Research can be so much more than an Excel sheet with numbers. How can you bring research to life in your organization? Josine Poley, market research at PGGM, shares her experience from their customer service department, where research transformed from an obligation to something that generates enthusiasm among employees.

More than just a score

PGGM-brings-research-to-life-featuredPGGM is an administrative agency for several pension funds in the Netherlands. PGGM manages the pensions, but is also responsible for all customer contact, both with employees and employers. Josine: “The pension funds we work for, expect us to be accountable for what we do. There is a risk that market research is only used for this reason: a sort of proof that we are doing a good job.” Josine realized, however, that much more information could be gathered than what was at the time used by PGGM. “We were doing ok, every quarter we could put a 'green tick' behind the results we had to deliver. But customer satisfaction research should really be used in order to find out how you can improve. A score to justify yourself is nice, but we wanted more.”

Monday morning

“Now that we are using CYS for our research, we receive much more specific, granular information" Josine explains. “Instead of just an average score, we now see the actual reasons behind that score. We know which employee was responsible for the contact, the topic that was discussed, when the contact took place and if it was by telephone or by mail.” Employees can see their own, individual results and don't just receive a score but also the motivation behind that score, the open answer provided by the customer. “The fact that the process is fully automated ensures the speed, which is crucial. Every single morning, an automatic selection is made of customers we have been in contact with the day before. These will receive an invitation to participate in the research within 24 hours, so that their memory of the contact is still fresh. On our side, every Monday morning all employees receive an overview of their scores of the week before. They can also still remember the conversation or email communication and can compare the opinion of the person they spoke to with their own experience. This is very valuable and employees indicate they learn a lot from this feedback.” In the meantime the employees are actually waiting for their results on Monday morning and immediately get to work once they have them. Josine: “the research has come to life now, my colleagues come to me with questions by themselves instead of my having to 'force feed' them the results.”

Listening and reacting

Because customers can use the open answer to point out what is important for them, the research brings up a large variety of different improvement points. Josine mentions an example: “Sometimes participants leave the pension fund, for example because they move to a different job. Not everybody was happy with that process and we assumed this had reasons that were beyond our control. But what transpired, was that the dissatisfaction was not so much related to the process of leaving itself, but to a lack of clarity regarding the value of the pension. Customers expected an overview of the built-up capital in their pension immediately, but it is impossible for us to deliver that at such short notice.   Now we send a letter immediately in which we confirm their cancellation and indicate when they can expect the overview.”

PGGM takes their active approach to the research one step further and employees take immediate action if the feedback warrants that: “When someone has a concrete question, or when it becomes clear from the open answer that not everything is clear, we take immediate action. We answer their question by mail or give them a ring to clarify any outstanding issues. In this way the customer also directly benefits from the effort they took to participate in the survey. Ultimately, this is why we ask for feedback in the first place. 

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