Page 3: Market research
Portakabin uses both primary and secondary market research to find out what its customers need:
- Primary research is first-hand research, such as interviews and focus groups. Such research often gives better qualitative data in the form of opinions, views and comments. Portakabin held focus groups with customers and found that they wanted more light in office buildings as this increased productivity. Portakabin was able to respond with the Ultima Vision range, which lets in more light through its increased window space.
- Secondary research uses data and information that has already been published. It may provide market and industry quantitative data, often in the form of statistics. Brand Vision quantitative research showed the importance of 'on time and on budget' delivery. In 2009, Portakabin delivered 99.6% on time and on budget. This compares very well against a construction-industry average of 59% on time and 46% on budget.*
Researching a new product
Portakabin also uses market research to find out what new products or services customers may want. Sometimes it carries out one-off research projects. This is called 'ad hoc research'. These may focus on developing a specific new product or finding out how to develop an existing one. For instance, Portakabin developed the new Ultima Vision range in response to the need to provide existing buildings with more light. Portakabin Datakom has met the need to deliver data cabling to office buildings by providing telecoms systems, computer access points and air conditioning already installed. This allowed customers to move in and begin work straightaway.
Measuring customer satisfaction
Portakabin market research focuses on two key performance indicators (KPIs) - customer satisfaction and Net Promoter Score (NPS). Using over 2,000 customer surveys a year, Portakabin finds out if clients are happy and what issues affect them. It asks customers to rate Portakabin on a scale of 1 to 10 on aspects such as administration, delivery and installation, the quality of the building and their overall experience. The results are used to target and improve customer satisfaction. The average score has risen from 8.2 per customer in 2003 to 9.1 in 2009.
Portakabin also uses mystery shopping, where researchers pose as normal customers. The results of mystery shopping show that clients are impressed with the 'human' skills of Portakabin staff. These include courtesy, being helpful, building rapport and professionalism. Such skills are a key factor in building customer satisfaction, creating loyal customers and generating repeat business.
Business writer Frederick Reichheld, who devised the Net Promoter Score tool, claims that the only real question a business needs to ask its customers is: 'How likely are you to recommend us to a friend or colleague?' The NPS score shows how popular Portakabin is with existing customers. This is important as procuring a building is a large and often long-term commitment. A high score shows that customers are happy with Portakabin and ready to recommend them. NPS also predicts sales growth the higher the score, the faster the business grows.
Portakabin uses NPS to measure the strength of this customer loyalty. The results are extremely positive. On average, across the UK hire and sales businesses, Portakabin achieves an NPS score of 89. That compares very well with the scores of other industry leaders, such as Google (78), Waitrose (73), Nokia (60), and Starbucks (56). Customers are clearly happy with the quality of Portakabin products and the service they receive. This is vital in the competitive industry Portakabin operates in as repeat business is an important and cost-effective way of generating sales.
*Construction Statistics Annual 2009, Office for National Statistics