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J.D. Power Research Goes Beyond Surveys

J.D. Power Research Goes Beyond Surveys

By Jeff Youngs, March 05, 2012
When J.D. "Dave" Power III founded J.D. Power and Associates in 1968, preparing customer satisfaction surveys was a family affair. Power's wife and four children often helped him by typing documents, folding cover letters and surveys, and stuffing envelopes to mail to consumers. Power and his family would tape a quarter to each survey as an inducement for customers to complete and return the surveys. It worked: Power got a huge response to the surveys he conducted, and today J.D. Power research is an integral part of the strategic operations of companies around the world.

Today, of course, J.D. Power relies on computers and modern office automation systems to send the surveys out, and the incentives have increased-in most cases to $1 or $2 or more, from 25 cents. The strong spirit of independent research and intellectual integrity remain, and J.D. Power's analysis of customer opinions and expectations are even more impactful now than during the early days.

J.D. Power has found similar trends in each industry in which it conducts customer satisfaction research: over time, standards for quality and customer satisfaction have continued to increase. This benefits not only customers who purchase goods and services, but also the individual companies and their various stakeholders. In some cases, the benefit accrues to an entire industry in which J.D. Power benchmarks have become the accepted standard of measurement for customer satisfaction.

J.D. Power's research findings over time have served as a catalyst to create positive change. The company's research is not based on "expert opinion" but actual, unvarnished input regarding the opinions, perceptions, and expectations of verified owners, what J.D. Power refers to as the Voice of the Customer.

One of the keys to J.D. Power's research is that it is based solely on what customers think about the products and services they purchase, as well as the brands and companies that provide them, and is based on their own individual experiences. Survey respondents are asked to rate various aspects of their product or service experience. These aspects vary by industry, but may include product quality, customer service, billing and payment options, ease of use, or a variety of other factors that vary according to a particular study and industry. J.D. Power develops a customer satisfaction index that is used to measure satisfaction in each study. This index explains the relative importance of each aspect or factor measured and how each contributes to overall satisfaction.

To solicit feedback from product and service owners, J.D. Power surveys them by mail, telephone, and e-mail, and goes to great lengths to make sure that respondents are chosen at random and that they actually have experience with the product or company they are rating.

The self-funded nature of J.D. Power's research ensures that the integrity of the information is protected from any bias that might otherwise be present if particular companies or industries funded or helped to finance the research itself. These studies are owned by J.D. Power, and the company does not publish or incorporate the opinions of any of its employees in its study rankings or ratings. After study results have been published, manufacturers, retailers, suppliers, and other industry participants are able to subscribe to the study.

But garnering feedback from verified owners is only part of what J.D. Power does. The company also aggregates the information from the completed surveys, then processes and analyzes the data to provide insight that clients may utilize to aid them in improving product quality, customer satisfaction, or other industry-specific business metrics.

J.D. Power also publishes topline study information in a variety of ways, including in press releases to the media and for consumers to help them make more informed product and service decisions.

In addition, J.D. Power conducts customized research for many clients to help drive quality and customer satisfaction improvement for their specific organization. However, results of this type of proprietary research are owned by the clients that commission the research, and the results aren't made available to the general public.

During the past four decades, clients in a wide variety of industries have used J.D. Power study results as benchmarks to help them improve their own products and services and, in turn, improve customer retention and loyalty. This, in turn, perpetuates continuous product and service improvements for consumers.

While J.D. Power may be best known for its work in the automotive industry, the company has diversified to conduct research in a number of other industries, such as financial services, telecommunications, travel, utilities, healthcare, insurance, and home building and conducts research in more than 50 countries and in 28 languages around the world.

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