users
- Users of immigration detention services
- Students and choice of educational institution
- Customer segmentation / characteristics of VIP shoppers of a book / giftware shop
- IT users.
Each of these studies has presented unique requirements which, in turn, has required different approaches, including quite different ways of collecting feedback.
With its broad experience in human resource management, combined with research expertise, ASR is an ideal provider of employee surveys. We can assist in questionnaire development, deployment and analysis, as well as working with you to ensure representative samples. Generating organisation-specific engagement or retention indices is part of our specialist offering.
Our years of organisational and psychology experience gives us immediate insight into workforce issues which assists us to identify action items which will have the most impact.
Employee surveys can focus on a range of topics. Our recent HR studies have covered:
- Engagement and retention studies
- Terms and conditions of employment
- Internal service of purchasing or IT service providers
- Measuring and tracking the implementation of corporate values and behaviours
- Multi-rater, peer or upward feedback as part of development exercises or overall employee satisfaction
- Work health and safety
- Gender equity
- Training needs
- Employee census (demographics, attributes such as language, education, certification and aspirations).
We collect data using a variety of methods and the combination is dependent on the topic or the nature of the assignment. We regularly conduct interviews and focus groups to assist in preparing self-completion questionnaires and we collect data using paper, web, or telephone questionnaires.
ASR is experienced in deploying both anonymous and known respondent employee surveys. The latter allows us to track longitudinally, particularly for retention studies, and to incorporate other payroll-associated data, such as amount invested in training, competency sets or performance ratings.
We can assist in developing communication programs which will significantly increase response rates, using innovative messages and media.
We have experience in surveying very small (less than 100) and very large (more than 60,000) workforces, in both indoor and outdoor working environments. Where it is important, we work closely with employee groups such as unions.
As part of its employee survey expertise, ASR conducts skill audits of whole workforces or specific segments and has extensive experience in collecting skill profiles by paper or electronically and then using this information for workforce planning and training needs analysis.
ASR develops organisation-specific indices or benchmarks which can be used to track progress and to identify trouble-spots. They can also be used to identify high risk retention or engagement areas within an organisation.
An important type of research is to link employee attitudes with customer attitudes / satisfaction. If a similar instrument can be used to collect employee and customer views in similar time periods, and over time, some interesting dynamics can be identified about how employee attitudes affect customer opinion.
ASR has considerable experience in generating stakeholder feedback for government agencies and government-owned business enterprises (GBEs). We work closely with clients to understand the detailed nature of feedback required (the scope of a study) as well as how feedback will be used in ongoing operating activities. In some cases, there is a mandated requirement or public commitment to obtain feedback; in other instances there may be a particular issue that needs to be investigated or tracked.
Using client background material such as strategic and operational business plans and previous research, ASR, with client assistance, builds a series of questions. It is important for us to keep in mind how the answers to these questions will be analysed and reported, particularly over time.
Methodology varies for stakeholder studies. Some can be totally depth interviews, some can be a combination of depth interviews and paper and/or web surveys and some can be a combination of different audiences where one audience is interviewed and another audience or stakeholder group provides feedback through a web survey or series of surveys.
Depending on the nature of the study, Australian Bureau of Statistics Statistical Clearing House approval may be required. ASR is experienced in working with the Clearing House and so understands their requirements.
ASR has conducted regulatory stakeholder studies in the following areas:
- Financial services
- Health insurance
- Training provision
- Work health and safety.
ASR has conducted numerous studies involving teachers and students ranging from K-12 government schools, universities, all types of schools (government, independent and Catholic) nationally, and international students, as well as university alumni. ASR’s educational clients cover a broad spectrum: from educational providers to suppliers of educational products and services. Educational sector research has covered a wide range of areas, including:
- Teacher use of educational television programs and technology in their classrooms
- Teacher work health and safety in schools
- Student well-being
- Risks students face in school environments
- Training needs for school administration software
- International and domestic student finances / expenses
- University students’ residential college experiences
- University alumni philanthropy
- Teacher feedback about secondary school examinations
- University staff views on enterprise agreements
- Reasons for choosing to study at a particular university
- University research vice-chancellors’ views on grant tracking administration.
The educational research activities that ASR has been involved with have broad and diverse objectives. This means that we approach educational projects in a very customised way. We work closely with clients to understand their research objectives and design studies that used appropriate methodologies, as well as appropriate language and concepts.
It is imperative when working in school environments that we conduct pilot tests with respondent groups. Schools have different ways of managing surveys, particularly electronic surveys, even within the same school system. We need to understand these differences in order to have smooth deployment and to reduce the amount of technical and help desk support.
The sector is survey-weary at the best of times, so using highly selective but statistically representative samples is important for some studies. ASR is experienced in designing and selecting stratified random samples as a way of reducing survey burden. Additionally, we are able to monitor responses rates closely and target particular groups that need further representation.
ASR’s expertise extends to conducting tests and exams online and we are able to also conduct test validity and reliability studies, if needed.
ASR has conducted numerous studies involving people from different ethnic backgrounds and particularly new migrants to Australia. Particular challenges when working in the multi-cultural space include:
- Respondents’ English literacy levels, as well as literacy levels in general
- Working with translators and interpreters
- Respondents’ understanding of the concept of research
- Social approval issues when self-completing questionnaires or talking in discussion groups
- Working with bilingual interviewers
- Perceived personal risk in respondents identifying themselves, particularly to those in authority
- Identifying and recruiting respondents.
The types of multi-cultural and new migrant studies ASR has been involved with include:
- Evaluation of a program focused on new migrants learning about Australia from long-term Australian residents / citizens
- Immigration detainees’ experiences in detention
- Visiting detention facilities
- Student visa holders’ experiences of government service
- Predicting settlement outcomes of new migrants
- Longitudinal studies of skilled migrants and their economic contribution to Australia
- Working holiday makers’ Australian experiences
- Migration agents’ background and response to registration changes
Studies have covered a range of methodologies including extensive face-to-face interviews, large scale paper, telephone and web surveys, and some longitudinal tracking studies. Larger studies have involved considerable pilot testing and most have involved working with interpreters and translators.
Program / project evaluation
Program evaluation is a specialised area requiring detailed knowledge of a particular activity or business process. Some understanding of program logic, particularly understanding intended outcomes as distinct from outputs or activities, is required. ASR has conducted a number of program or project evaluation studies in the following areas:
- Migrant settlement
- Government agency business reporting metrics
- Success of small business IT training program
- Outcomes of agency initiatives to build work health & safety capabilities and knowledge in a range of high risk industries
- Success of a return-to-work initiative
- Assessment of a plan to build community organisations’ capacity and capability
- User feedback about a new feature for visually impaired television viewers.
Successful program or project evaluation nearly always involves a range of methods and each method must be project specific. For example, if seeking feedback from visually impaired people, there is little point in using web or paper questionnaires. If seeking feedback from long haul transport drivers, mobile phone interviews are most suitable. The challenges of program evaluation are about getting the right people involved in the right way and at the right time.
When conducting evaluations, ASR focuses on lessons that can be learnt for future programs and how the current program can be further improved. This is similar to using action research methods: doing research throughout a program and learning iteratively and changing immediately to evolve a program.
Program evaluation requires creativity and flexibility in research design and reporting.
Work health and safety
Work health and safety (also called occupational health and safety—WHS or OHS) is one of ASR’s areas of content expertise. ASR has conducted WHS studies in the following employment contexts:
- Public hospitals
- Government schools
- Road freight
- Beef and cattle
- Construction components manufacture
- High risk hazard industries.
In addition, ASR has surveyed health and safety representatives and their employers, as well as businesses who managed employees returning to work.
ASR understands many of the issues involved in managing and implementing work health and safety in workplaces, including legislative and reporting requirements, as well as communicating with employees about their responsibilities and legal obligations.
Challenges involved in working in the WHS / OHS area include:
- Selecting the correct survey methodology for the target industry and respondent profile
- Database quality—sometimes multi modal data collection may be necessary if, for example, half the database has an email address and the other half only has telephone numbers
- The often sensitive nature of this type of research requires careful messaging to reassure anonymity and confidentiality when recruiting or inviting participation and so that response rates can be maximised.
- Effectively communicating the benefits of participation to also maximise response rates
- Complex subject matter which means that there can be many variables, scenarios and contexts within the same project. Appropriate use of logic to manage this complexity is essential for obtaining good quality data outcomes
- Coordination between multiple stakeholders
- Dealing with sensitive subject matter and vulnerable populations
Excellent research design and project management skills are fundamental for achieving on-time delivery of projects in this field. ASR has the experience to deliver WHS / OHS projects in tight timeframes.
We also have a substantial history and consulting experience in conducting projects with sensitive subject matter and highly vulnerable populations.
As part of its extensive experience in social research, ASR conducts numerous community studies each year. These are often quite distinct from customer studies where commercial transaction has taken place. Community studies tend to focus on the broader community’s views about an organisation and its reputation and which may include its product / service offering.
Types of community research that ASR has conducted recently include:
- Music offering from a national radio network across a range of music types
- Community views on the future of a rural town
- Community views on parking near a beach
- Community views on users of a children’s wading pool
- Community usage habits and preferences relating to fitness, exercise and aquatic venues
- Community views on environmental priorities relating to catchment management plans for a large city
- Reputation of a utility provider within a region
- Community views about a proposed water storage dam
- Potential uses of fishing licence revenues
- Proposed changes to fishing bag limits
- The value of coastal areas to communities
- Major city park—users and usage
- Community views on science
- Users of a port facility.
The challenges within community research are ensuring representative and therefore non-biased samples as well as sufficiently large samples for confident analysis; currency and comprehensive of contact lists; and addressing all key concerns within questions presented. Pilot testing and qualitative discussion groups prior to conducting large scale quantitative surveys are important, if not essential, for this type of research.
Data collection methodologies are infinite and include anything from physical intercepts, such as in parks and at beaches, to discussion groups, phone interviews and web surveys, or any combination of these techniques. Often this type of research involves using either very targeted lists or very broad promotion.
Reliable evidence-based solutions are important to decision makers in the community sector as often the resulting activities are subject to broad public opinion and community investment. ASR understands the need for clear and defensible recommendations.
ASR conducts research of members of professional or common interest organisations. Objectives of this type of research are often exploratory and may also focus on overall satisfaction and ideas for improvement. Conducting member surveys is a way of canvassing views from all members and not just squeaky wheels or those who have strong ties to office bearers. One of the challenges of member research is to ensure representativeness which means knowing the current profile of members across a number of demographics (so that response and population profiles can be compared).
Types of member research that ASR has conducted recently include:
- Census of a new professional group (who worked where, background and education, salary, training and reasons for joining / leaving the profession)
- Member satisfaction with current board, regulatory and insurance issues, training and retirement plans, as well as the diary for a typical day/week
- Proposed merger between two industry peak bodies and member’s reactions to their own and the other potential organisation (the merger didn’t happen!)
- University alumni and their views on philanthropy, as well as updating current details
- Obtaining views of and extent of scientific collaboration in the social sciences community
- Administering an online membership poll on proposed changes to the constitution of a medical college
Clients use their member information for a wide range of purposes: from designing new initiatives to changing strategic direction, or simply to understand more fully who they represent and to use this when presenting views to other organisations / agencies or when communicating with members.
Membership organisations cater to a select groups of people where the relevance of the organisation’s activities, professionalism and perceived value of membership is under regular scrutiny by members. Having an understanding of these and other sensitivities can make or break a successful research outcome. Further challenges in conducting research for membership organisations include:
- Risk of generating negative reactions from the membership base by including or, indeed, excluding particular topics in the research or simply spending money on doing research.
- Inadvertently creating a perception of bias about how subject matter under investigation will be handled. In other words, being criticised for appearing to pay lip service to an issue.
- Appearing to disguise an ulterior motive in the stated objectives of a particular research project. Members may ask “What are they really going to do with the information I provide?” or “That’s what they say, but why are they really doing this?”
- Considerate handling of issues that have had traditionally divided members.
- Avoiding perceived divergence from an organisation’s mission or values.
ASR consultants understand the importance of being seen to be operating professionally and ethically as well as actually doing so. Ethical behaviour is paramount to the integrity of the brand of any member organisation or any public or private business for that matter. Market and social researchers are no different and so we must adhere to strict ethical and professional standards, as well as obey the law that governs our behaviour, such as the National Privacy Act. Proper identification of potential trouble spots and their handling, minimisation or prevention through clear communication is an area of expertise we bring to our clients’ projects.
Healthcare costs have increased two and three times the rate of CPI on average over the last 20 years. This has been considerably driven by an ageing population, greater life expectancy and advances in medical technology. Delivery of efficient and effective services have become important factors in controlling spiralling costs without compromising quality of care.
Research into service delivery, patient satisfaction, quality standards and training, to name but a few areas, are vital in guiding decision makers in the health sector. This is especially the case where lives, quality of life, and cost outcomes are, by nature of the industry, finely balanced.
ASR consultants have experience in the following healthcare areas:
- Review and recommendations in the design of hospital patient experience monitors in the public sector
- Developing data collection and multi report generation over mutliple health agencies
- Consumer perception of the public and private areas of the health system
- Extent of charges by health profession relating to informed financial consent
- Review of special needs clinics
- Satisfaction with high care retirement living.
ASR adds value for our heath sector clients through our experience and expertise in stakeholder and customer feedback, program evaluation, service provision and customer satisfaction, as well as work health & safety and community research. The health sector bisects a host of complex issues that we can provide actionable in sight on through the application of a wide range of research techniques.
As part of its focus on customer satisfaction, ASR collects and analyses feedback from people who use services. While service satisfaction research has some very similar dimensions and methodologies to customer product satisfaction, it also has some unique aspects. Service dimensions may also differ depending on the type of service provided and whether or not a monopoly or duopoly is involved. There is no one size fits all service satisfaction measurement tool or metric.
Some recent service provision studies that ASR has been involved with include:
- Water supply
- Visa processing
- Treatment within an immigration detention facility
- Living in university residential colleges
- Ports services
- Medical college membership
- Rail transport
- IT services.
ASR conducts many projects around business-to-business and business-to-customer satisfaction. Projects vary widely and no two projects are the same. Service satisfaction research is a specialised area that requires insight into consumer behaviour. It also requires a thorough understanding of measurement techniques (scales, questions and questionnaire design) as well as analytical applications. Knowing how these factors work and the appropriate use for specific contexts are critical to obtaining robust results that can easily be actioned with the ultimate aim of improving customer experiences.
ASR has the experience combined with the practical and technical expertise in identifying areas of service that should be maintained or improved, depending on their contribution to overall customer satisfaction. Understanding the cost effectiveness of improving or maintaining satisfaction scores in certain areas is an integral part of an effective satisfaction measurement program.
Customer satisfaction projects can include multi modal research methodologies such as utilising depth interviews and/or focus groups to identify key services issues and inform questionnaire design, and testing.
One method or a combination of paper, telephone or online surveys are administered to collect customer satisfaction data which then undergoes advanced statistical analysis to identify key drivers of satisfaction. Results can also be used to segment customers / users.