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  • by Trevor Loveday

Study warns of business plan decisions based on ill-informed customer views

Company decisions founded on findings from customer research carried out during the development PR19 could be unsound because many consumers were unable to grasp the meaning or relevance of the questioning according to a recent report commissioned by CCW.

Customers who have taken part in water company research struggled to understand what they are asked, according to a study by market research firm Blue Marble. The study report said its findings raised “important questions about the validity of the information that water companies are acting on, especially for business planning.”

Water, according to the report, was a “low-salience issue for most consumers, most of the time.” The study found that consumers quizzed on water company business plans felt that “many things don’t feel relevant or easy to follow” and some “default to looking at prices as a way of navigating what they are being asked.” And in some instances, the consumers would have preferred experts to be consulted on their behalf according to the report authors.

The report offers recommendations for water companies pondering polling customer opinion including:

improve the “appeal” of surveys and stimulus materials and place “greater emphasis on describing the context and relevance research”;

In business planning research brief respondents so they are “informed” in their contributions and make greater use of “expert” customers; and

draw on insight from research on “business as usual research” such as canvassing recent service experiences and company reputation to inform business plans. This was particularly important for “hard to reach” customers including vulnerable ones and business users.

Blue Marble said in its study it had spoken to “a wide range of household, non-household, future and vulnerable customers. This included both ‘fresh’ participants (who had never previously taken part in any research conducted on behalf of the water sector) and ‘experienced’ participants (who had previously taken part).”

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