The benefits of keeping your finger on the pulse in difficult times

March 22 was the 10th anniversary of a massive hail storm that hit Perth mid-afternoon, damaging property and motor vehicles, uprooting trees and flooding roads, and leaving more than 150,000 homes and businesses without power. Many Perth people know where they were when the storm struck and have stories and photos to share. I was working from home when the heavens opened. Research Solutions had a large Community Perceptions Survey in field for a major infrastructure agency. With all that lightning around, I called the field team to suggest they stop interviewing for the night, neither they nor the people they were calling should be on the phone.

We found out the next day that shortly after my call the roof to the phone room collapsed.

And our client, the major infrastructure agency, they were busy over the days and weeks after the storm bringing their network back on line for the community, and keeping the community informed on their progress. For infrastructure that many of us use daily, we generally don’t give the agency that provides it a second thought.

There is a great parallel to conducting research during a time of community upheaval.

Market research is a great way of keeping your finger on the pulse. And whilst it is tempting to not measure during abnormal times, there is much to be learned by doing so.

Once the phone room was back up and running, the interviewers got back to work and we placed a “time stamp” on the data to measure community perceptions of the infrastructure agency before and after the storm.

What did we learn?

Despite a failure of their infrastructure, the forthright and honest communications had a positive impact. Their KPI increased 4 percentage points following the storm. And on another measure, performance jumped 8%. Communicating with the public was not really part of their DNA back then. The failure of their infrastructure had the potential to be a very negative story. It wasn’t. And by continuing the survey once the immediate storm had passed and the dust had settled, the agency obtained valuable feedback on their performance.

Whilst we don’t recommend you research during a storm, cyclone or in the immediate aftermath of a great change, once people get used to their new normal is a great time to see how your organisation is performing and what else you can do for your community and your customers. Market research can help with that.