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Archive for January, 2007

Two Minutes with Steve Schlesinger

Wednesday, January 31st, 2007

Steve Schlesinger is a second generation researcher and 24 year veteran of the Market Research industry. During that time he has been very instrumental in building Schlesinger Associates and has given back a tremendous amount to the research community. He is currently on the national MRA Board and a member of a number of other associations. I hope you enjoy a few minutes of getting to know Steve.

MD How did you 1st get involved in the market research industry?
SS My mother had started as an executive interviewer in the early 60s. She worked her way up the ranks and eventually started her own company. You could say that I grew up in the business with dinner conversations about the industry and the types of studies my mother was working on. Of course, she had a clipboard and pencil in my hand by the time I was 17 years old. After college and grad school, I started helping her with a number of studies and the fun began. It has now been over 20 years and I am still excited to come to work every day.

Steve Schlesinger
Schlesinger Associates

MD What do you think is the biggest challenge the industry is facing today?
SS Respondent cooperation is the biggest challenge from our industry and has been for a number of years. It is imperative that all companies within the research community address this issue. It seems that we have struggled to communicate to the public the importance of research and distinguish ourselves from the telemarketers and spammers out there. It is our internal goal over the next 12 months to create local initiatives to explain the importance of the research process to prospective respondents – a true grassroots campaign. Initiatives have included better explanations of the research experience, literature to promote the importance of the affects of research and the distinction of research versus sales.
MD What does client service mean to you?
SS Our view of client service is a partnership with our clients. We work to anticipate their needs and respond to their requests in the most timely manner possible and with a can do attitude. We believe that our business is based on our quality and service and growth is dependent on both of these being at the highest level. On a daily basis we measure our client’s satisfaction with a three prong approach;

  1. customer satisfaction survey on-site with moderators and viewers of the research
  2. customer satisfaction survey one week after the study with the project manager for the specific study and
  3. self evaluation from our staff. These three processes enable us to constantly review our service level and implement suggestions for improvement.
MD What does an average day look like for you?
SS My day typically starts around 5 am with answering emails, mostly from Europe and Asia. Then a one hour workout, quick shower, drop the kids at school and off to my office. I am usually there until 6 or so and then home for dinner with my family. After dinner, it is usually some family time and then back to the computer to clean up emails and paperwork. It ends with some reading (pleasure and business) or TV and off to bed by midnight.
MD How do you think qualitative research will change in the next few years?
SS Technology will surely have an impact – with increased broadband, the ability to interview people in a home setting or off a PDA will exist with greater ease. These will be the ethnographies of the future. The use of online focus groups will also benefit by the increased broadband, enabling researchers to have better video images and access to certain respondent pools.The timelines for projects will continue to shrink, as they have been and the specifications for studies will become more difficult, with more use of segmentation tools (algorithms). One of the trends that have stayed consistent is the desire to talk to low incidence respondents. This trend will continue and companies providing recruiting services will have to be creative in how they find these respondents.

I also believe there will be some consolidation within the facility businesses.

MD What’s next for Schlesinger Associates?
SS We have plans for continued growth both domestically and internationally for the next 3 to 5 years. It has been our goal to add one to two new facilities each year and we hope to continue with that model. In the fall of this year, Kim White joined our company in the role of client development director. Kim’s role is to get in front of existing clients and prospects and look for new opportunities to grow our business. We are also launching a couple of new services in the coming year – stay tuned, we are very excited about these.

Thanks, Steve.

Over the past few years I have really gotten to know Steve and what he is all about. From my standpoint Steve is a rare breed. He is a solid business person, client focused, funny, and the owner of basically a family owned business. The interesting thing is that he never treats the staff like they aren’t related. They are all family. He has truly built a special business.

The research industry is truly great because of companies like Schlesinger Associates and people like Steve.

Please post any questions or comments for Steve.

Here’s a picture of Steve his staff just sent in:

Why Are Car Rental Companies Different?

Monday, January 29th, 2007

To start with, let me get you into the zone.

You are going on some type of trip. Perhaps it involves a plane, hotel and possibly a car rental. If for whatever reason you are delayed—since I travel almost every week this happens often—what goes through your mind:

  • What appointments am I going to miss?
  • Is there a later flight?
  • Does it still make sense for me to go?
  • I need to cancel the hotel!
  • Am I going to get stranded?
  • Do I need to make a new hotel reservation?

I am sure there are many other questions but these might be the most obvious.

What doesn’t go thru my mind quickly is notifying Hertz, Avis, Budget or whatever car rental company I have my reservation with. In fact, most of the time it doesn’t matter if I cancel it or not.

Why?

Because unlike the airlines and hotel industry, they don’t have any cancellation charges! In fact there is NO penalty for not showing up! NO penalty for not calling! Some of the time I will call them if I’m at the airport and a little bored and it seems that when I call and notify them they are a little surprised and might want to say “why are you calling”.

Why is that their policy?

Because it is always done that way? That doesn’t make sense. What makes more sense as the reason is none of the big car rental agencies have stepped forward and made the plunge and enforced a new policy! If they did I believe everyone would follow.

Even though I don’t understand why car rental companies haven’t changed, I am happy that it is one less thing to think about when travel plans change.

Are you surprised this is just the way it is?

What are you thoughts?

I Left My Heart in San Francisco and I Left My Pants????

Friday, January 26th, 2007

At this point in my career I am not sure how many business trips I have taken, but I can assure you it is hundreds! During that time I have had everything happen to me that I thought was possible – what I am here to tell you is that is untrue. Earlier this week I flew on a two day business trip that started Sunday night flying to Greensboro, NC. I would be spending about half the day on Monday there before I flew to Pittsburgh with a colleague to meet one of our strategic clients.

Tuesday morning I woke up and the start of the day wasn’t unusual at all. Yes it was snowing out, but being on the East Coast in January, you come to expect that. As I was getting ready to get dressed I went into the closet to pull out my suit and much to my surprise I found only the jacket—no pants! Yes that is right: no pants to a new charcoal gray suit that I only wore once. A few thoughts went through my mind:

  • What am I going to do?
  • The stores aren’t open this early!
  • Is someone playing a joke on me?

And of course…

WHERE ARE MY PANTS!

I quickly thought that perhaps they either fell off the hanger at my house or in the hotel the previous night. I called the Greensboro Airport Marriott hotel and spoke to Denise in housekeeping, who was VERY, VERY sweet and never laughed as I told my story. My request was simple: could you please go up to room 657 and look in the closet and see if my charcoal gray pants are there? Ten minutes later I got a voicemail message that my pants were found and on their way back to Dallas!

Business travel can be lots of fun – thankfully this one had a happy ending.

Time for you to share your funny stories! I look forward to hearing from you.

P.S. – I want to send a personal thank you to Denise and John Rothkopf who is the hotel manager who also was kind enough to call me back. Once again the Marriott hotel exceeded my expectations and had terrific customer service.

P.P.S. – If you were wondering if I wore pants that day, the answer is yes, the same suit I wore on Monday.

Your Opinion Does Count

Wednesday, January 24th, 2007

I must admit I was a little surprised that we got 100 people to comment and join in on the $250.00 stock challenge. Last week we sent an online survey to those of you who picked a stock and are part of the challenge. I would like to thank the 70 plus people who completed the survey. Not a bad response rate at all.

You may have been asking yourself why did we ask you to do that? What does he have to gain?

Well here is the real reason – we have another surprise!

Apple Computer (AAPL), Google (Goog), and China Mobile Limited (CHL) were voted by you to have the best chance of having the highest percentage increase in 2007.

Today I will be purchasing $500 of those three stocks with my own money. If at the end of the year one or more of these stocks is up, I will split the profits less commission with those who picked the profitable stocks. If any of the stocks go down, I will assume all losses. Not a bad deal at all.

Congratulations to Stephenie Gordon, Elyse Gammer and RAMA. You will be contacted at the end of the year with an update of your stocks and hopefully a check with your winnings.

Everyone can continue to monitor the leaderboard. All you need to do is go to the home page of the blog and click on the link in the top right corner.

Let us know what you think about how your stock is doing and the added new surprise!

Are You Living in the Right Place?

Monday, January 22nd, 2007

Did you ever ask yourself these questions:

  • Am I living in the right place?
  • Is there a better place to live than here?
  • Could I be happier somewhere else?
  • I wonder what it would be like to live in ___________?

If you had given me a map of the United States in August of 2004 and asked me to pick 15 places that I would like to live…I can assure you Dallas, Texas wouldn’t have made the list. In fact maybe nowhere in Texas would have made my top 25.

Recently I went to a cool site and took a quiz called “Find Your Spot”. The 5 minute quiz asks you questions about your like/dislikes. A sample of these topics are:

  • Weather
  • Cultivating Culture
  • Activities
  • Religion
  • Housing costs

After you take the quiz, the end result is a report that lists your top spots to live. Included in the report are population statistics, average price of a home, job listings and other helpful information.

The thing that I found interesting is that Texas came up 5 times in my top spots including Dallas – even though it didn’t make our own top 25 list, the quiz and the computer were right – we absolutely love it here!

Take the quiz just for fun and see where you match up.

We look forward to reading your comments.

What Three Associations Do You Want To Belong To?

Friday, January 19th, 2007

Over the past few months we have hired a number of staff who come to M/A/R/C with certain Research Association affiliations they would like to continue . It got me to think about what organizations are the best. I would imagine it depends on a few things:

  • How long you have been in the industry
  • What your job responsibilities are
  • Whether you work for a client, supplier or a data collection company

These are just a few of the questions that need to be answered.

Below is a list of 47 associations. If your boss said you could join any three, which ones would they be and why?

We are very curious to know what associations we may have left out.

I look forward to your choices and reasons why.

I Am Surprised, Excited, Disappointed. What about You?

Wednesday, January 17th, 2007

Yes I still get excited going home and reading the Boston Globe – what a great newspaper!

I was surprised to read that the Norwegian Pearl has the first bowling alley on a cruise ship!

I am so disappointed that the market research industry can’t work together to figure out the respondent cooperation issue.

Yes I am surprised at how funny my kids can be without even trying!

I am so excited about the Boston Red Sox this year I have already blocked out the dates for the World Series on my calendar!

I am disappointed to read that we have just lost our 3,000th person in IRAQ and very surprised this has been going on for 46 months

I am not surprised Terrell Owens (T.O.) has been a pain in Dallas but I am disappointed it is in the media 24/7 and excited he won’t be here next year!

I haven’t heard anything but I will be very disappointed when the video that contains Steve Irwin’s death ends up on YouTUBE.

Yes I am still surprised at how nice the people are in Texas and how beautiful it is in Dallas!

I am very excited the Dow Jones went up over 15% in 2006 and hope for an even better return in 2007!

I am disappointed in what is going on in the Middle East and don’t see a solution anytime soon.

Although I am excited about global warming, I am very disappointed to read that it potentially means listing polar Bears as a “threatened” species.

I was surprised to read as of December 27, 2006 four of the top eight movies based on revenues were Cars, Ice Age: The Meltdown, Happy Feet and Over the Hedge–all animated movies geared for kids.

Yes I am excited about 2007 for M/A/R/C Research (sorry if this is too self-serving). I truly believe we have the right strategy, staff and clients to make this year very special!

I am surprised, excited, and disappointed. What about you?

Interview with Regina Lewis

Monday, January 15th, 2007

Over the past 23 years I have met many talented people. Our industry is filled with people who are bright, creative and solid researchers. I had the privilege of meeting Regina Lewis seven years ago.

Regina is such a special person. I am sure everyone has been associated with people who every time you speak with them or see them you gain a little more respect for them. They seem to get smarter or funnier or on the mark with an industry trend that you didn’t think about or frankly didn’t see. Regina is that person to me. She is clearly a leader at Dunkin Brands and in the research industry. In fact, she is one of the best presenters in the research industry.

Regina’s background includes being a teacher as well as working on both the client and vendor side.

I hope you enjoy getting to know Regina Lewis a little bit.

MD How did you start your research career?
RL While I flirted with research during various marketing internships while in school, I truly began my marketing research career upon entering the Communications program at UNC-Chapel Hill with the goal of earning my PhD.

I was drawn to that program for many reasons … but primarily because I realized early into my Marketing career that what I really cared about were the reasons *why* people make certain choices. Immediately upon beginning this second level of my graduate work, I knew I had found my niche.

Regina Lewis, PhD VP, Consumer & Brand
Insights Group Dunkin’
Brands, Inc.

MD What advice would you give entry level staff looking to get into the marketing research industry?
RL I would advise them not to be picky, but rather to dive in and get their hands dirty doing *something* that could advance them in the insights field. Whether through working at a field data house or by managing the day-to-day duties at a facility, the most critical thing is that entry-level people become exposed to others in the field. As is true of all things in life, the creation of an insights career is all about networking.
MD What do you think is the number one issue that the market research industry is facing today?
RL From the client perspective, the number one issue facing the industry today is a decline in research precision. While my team manages a significant budget, we increasingly work with only a handful of boutique suppliers whom we know we can trust. I worry a great deal about issues revolving around sample quality, data quality, analytics quality, and much more.
MD What are your key factors in selecting a research partner?
RL My team seeks out scenarios in which we work hand-in-hand — directly — with research specialists whom we consider to be smarter than ourselves. We are not interested in companies who are generalists; rather, we seek out companies who are the *best* — and truly ground-breaking! — in segmentation work, pricing work, re-concepting work, what have you. While we are not seeking “thought leadership” (the buzzwords of the day!), we are seeking to learn and strengthen our methodological core.
MD What is your funniest marketing research story or memory?
RL Hmmm. Perhaps when I designed what I considered to be the most clever diary study ever … only to see it fall apart because members of my 16- to 18-year old respondent pool could not figure out how to Fed Ex their recorded musings back to me. I had provided the envelopes and everything … but how were they to know how to use a Fed Ex drop off?!
MD How important is research with the c-level at Dunkin Donuts?
RL Our Dunkin’ executives know that our business over the next 10 years is going to live or die by our willingness to let our consumers guide us. I’m in a very, very fortunate place.
MD What is the biggest challenge that Dunkin’ Donuts currently is facing?
RL How to take a Regional powerhouse not only National, but International! Whether around menu, concept, packaging or brand, challenges abound. It is my team’s job to steer the ship.
MD What are the three most important skills you try to teach everyone on your research team?
RL
  1. Collaboration. By this I refer not only to the ABCs of client management, but also that magic that makes managers across functions want to be seated at our table.
  2. Optimism. Unless we believe that we can make the business stronger — every day — why should our internal clients believe we can do this?
  3. Organizational Savvy. We can’t change the game without understanding the internal, as well as the external, playing field.
MD In some ways you are a client and some ways your division is a vendor supporting your internal brands and clients. How does your team handle the different situations?
RL We are never a “vendor.” We are experts and a partner to every single department of our organization who shares passion for our brands and our customers. It is true that there are situations in which internal clients haven’t learned to think of us this way, but those situations are now few and far between. How do we handle tough times? By building important, strong coalitions of supporters throughout the organization, through confidence that our moral compass is pointed true north, and by leading by example.

Regina thank you so much for your insight. Clearly you have given everyone who reads this a different perspective and a number of things to think about.

Feel free to post your comments and questions for Regina.

We look forward to hearing from you.

What Does that Mean?

Friday, January 12th, 2007

Sometimes words and phrases mean different things to different people. I would like to share with you a story. The catch phrase is “Please get undressed…”

Often when I go to my doctor for a physical this is the chain of events:

  • I sign in at the reception desk
  • I sit in the waiting room flipping through magazines that are 4 months old for a short time before my name is called
  • I walk to the back office where the nurse checks my weight – yes I want to take off all my clothes and certainly my shoes but since I am in the hallway I refrain from doing that
  • Still on time and on a great schedule…
  • The nurse takes me into a cold room asks me a few questions and takes my blood pressure
  • THEN…she says “Please get undressed. The doctor will be right with you.”

WHAT DOES THAT MEAN?

  • TO ME — the doctor will be with me in 90 seconds.
  • TO THE NURSE — I have no idea since she is probably laughing as she leaves the room.
  • TO THE DOCTOR — I will come in when I am done seeing my other patients.

So why does it take so LONG?

  • Do they really think it takes patients 30 minutes to get undressed?
  • Is his/her time more important than mine?
  • Are they scheduling too many appointments and always running late?
  • Are they too disorganized and this is always the way it is?
  • Do they care about customer service?

Since I don’t understand it, this is what I do. I give the Doctor a 10 minute grace period, and then I start making phone calls. It doesn’t matter who it is or what I am discussing with them.

Oh by the way if there is a phone in the room I am waiting in somewhat patiently and very cold, I use their phone. Yes, I actually pick up their phone and use it, and more than likely I try and make it a long distance call. Regardless if it is their phone or my cell phone I will make sure that I am on the phone when they arrive in the room and actually ask them to come in and wait a minute until I am done with the call.

Yes they are flabbergasted, but I think they get the point. Or do they?

  • How do you feel when it happens to you?
  • What do you do?

I look forward to your comments.

Is Love In the Air?

Wednesday, January 10th, 2007

Yes I have gone to a lot of conferences. No they aren’t all in the marketing research industry. For me, when I go to a research conference they appear to be different—not just in the content of the presentations or the city where the conference is being held, but in the affection that people have towards each other. Recently I have noticed:

Lot’s and lot’s of people (including myself) giving hugs when you see a person you know at a conference.

And I…

  • Hear questions like “How are you?” And statements like “I miss you”
  • “How is your ailing mother?”
  • “How was your recent vacation to London?”

Why is that?

It appears that people in marketing research really like each other, enjoy seeing each other at conferences or speaking to them on the phone and truly show a sign of enjoyment when they are with each other.

Laughing, giggling is common practice. Am I missing something, or is our industry different?

  • Do you feel that way as well?
  • Did we all grow up in the industry and feel a special connection to each other?

If so, is that the reason people who tend to get into this industry by accident never leave?

I look forward to your thoughts.