Operated by the National Physical Research Proposal

Excerpt from Research Proposal :

This means that the questionnaire may be designed with a thorough understanding of the processes within the company and the experience to which the customers of the company should be ideally exposed.

The studio presently collects some information on the experience of their customers but this focuses predominantly on the customer's experiences on the day of their shoot. For example the questionnaire which is currently distributed to all customers asks questions such as 'Which parts of your photo shoot did you like the best?' The current questionnaire is also very simple with only three options given for the multiple choice questions and a number of questions such as that above which are open ended questions. The company is however concerned that sufficient information is not available to guide them specifically on customer satisfaction with the service provided from initial contact with the company to receipt of the photographic products ordered. The survey is therefore focused solely on the area of service received rather than the opinions of the customer which relate to the photo shoot. The objective of collecting this information is to identify whether there are any problems relating to customer service alone. If there are any problems identified this may then allow the manager of the studio to design and implement changes which allow these problems to be resolved. This is likely to be useful to the manager as better customer service is likely to further increase overall customer satisfaction. This is particularly important for the manager as recommendation by friends has previously been found by the company to be the most important marketing channel. Therefore improving customer service may lead to substantially increased revenue for the company.

The nature of the company meant that there were several different stages which may be reached by the customer, not all completing the entire process from beginning to end. For example the sale of gift vouchers meant that there may be one customer who first contacted the company but that they would not then undergo the actual photographic session. Equally, there were often families in which a large number attended for the photographic session but not all would then undergo the selection and ordering process. There were also often family members who may arrive at the studio for ordering of products but who may have no other contact with the company. Therefore the different levels of contact with the company needed to be considered when determining which customers' opinions would be most useful to the company. After consideration and discussion with the manager of the studio it was determined that all customers' opinions would be valued for the purpose of determining service quality. The justification for this was that recommendation of the company could come from sources who had much or little contact with the company, but no matter how small the contact, judgement may still be made based on that contact. Therefore it was determined that all customers of the company would be included in the sampling population.

Both the objective of the study and the decision to include all customers determined the information which needed to be collected by the survey. A copy of the first draft of the survey may be seen in Appendix 2. It was determined that the survey should remain anonymous as it was felt that this may encourage wider participation (Joinson & Reips, 2007). For example some customers who were intending making further visits to the studio may feel uncomfortable giving negative responses if they thought that there may be repercussions to their future experience. It was also determined to be unnecessary as it would have no bearing on the analysis of the survey.

As all customers were to be included in the questionnaire it was necessary to use the first question to collect some information about the extent of the contact which the respondent had with the studio. The first question therefore asked the respondent to tick next to the statements which were applicable. This also allowed for information to be gained about the specific stages of the process which the respondent had undergone. This not only helped to analyse how much contact the opinion was based upon but also helped to identify the team members from whom the client had contact. This would then allow for more in depth analysis which could be based on specific elements of the entire studio experience. For example respondents whose only contact with the studio was to purchase the package could be isolated. Analysing the responses from these customers would then specifically identify problems with the quality of service provided by the sales staff at the studio. This would then make it easier to identify the specific areas in which improvements could be made, thus making the survey more useful to the manager than if no such information were available.

The main emphasis of the survey was on the second question, as this was the measure of the different elements of service which the respondent had received. A five point scale was used for the answers as this would allow for statistical analysis of the answers. Quantitative results would also allow for an easier comparison between results collected at different times (Miller & Salkind, 2002). The different elements which were assessed in the second question of the survey were identified as the most important elements of service which were commonly experienced by customers. It was recognised that some customers would not have sufficient experience in these areas to comment however and so there was also a 'not applicable' option included.

The third section of the survey focused solely on the satisfaction of customers with complaints which they had made. This was isolated for further analysis as this is an area which the studio manager identified as having been a problem area. It is possible that this may also help to identify whether those customers who had made complaints to the studio were also those who had negative service quality experiences overall. It is then possible that separate analyses could be conducted of the respondents who had made complaints and those who had not. This may also help in the development of specific strategies to deal with customers who complain to the company. For example it may be possible that large numbers of customers who had made a complaint also identified that they were unhappy with the notification of progress. This would then indicate that by increasing contact with those who had complained it may be possible to improve their overall perceptions of service and compensate for the original problem.

The fourth question asked customers specifically whether they would recommend the studio to their friends and colleagues. Although this was not specifically related to the levels of service quality received it provides a good overall view of the respondents opinion of the service received. It also allows for analysis of this in relation to the specific objective of the survey, which is to determine how well service quality may be contributing to sales and how this may be improved. Finally the survey allows the respondent to openly add their own comments. It would not be expected that all customers would use this space or that many of the suggestions would be practicable. It is however possible that there may be further information which may be gained which was not anticipated in the original questionnaire design.

After the decision had been made to include all customers of the company in the sample population a test survey was conducted to determine whether this was practical and to test the survey designed. The company holds databases with the details of all customers with details taken upon initial contact with the company. One database includes contact details of every customer who purchased a package from the studio, while another database included details of every person attending a photographic session, and a third database containing details of all those who purchased photographic products. The initial step was therefore to accumulate all of these databases and then to remove any duplicate entries. As the survey was aimed at adults the names of all those under 18 were also removed from the database. The decision was also made that customers may less accurately recall their experiences if a long period of time had elapsed and so those who had no contact with the studio in the last six months were excluded from the database. This then resulted in one database with all those to be included in the target population.

From previous experience it was clear that around two thirds of all those attending the photographic session completed and returned surveys which they were given. It was therefore assumed that this rate of participation would be constant across all customers. The surveys which are currently given to customers are distributed to all visiting the studio for a photographic session. The distribution of the new survey to…

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