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Understanding and meeting your stakeholders’ needs with market research
Whether you’re a profit-focused e-commerce website or a not-for-profit social enterprise, if you have a business, you have stakeholders. Knowing who your stakeholders are and identifying their specific needs is the first step to securing your company’s success.
What are stakeholders?
Stakeholders are individuals, groups or organisations that can affect, or be affected, by your business’ aims, actions and policies.
Business stakeholders fall into two broad groups, internal and external. Internal stakeholders work directly for, or have a vested interest in a business, for example, the owners, employees, policy makers, board members, investors and suppliers who deliver services on your behalf. Whilst external stakeholders are made up of those outside of the business who are influenced by its actions, such as customers, industry bodies, Government agencies and the local community in which the business operates.
Understanding internal and external stakeholders’ expectations has always been an essential component of organisational governance. However, with technological advances making communication easier than ever, identifying multiple stakeholders’ priorities – such as when and how they want to be communicated with - has complicated the relationship further.
Dedicated stakeholder research
One way organisations are overcoming the challenge is through dedicated stakeholder research.
As well as mapping internal and external stakeholders’ needs and expectations, opinion research is able to shine a spotlight on how to enhance specific aspects of stakeholder relationships, for example, creating a better customer experience by moving from paper-intensive processes to automated systems, or developing a high-impact CSR campaign that resonates with consumers, the local community and environmental groups.
Advantages of internal stakeholder research – happy employees = happy customers
Employees, department managers, contract workers and third-party suppliers who deliver services on your behalf are the lifeblood of an organisation. Discovering internal stakeholders’ perceptions and attitudes to their role is an effective, measurable method of identifying concerns and improving employee performance.
The main advantages of conducting employee research include:
- Increased productivity – regular company-wide employee satisfaction surveys provide an appropriate, secure outlet for employees to voice concerns and have problems addressed, helping to increase staff motivation and productivity.
- Reduced employee turnover – it costs over £30k* to replace a staff member affecting the bottom line. Knowing how employees feel about their work and the company’s management style reduces churn and promotes staff loyalty.
- Engaged employees – gaining insight into challenges employees’ face allows an organisation to make positive changes, from filling knowledge gaps to offering employees development opportunities. Employees who feel listened to and valued are more likely to take positive steps to promote and grow the business.
- Enhanced supplier relationships – suppliers are key internal customers, by understanding their expectations an organisation can build better supplier relationships bringing long-term added-value to the business.
Advantages of external stakeholder research – driving up customer satisfaction
Of all the external stakeholder groups it is often the end customer whose expectations and needs require the most attention. Customer (or consumer) research helps organisations mine valuable insights to drive up customer satisfaction and create a competitive edge.
Specific advantages of customer research include:
Raised customer satisfaction – examining each stage of the customer journey enables an organisation to understand their buyers’ priorities and how well they are being met. Taking action to resolve customers’ issues in turn helps to improve satisfaction levels.
Increased customer loyalty – teasing out and eradicating customer gripes reduces complaints and improves the customer relationship, encouraging customers to return and communicate positively about their experience.
Effortless customer experience - using tailored research techniques, such as customer satisfaction and value surveys, allows an organisation to hone its customer experience to meet and exceed expectations.
How stakeholder research transformed The National Grid
Achieving higher levels of customer satisfaction in the UK utilities industry has been a sticking point for many years. Rising energy bills, difficulties contacting the supplier and long waiting times for problems to be resolved have fuelled a steady increase in customer complaints and led to the introduction of strict new standards of conduct for suppliers.
As a leading provider of research solutions for several of the UK’s top utilities providers, we work with a wide range of power distribution and network operators, assisting them in understanding the strengths and weaknesses of their stakeholder relationships.
We were commissioned by The National Grid, owners of the power transmission network that delivers electricity to homes and businesses across Great Britain, to gain insight into their stakeholders’ behaviour and so better engage and communicate with them.
Operating in a highly regulated industry, the data findings would be reported to the government regulatory body Ofgem.
Tailored multi-channel stakeholder research solution
We developed a series of regulator-approved questionnaires and applied multiple data collection channels to acquire feedback from a variety of stakeholders, including consumers, government, industry bodies, NGOs and environment regulators. The methodologies used needed to deliver consistent data yet be flexible enough to be relevant to each stakeholder position.
Using appropriate analysis methods we provided National Grid with insightful and actionable information about their differing stakeholder requirements, helping them progress their group goals and meet necessary regulatory compliance.
TTi Global Research is a leading market research agency near Slough, Berkshire. We have extensive experience of carrying out accurate, high quality research with stakeholder groups, from employees and consumers, to government ministers and industry regulators.
To find out how we can help you better understand and meet your stakeholders’ requirements, call our research experts today on 01753 214000 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
*Source: Oxford Economics, 3March 2014, The Cost of Brain Drain
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