The research skills on both sides of the table

The debate on research agencies providing more than research results (MW last week) has been going on for some time. As far as quantitative agencies go, there is a major lack of the expertise required and in most cases, those with the expertise are not actively involved with the project.

Herein lies the first problem in that the client does not have proof that the agency can deliver at a higher level. It is not unusual at a debrief for the audience to be aware that even though the senior director is presenting the brief, he has only really looked at the presentation on the train here.

However, it is not just the fault of research agencies. As clients, we have procurement departments who want us to tender everything. Also, research buyers do not always have the experience to appreciate where extra “value” is being offered. My procurement department understand and I am not pressurised to buy the cheapest. However, throughout my career, I have regularly been told that I am using too few research agencies and I should spread the business wider. Meanwhile, they are singing the praises of the agencies I am using.

Davina O’Donoghue says clients should nominate someone to help analyse the data and add a client perspective to the debrief. This is my role as market research manager; if there is no one, this is a sad indication of the way some companies buy and use market research. However, it is hard getting the data to be able to analyse and add a client perspective as regardless of how long they have [worked on it] they always leave their reports and presentations to the last minute.

Research agencies must have the resources to move into the client boardroom, and build up the knowledge of the client’s business. But, as clients, we must consider how we buy research and develop a relationship with an agency.

I am happy to pay for the extra when I invite a research agency to take their research further. However, recently, the research agency refused payment for a day’s workshop saying not only that it was something they would enjoy doing but that it would benefit them in furthering their knowledge of the university.

Alistair Nicoll

Market research manager

Student Recruitment, Admissions and Marketing

Sheffield S10

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