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Unlocking the Power of Research Panels: A Gateway to Financial Success

In the ever-evolving landscape of the financial sector, research panels have emerged as crucial assets for financial institutions. These private panels play a pivotal role in facilitating better-informed decision-making, increasing efficiency, reducing risks, and ultimately enhancing the overall customer experience. Moreover, research panels assist institutions in complying with the regulatory requirement known as the Consumer Duty. Understanding the FCA's Consumer Duty The Financial Conduct Authority's (FCA's) Consumer Duty places significant importance on achieving "good outcomes" for consumers within the financial sector. It necessitates that financial institutions prioritize their customers' interests, act in their best interests, and proactively identify and address potential harm. The good outcomes encompass various aspects, including providing suitable products and services, delivering fair and transparent pricing, and offering effective customer support. Financial institutions can comply with the Consumer Duty by conducting comprehensive market research and gaining customer insight, implementing appropriate processes and system, maintaining transparent communication, and monitoring customer satisfaction. The use of research panels and technologies such as automated analytics can aid in understanding consumer behavior and enhancing service delivery. Compliance with the Consumer Duty is not only crucial for meeting regulatory requirements but also for building trust and fostering long-term customer relationships. Empowering Financial Decision-Making through Research Panels A continuous Research Panel (or sometimes referred to as Insight Community) is an environment where engaged customers actively contribute and provide feedback on various topics. Community members may share their opinions on a new commercial one week and evaluate the new design of a product page the next week. Additionally, they might participate in testing communication materials like letters and emails. The community covers a wide range of research areas and encourages diverse perspectives. Research Panels offer an invaluable resource for financial institutions by providing comprehensive insights into consumer preferences, behaviors, and needs. By actively engaging with a diverse range of panel members, financial institutions can tap into a wealth of information that aids in making better-informed decisions. These dedicated panels provide a platform to understand market trends, identify potential risks, and effectively tailor financial products and services to meet customer demands. By incorporating insights from research panels into their decision-making processes, financial institutions can strengthen their competitive edge and deliver superior customer experience. There are many more benefits of empowering financial decision-making through research panels, such as: • Comprehensive insights: Research panels provide valuable information on consumer preferences, behaviors, and needs. Both quantitative and qualitative insights. • Informed decisions: Engaging with panel members helps financial institutions make better-informed choices.• Market trend analysis: Panels enable tracking of market trends and anticipating consumer behavior shifts.• Tailored products/services: Insights from panels help customize offerings to meet customer demands. Leveraging Technology and Research Panels for Good Outcomes Technology plays a pivotal role in helping financial institutions meet the FCA's Consumer Duty and achieve the desired good outcomes. Research panels, when coupled with advanced analytics and automation, enable institutions to gain a deep understanding of customer needs and preferences. Machine learning algorithms can identify patterns and insights from large datasets, aiding in the identification of customer preferences and behaviors. By harnessing technology-driven solutions, financial institutions can enhance customer support, streamline processes, and deliver tailored experiences. Integrating research panels into their operations allows these institutions to gather real-time feedback, monitor customer satisfaction, and identify areas for improvement. This data-driven approach not only aids in compliance with the Consumer Duty but also provides tangible evidence of the steps taken to achieve good outcomes. Research panels have become indispensable tools for financial institutions, empowering them to make better-informed decisions, improve efficiency, mitigate risks, and enhance the overall customer experience. In light of the FCA's Consumer Duty, research panels play a vital role in helping institutions achieve good outcomes for their customers. The collaboration between research panels, technology, and financial institutions paves the way for a more customer-centric and accountable financial landscape.

Why customer panels are better than access panels

I am writing this article because I believe it is very important that you know who you are listening to so you know for sure you can trust them and they are who they say they are. With respondents from an access panel it is difficult to find out who they really are, which is why I attached such weight to customer panels. WHAT IS A CUSTOMER PANEL? Before going into the benefits of a customer panel let's first define what a customer panel is. A customer panel is often also described as a dedicated panel or private panel. However, these are access panels disguised as customer panels, they come in different shapes and forms: The most basic form of an Access PanelIn their most basic form, Access Panels come with a background variable showing that a specific person could be a customer of your company. This person is not recruited through your company and you will never be certain if that person is actually your customer. An Access Panel is accessed by many different research companies, brands and organisations, so any relationship developed is solely between the access panel company and the respondents, not between a brand and its customers. When your Access Panel provider recruits for youAn access panel provider can recruit specifically for you and provides other background variables that are important to you. So far so good, just make sure their recruitment is solid and they are not asking blunt questions like "Are you customer of brand X?". The only issue with this kind of panel is that most of the time it is not very customisable and these respondents will also be utilised in studies for other companies. The real deal: A Customer panelA genuine customer panel is built only for your company: with your look & feel, with your tone of voice, a recruitment process that aligns with your other communication and panellists recruited from your own customers. You and your colleagues are the only ones talking to your panellists and all the data that is collected is yours. The panellists know what they signed up for and will be happy to co-operate because they have previously engaged with your organisation and brand. THE DIFFERENCES BETWEEN A CUSTOMER PANEL AND AN ACCESS PANEL In this article I will compare the most recent type of customer panel (the real deal) with access panels. By showing you the pros and cons I think I will show you why your company should really be implementing a customer panel. How motivated are your members? If a person joins your customer panel they do this because they want to help your company and they want to be involved with your company. People who are in an access panel did not join to help your company. They probably want to earn some money in their spare time and at best like to fill in questionnaires. This raises a few questions: Are they really prepared to help or will they do whatever it takes to earn some money? If they join the questionnaire to earn money, how can you make sure their answers are true and that they are who they say they are? If they are motivated by money, why would they spend more time than absolutely necessary on completing the survey? Our experience with customer panels is that you do not need to pay a panellist anything. They like to help your company and like to be involved. This can be seen in the length of open answers, these are 85% longer than those from access panellists. High quality engagement from your members People who are in a customer panel take time to participate and are prepared to answer your questions. You can see this in the average time it takes them to complete a survey compared to access panellist. You do not see any straight liners (every question in a matrix gets the same answer) from your own customers and open answers are more elaborate. What are the differences in costs? If you regularly want to talk to your customers a customer panel is always the better option. It takes some time and effort to setup and you pay an annual fee for using panel management software, but the variable cost (cost per complete) is close to zero, since incentivizing customer panels is generally not necessary. With access panels you pay per complete, so one advantage is that you have no fixed costs. So if you are only looking at the cost of your surveys, then you have to conduct surveys regularly to get a cost advantage from customer panels. Which research panel has more flexibility? Once the panellist has joined your panel you can ask your panellist what you want, when you want. However, what happens when you need speed for agile working? Ask your panellist if they are prepared to react within 4 hours and within your customer panel I am sure you will find a group of panellists who are willing. You need mystery shoppers or community members for a pop up community? It is easy to recruit them from you panel. You have highly motivated panellists so there are always people who want to help. A research panel that allows you to engage By having a private panel your company shows that you are interested in the opinions and ideas of your consumers. People like to be engaged, so this is not only a way of getting insights but also a marketing tool. Never forget that a customer panel is not a national representative sample. People who joined your panel like your brand or want to contribute to your company. They are not representative of the whole population. So if you want to know what the whole population thinks then a customer panel is not suitable for that study. GETTING STARTED WITH A CUSTOMER PANEL To be a successful company you have to listen to your customers and know what is important to them. One of the best ways to do this is by starting a customer panel. At Crowdtech we have spent the last decade helping organisations improve customer satisfaction through customer panels. I have seen a lot of success stories in every industry sector and am happy to share them with you.

Smart ways to recruit for customer panels & communities

While many factors influence how active and involved a Customer panel is, so often it starts with recruitment. Whilst "Brand fans" are great to hear from and easier to recruit, you also want to onboard customers who are a little more critical. Successful recruitment consists of two elements.: firstly, you need to know where to find your target group, both physically and digitally. Secondly, you have to convince them to become a panel member, so it is important to reach them with the right message. The main reason for becoming a member of a customer panel revolves around "wanting to contribute and to help your organization". Include what you will use the panel for and make the "what’s in it for them" concrete. For example, for customers of a housing association it was key for members to know they could join in the discussion on topics that are personally relevant to them, such as making the home more sustainable or burglary protection. We also find that people are motivated by the exclusivity ("not just accessible to everyone") and this emphasis yields great benefits. Be mindful though that the right message is dependent on the target group that you want to address. After formulating the right message then naturally customers need to see it. By communicating the message through multiple channels you reach a larger, more diverse group of customers (if you only recruit through a newsletter, you only reach customers who read the newsletter). Map the touch points (contact moments) with your customers and see which ones can be used for recruitment. An example is a supermarket that uses these various options to recruit members for its customer panel: - In-store advertising pillars were used displaying an invitation to become a member of the customer panel. To make it accessible, a QR code was scanned for immediate registration. - For customers using the supermarket's wifi, an invitation appeared on their phone to register. - At the cash register, flyers were added to shopping bags including an invitation for the customer panel. - An invitation was also placed on the back of the receipt. - Finally, invitations were displayed in the supermarket magazines.  It is important to realize that recruiting panel members is not a one-off promotion, but something that must be continuous. Every customer panel has a natural drop out rate. By continuously recruiting you can largely absorb this, and the size will remain in order. Keeping an eye on the composition of your panel is also important. There is a good chance you will find that younger target groups are more difficult to recruit and to keep involved. To compensate for this, you need to recruit more specifically, for example with the help of social media campaigns. Below we have detailed the typical recruitment methods and our thoughts on the strengths and weaknesses of each one: Direct e-mailThe most used form of recruitment. Reliable and effective which generally yields a conversion of 5 to 10%. Corporate websiteA call-to-action on your own website has the benefit of boosting your image (it shows that you are open to the opinion of customers). What it yields is totally dependent on where the invitation is on the website, how prominent it is, number of visitors, etc. Corporate social media channelsA call to action on one's own social media channels can be effective, depending on the number of fans of these platforms but the latter says it all: they are mainly fans. Therefore, it is advisable to use this channel sparingly. NewsletterA communication channel with many pitfalls. Easy to do wrong, difficult to do right. However, if this succeeds, it can be effective. For example, did you know that the conversion will increase by 42% if you place only one call-to-action in your newsletter instead of four? Customer serviceA customer service representative asks a calling customer to become a member of the panel. Can be effective, but of course not if a customer is completely "out of your mind". Provides a different type of customer than the online channels. There is no single answer to recruitment, but the simple answer is to work with a partner agency who can work with you to define your recruitment strategy.

Research 525,390 minutes available per year

Over the past 365 days, our clients' surveys have been available 99.96% of the time. This means that surveys taken over a whole year and carried out via Crowdtech were only unavailable for three and a half hours! However, the 210 minutes of 'downtime', as we call it in our professional jargon, always took place during the night, when virtually everyone was asleep. Future reliability guaranteed In order to guarantee that our clients’ research will always be available in the future, we recently migrated our research platform to new servers. These new servers have a much larger capacity and an even better performance. In addition, these new servers are easier to manage and the data on our platform is even more secure. Incidentally, Crowdtech users and respondents were not aware of this migration as this too took place during the night.

You're Not Alone

The pros and cons of SaaS The advent and rise in popularity of SaaS platforms has revolutionised ways of working across industries, including the field of research software. On-demand software places the locus of control in the hands of the client, in an accessible and user-friendly manner. However, one of the greatest frustrations with the SaaS model to date has been the lack of human support for technical platforms, with users feeling that they have no-one to ask for a helping hand. Crowdtech’s offering includes support At Crowdtech we see things differently: While our research software model is certainly based on technology, we don’t believe that the provision of our platform is the end of our client relationship. Far from it. Instead, we place a great deal of importance on offering support to users at every step of their research journey. Assistance throughout the research cycle We have coined this offering a Hybrid SaaS model: ‘SaaS’ because it is a technology-based platform that enables users to manage the full research cycle on their own. ‘Hybrid’ because, unlike most SaaS models, it entails ongoing and accessible user-support, including: Operational support Panel support Wider research support   Operational support: This covers the full spectrum of operational functions, from helping our clients to understand and leverage the technology behind our platforms, to preparing the survey operations, and managing the data output. Crowdtech’s team of IT support managers is ready to help at any step of the way. Panel support: One of Crowdtech’s strengths is the fact that we offer panel management, which underlies our quantitative surveys and qualitative platforms. On an ongoing basis we help clients to maintain their customer panels or communities, making sure the sample balance is right and that the platform is constantly achieving optimal engagement with respondents. Full-service support: At Crowdtech our strength lies in technical operational and panel expertise. However, we can also offer full-service research support via our sister company, MWM2, who have a full suite of researchers to help clients right through from design to analysis phase. Melvin Bechan explains, “If it’s operational or panel support, Crowdtech can help you in-house, as our wide range of technology and support managers are geared towards exactly that. If it’s the full-service research support that you’re after, we can do that too, via our sister company MWM2.” Help is accessible and fast At Crowdtech we focus on delivering software that is developed by researchers for researchers. Our platform is not simply about standalone technology. We encompass a full-service team of researchers, project managers and support managers who are available to guide our customers through the DIY research cycle. As the world embraces omni-channel digital engagement, we believe that support is most helpful when it is accessible via a number of different sources. To this end we offer fast-response assistance via email, phone, chat - or even in-person, when lockdown rules allow. Bechan sums up the importance of a supportive culture, “We like to help clients out where we can… We don’t just say ‘You paid for 10 minutes of our time and now you’re done’. Instead, we go the extra mile and that’s one of the things that people like about us; one of the things that sets us apart.”

Effective Panel Management

Panel management has become a commonly accepted term in the research industry. But what does it actually mean, and is it important? In a word – yes, panel management is critically important, as it improves both the experience of the respondent as well as the output of the research. Understanding panels and communities Before we go any further, it is important to note that the term ‘panel management’ refers to the management of both customer panels and communities.   At Crowdtech, we utilise technology to convert our clients’ customer databases into consensual customer panels: Bespoke, long-term panels comprising of a group of customers who, by definition, have a vested and ongoing interest in a particular brand. Our technology allows us to engage regularly with this group of people via digital surveys. We also run communities, which are like panels, but take the relationship with customers a step further. Using more complex technology, communities are facilitated via a portal which enables in-depth discussions and forums. These platforms allow engagement between members and enable clients to probe questions at a more comprehensive - and often qualitative - level. So what exactly is panel management? Panel management, simply put, is the process of recruiting, retaining, incentivizing, and liaising with the members of research panels and communities. Firstly, it requires a soft, humane touch to keep respondents feeling valued and engaged. Next, it involves detailed analysis to monitor the activity and participation of each respondent in the panel. Last, it entails stringent adherence to keeping respondents’ personal data secure, and using it responsibility. At Crowdtech, we leverage our advanced technology to ensure that all of these processes happen efficiently. By having the panel management capabilities built into our technology, we are able to ensure a smooth flow from recruitment, though to sampling and retainment of respondents. How does it impact on respondents? The practice of panel management may appear to be somewhat extraneous to the collection of data itself. However, without effective panel management, research surveys and communities have a dramatically lower success rate. As is true when dealing with any group of people in the world, active management increases participation levels. Consider a hypothetical work environment where employees were left alone with no guidance or acknowledgement... Levels of frustration and confusion would abound, resulting in disengagement and lack of co-operation. Research panels and communities operate in the same way. Respondents are typically recruited due to their interest in a common topic: They are naturally more likely to engage deeply if they feel that their participation is valued, their preferences acknowledged and their responses recognized. How does this affect the research outcome? Happier respondents mean better research. Well-managed panels and communities naturally result in deeper, richer and more frequent insights from participants. As noted, there is also an analytical side to panel management. (After all, this wouldn’t be the research game without some analytics!) Monitoring a panel enables a real-time gauge of which respondents are actively participating - and which are not. This massively reduces inefficiencies and redundancy, by eliminating respondents who are not adding value to the research. Active sample selection is also an integral part of panel management, enabling the optimal respondents to be targeted for the questions that apply to them. This directly reduces wastage of time and cost. Lastly, effective panel management enables a long-term and robust panel to be developed: One that allows for ongoing trackability, based on feedback from a consistent group of respondents over time. Again, technology is the key to efficiency across all of these practices: Both in terms of time and output, Crowdtech’s panel management technology is what sets us apart. Technology is what enables us to conduct each of these processes with optimal efficiency, to ensure that both respondents and clients have a satisfactory experience. Where does it fit into the overall research picture? Panel management is a fundamental part of any research technology solution. Ideally a research solution should include three equally important and symbiotic elements, these being: Quantitative surveys Qualitative platforms Panel management   Although some agencies offer these independently of each other, at Crowdtech we believe that panel management is the indisputable backbone of the other two arms of research – supporting them through integrated technology, and enabling them to achieve maximum efficiency. We are therefore proud to offer our clients an all-in-one solution which integrates these three elements seamlessly: Quantitative surveys as well as qualitative platforms, both maintained and powered by effective panel management.