Introduction There are many ways to research better methods to operate a business. Using qualitative research, and finding the true feelings and wants of the company’s consumers, can help the company to better provide goods or services for the consumers or even improve customer interaction to reduce bad feelings about a company.
Using qualitative research a company can learn of customer interests without prior insight to issues or concerns, meaning the research is not biased in the effort of getting a consumer’s opinion on a matter, but takes interest in what the organization may not already know by obtaining open ended information from the study group. Another great aspect of this qualitative research is being able to take what feedback you get from the study group and begin to provide education that can better suit the customers’ issues.
Some may disagree with qualitative research as it delves into the psychology of the subject audience, the why and how if you will. I feel that because of this behavioral aspect, the qualitative research is therefore an excellent method, by learning what people want or expect, an organization can provide, to the best of their abilities (or as financially able) exactly what is expected of them. Escambia River Electric Cooperative My company is a small power distribution cooperative, we are a Not-For-Profit business that is owned by the consumer membership.
Being member owned, we feel a strong sense of responsibility for the provision of the best possible power service. Being able to gather information specific to the wants and needs of our consumer base would allow our company to find solutions for these issues and therefore provide better services. Where in the power distribution industry quantitative research would be more useful as our company knows what to offer and how to offer such services, I can see the usefulness of qualitative research to teach our company about things that we may not be privy to.
EREC Data Usage Since my company focuses highly on the reliability of service, the data gathered from our AMI system plays a huge role in providing solutions for issues found in the provision of reliable power, but this is not the only aspect of a power company that can be improved. Improving customer satisfaction is another point that my company is always trying to ensure is performing at full mark.
Using a qualitative research study my company could explore problem areas and using the information, hopefully find a solution for issues with our customer service, or some of our provided services, such as online bill pay or remote location payment drop locations. These solutions came from comments and requests from consumers without the need to ask or the information, I see this as being a form of qualitative data as we were unaware of what information we would acquire.
These being only a handful of solutions from provided information without request, I feel that a true qualitative research study could be very beneficial to our company, one way I see being able to gather this data would be during our Annual meeting where consumers are invited to a location to vote on board members and to learn about the yearly growth and development of the company.
During the day of the annual meeting we could pass out comment cards or even request comments on ballots on things that the company could do better, by requesting the information I believe that will be more successful in obtaining valuable information, without requesting specific opinions on a specific operation. This is a cheap format of a research study but I think that the return value on the information would be very important to our daily operation.
One other thing we could do is have a similar comment section on the consumer’s bill and request any information that each consumer thinks would benefit them or their fellow consumers, this would use little ink and would reach every customer in our system, once again increasing the likelihood of receiving valuable information. Decision Making As a small member owned utility, my company often does not have the funding to perform research studies, but as stated before there are ways that we could gather information for fairly cheap.
This information would then be evaluated by management who would then evaluate the provided data and come up with a solution that would help our company operate more efficiently. By using this information we can then implement the solution and therefore provide a better service to our membership which follows the cooperative’s prime directive perfectly. Historically the data received has been small in size, but this data was used to create a better company that, because of forward thinking management, has been very successful with customer satisfaction.
One such project was the implementation of a website that is fully traversable with a very user friendly interface that allows consumers to easily see what occurs in the companies daily operations and provides access to any forms or data that is available. With this new website we were then able to provide the requested online bill pay option, which now supports 50% of payments. As time progressed and others were not technologically able to pay online and being in a rural location it could be an hour drive to reach an office to pay your bill, we began to offer telephone payment options as requested via comments.
When we inquired about reasons, we were able to learn the distance was an issue, so by this we as company decided to build satellite offices that would spread out our office personnel for the reason of providing a more local and personal office for the consumers, this has been a very successful venture as we plan to build yet another satellite office to perform the same duties. This being a long thought out and expensive solution to a minor issue, we justify the cost because a new office will save fuel costs for truck drivers and cut down on outage times as material will be closer for outage crews to reach during a storm.
So even though we solve a small problem that was requested by consumers we are able to provide a more reliable solution that will save them outage time and reduce the costs of their bills, this satisfying more than was originally asked of our company, and I feel that this is the a huge reason why it is so important to evaluate all comments and requests that we receive from consumers. My Opinion I feel that qualitative research in my field could be very helpful if performed in a certain way, traditional methods would be hard to perform and be more intrusive than our normal consumer would like.
Even though it would be difficult I think the information received can lead to the solution of many more problems. Comparatively to quantitative research, which could be an excellent means of gathering data, quantitative is only applicable to what we already know. Which in my department is a usable method, as in engineering, usually we research many different projects and find the best, suited for the company, and we can see what could be of better value to the consumer by asking very specific information from a survey. All in all, tative research co ovide invaluable information to all fields if used in certain ways.