Our Philosophy: Research-Pyramid ApproachSM

Although organizations should not utilize a single, rigid approach to all research, a consistent research philosophy should be followed: Building Knowledge From The Bottom-Up. Specifically, research efforts should be based on a "pyramid" approach to gathering knowledge. This philosophy is grounded on the belief that extensive exploratory or qualitative research must first be conducted, and foundations established, before more specific and generalizeable descriptive or quantitative research efforts may be undertaken.

This approach is a mixed methods design using qualitative and quantitative techniques. The qualitative stage is designed to: (1) obtain insight from key publics within and outside the organization (2) generate a deeper understanding of important quality issues, and (3) identify question content areas to include in the survey stage. These publics, represented by key informants, are believed to have insight critical to furthering the data-collection process and are queried for understanding the above goals. Moreover, the conversations are useful for providing staff the opportunity to participate in the initiative and building consensus within the organization. In this way, it becomes a social as well as a research process. Additionally, focus groups are crucial for identifying the most important quality issues to address in the subsequent quantitative research.

The preceding qualitative research stages provide the foundation for the descriptive or quantitative research efforts. Quantitative data is typically collected via telephone interviews, email, web, mail, and/or in-depth interviews. The findings provide valuable information for developing efficient and effective strategic decisions. Survey results may be used for establishing baselines that are generalizeable to the overall population. Furthermore, findings are valuable for developing effective and efficient long-term quality improvement plans that have initial buy-in from stakeholders.

Clearly, the success of the quantitative stage of the research process is contingent on how well the qualitative stages were conducted. Most importantly, the questionnaires must contain information that is useful for "defining the relationship customers want with the client organization."

The Value of the Research-Pyramid ApproachSM to Research

Though not meant to be an exhaustive list, the Research-Pyramid ApproachSM provides critical input into a variety of strategic and tactical decisions, including:

  • Uncovering problem areas and providing solutions to these problems,
  • Identifying relevant target markets (both social and consumer) and understanding their needs,
  • How the organization should be positioned in the "social" market place,
  • Resources necessary for specific actions and how these resources should be allocated across the marketing mix,
  • Understanding "external" forces,
  • Measuring customer satisfaction and determining ways to improve satisfaction,
  • Assessing the quality, importance, and configuration of various current service offerings,
  • Assessing opportunities for new services and determining when current services should be modified and/or eliminated,
  • Identifying effective price points for specific products/services and for product/service lines,
  • Providing critical input into the development of promotional strategies, including advertising, public relations, direct mail, point of location communications, etc.; with specific emphasis on the messages that target markets would find most appealing,
  • Obtaining a better understanding of the service distribution system that would effectively reach potential customers and that would best meet their needs, and
  • Providing a control mechanism for evaluating the success of the organization's strategic and technical decisions.