In a previous blog, I outlined three steps for maximizing the impact of the consumer research you conduct: Work Backwards; Unearth the Insight; Tell a Good Story. I’d now like to discuss the actual design of the questionnaire and the research report you receive. Specifically, I want to pose five questions for you to think about the next time you are about to commission a piece of research, especially a large-scale quantitative survey.

Does the research “work backwards”?

Even though I exhorted you to “Work Backwards” in the earlier blog, it is so critical to good research design and the ultimate success of the study that it bears repeating. Your consumer research has to be designed around the actions that you need to take and the decisions you need to make. Your study should not be a litany of questions irrespective of their applicability to the specific business issues at hand.

Is the research customized to your needs?

This question directly stems from the first question. If you’re “working backwards” then the survey will be built around your business objectives. If, however, the research you’re paying (big bucks) for has a “one-size-fits-all” approach, you may want to look for research company that can build what you need, not what they want to sell you.

Is the research interviewing the right people?

Nothing can undermine success more quickly than a survey administered to the wrong people. Please make sure that your study doesn’t simply take “all comers.” Rather, make sure that your sample is drawn from your key service areas (usually defined by zip codes), is in proportion to the demographics of that service area and represents your hospital’s customer “bull’s-eye.”

Does the research ask the right things of consumers?

Many healthcare surveys ask people questions that assume a level of knowledge beyond reason. For example, unless a respondent has some direct experience with a hospital for a particular condition, why would we expect that person to provide a reliable opinion on “which hospital is best” for various service lines—a commonly asked set of questions on many healthcare surveys. Yes, we can ask respondents their general impressions of a hospital (e.g. expert physicians, state-of-the-art medical technologies, etc.) without them necessarily having used that hospital. But asking all respondents on a survey their opinions about subjects that truly require first-hand experience is ill-advised.

Does your research provide meaningful analysis?

Every consumer research study you commission should provide an analysis of the data. Surprisingly, many studies don’t. By “analysis” I mean:

  1. A brief interpretation of the data on a given table or chart (e.g. “People have consistently stronger impressions of the medical expertise of your hospital, though your perceived compassion is lacking relative to the competition”), not just a description of the questions area (e.g. “This table shows you perceptions of your hospital and its competitors”).
  2. Conclusions and, especially, useable implications drawn from the research. Again, if you’re working backwards, these conclusions and implications are essential.

If the answer to these 5 questions is “Yes”—congratulations! Your research is likely to pay big dividends for you. If the answer is “No” to any of them, you may want to re-think the research and correct your course before it’s too late!

The following two tabs change content below.
Marty Horn

Marty Horn

Director of Research and Consumer Insight at SPM Marketing & Communications
Marty leads all research initiatives for SPM clients, including qualitative and quantitative studies, and unearths valuable insights to drive strategy and creative development. With 30 years of experience in research as senior research director at DDB, he has worked on clients such as Anheuser-Busch, McDonald’s, and State Farm. Marty also manages The SPM℠ American Health & Life Study—the first study of its kind that profiles how various life choices and behaviors influence healthcare decisions.
1729 View