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Dear Dr. Jay: Can One Metric Rule Them All?

Posted by Dr. Jay Weiner

Wed, Dec 16, 2015

Hi Dr. Jay –

The city of Boston is trying develop one key measure to help officials track and report how well the city is doing. We’d like to do that in house. How would we go about it?

-Olivia


DrJay_desk-withGoatee.pngHi Olivia,

This is the perfect tie in for big data and the key performance index (KPI). Senior management doesn’t really have time to pour through tables of numbers to see how things are going. What they want is a nice barometer that can be used to summarize overall performance. So, how might one take data from each business unit and aggregate them into a composite score?

We begin the process by understanding all the measures we have. Once we have assembled all of the potential inputs to our key measure, we need to develop a weighting system to aggregate them into one measure. This is often the challenge when working with internal data. We need some key business metric to use as the dependent variable, and these data are often missing in the database.

For example, I might have sales by product by customer and maybe even total revenue. Companies often assume that the top revenue clients are the bread and butter for the company. But what if your number one account uses way more corporate resources than any other account? If you’re one of the lucky service companies, you probably charge hours to specific accounts and can easily determine the total cost of servicing each client. If you sell a tangible product, that may be more challenging. Instead of sales by product or total revenue, your business decision metric should be the total cost of doing business with the client or the net profit for each client. It’s unlikely that you capture this data, so let’s figure out how to compute it. Gross profit is easy (net sales – cost of goods sold), but what about other costs like sales calls, customer service calls, and product returns? Look at other internal databases and pull information on how many times your sales reps visited in person or called over the phone, and get an average cost for each of these activities. Then, you can subtract those costs from the gross profit number. Okay, that was an easy one.

Let’s look at the city of Boston case for a little more challenging exercise. What types of information is the city using? According to the article you referenced, the city hopes to “corral their data on issues like crime, housing for veterans and Wi-Fi availability and turn them into a single numerical score intended to reflect the city’s overall performance.” So, how do you do that? Let’s consider that some of these things have both income and expense implications. For example, as crime rates go up, the attractiveness of the city drops and it loses residents (income and property tax revenues drop). Adding to the lost revenue, the city has the added cost of providing public safety services. If you add up the net gains/losses from each measure, you would have a possible weighting matrix to aggregate all of the measures into a single score. This allows the mayor to quickly assess changes in how well the city is doing on an ongoing basis. The weights can be used by the resource planners to assess where future investments will offer the greatest pay back.

 Dr. Jay is fascinated by all things data. Your data, our data, he doesn’t care what the source. The more data, the happier he is.

Topics: advanced analytics, Boston, big data, Dear Dr. Jay

CMB Lights the Night for Cancer Research

Posted by Catherine Shannon

Tue, Oct 06, 2015

CMB, Chadwick Martin Bailey, Light the NightThis Thursday, CMBers will participate in the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society’s (LLS) annual Light the Night Walk. My colleagues first joined the walk when I was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s Lymphoma in 2008 as a way to support me in my fight against cancer. The family friendly event starts at dusk on the Boston Common, and the walk is only 2 short loops around the perimeter. During the walk, everyone carries one of three kinds of lanterns: a red lantern shows support, a white lantern represents a survivor, and a gold lantern represents the memory of a lost loved one. It is a truly special event and an inspiring sight.

We at CMB, like most others, have colleagues and loved ones who have been touched by cancer. Every year, we walk to raise money and awareness so that research can advance. Including this year’s walk, we will have raised $80,000 over the past 8 years.  As a cancer survivor, it means so much to me that something as negative as a cancer diagnosis could result in such a positive movement by my colleagues.

LLS funds research with the goal of curing blood cancers, and many of the advances made in blood cancer research can be used to treat other types of cancer. It provides support to patients and their families, and I (as well as countless others) have personally benefited from this research. Due in no small part to the advances made from this very research, I celebrated five years in remission this May and am now considered cured. I was the recipient of a lifesaving stem cell transplant and proton radiation therapy…and these are just two examples of the advanced therapies now available because of LLS and other research organizations. Thanks to them, I will be holding my white lantern high this Thursday. I am one of the lucky ones.

From the LLS website: LLS has invested more than $1 billion in research since our inception. Over that time, survival rates for many blood cancer patients have doubled, tripled and even quadrupled. Moreover, we have learned how to cure certain blood cancers. And many therapies first approved for blood cancers are now helping patients with other types of cancers and serious diseases.

But more than one third of blood cancer patients still do not survive five years after their diagnosis. So more funding is needed to advance more research and to ensure access to treatments to help save more lives.

We’re a small company trying to make a big difference. If you’d like to join us in the fight against cancer, please donate here or join us on Thursday at 5PM on the Boston Common.

Help Us Kick Cancer's Butt!

Catherine Shannon is the Director of Finance at CMB. She’s a two time cancer survivor, and she looks forward to Light the Night Thursday. 

Topics: Chadwick Martin Bailey, our people, Boston

99 Problems, but Project Execution Ain't One

Posted by Cara Lousararian

Wed, Mar 25, 2015

CMB, rock-solid executionAfter nearly a decade working on highly complex and strategic research projects, I’ve learned the one thing you can count on when dealing with massive amounts of data is Murphy’s Law—anything that can go wrong, will go wrong. No matter how much planning we do (and we take planning very seriously), the nature of market research means there’s bound to be a hiccup or two along the way.One of the best ways to deal with Murphy's Law is to accept that issues will arise but to make sure they don’t get in the way of the end goal—actionable insights. At CMB, our ability to seamlessly execute projects hinges on our capacity to adjust and course correct (when needed) to keep things on track. We put a lot of preparation and time in putting together solid project plans, focusing on business decisions, and conducting stakeholder interviews, but we also place a lot of emphasis on hiring and training strong problem solvers. We do this because we know that even the best laid out plans can still go awry, which is why it's important to manage problems proactively. For example, CMB firmly believes in conducting stakeholder interviews at the beginning of nearly all research engagements. This allows us to proactively re-shape/re-think the questionnaire design based on the information we’re hearing from the stakeholders. This helps prevent getting to the final presentation and delivering insights that are not relevant or useable for the key stakeholders.

Even the Patriots, as successful as they were this season and in the Super Bowl, run into problems and issues in each game that they play, regardless if they are playing the worst or best team in the league. If you read Peter King's Monday Morning Quarterback column the day after the Super Bowl, you'll remember that he highlighted Bill Belichick's pre-Super Bowl game meeting with his staff. Josh McDaniels, the Patriots’ offensive coordinator, summarized the meeting and said that Bill's main message was this: "This game is no different than any other one. It’s a 60-minute football game, and whatever issues we have, let’s make sure we correct them, coach them, and fix them. That’s our job." During that meeting, McDaniels, wrote two notes on his game play clipboard, "adjust" and "correct problems and get them fixed." Going into the game with those mantras was a reminder for him that the game is dynamic, and even the best laid plans need to be adjusted throughout the course of play.

While we can’t rely on Tom Brady, our approach to research engagements is no different. We encounter complex challenges day in and day out, and as our clients' needs change, we continue to think creatively and provide new and better solutions. When working with CMB, you can feel confident that we're putting together a solid project approach while simultaneously planning for the problems that may lie ahead. We might not be the Patriots, but we’re champions at execution just the same.

Cara is a Senior Research Manager. She enjoys spending time with her husband and dog, and she is STILL reveling in the "high" from the Patriots Super Bowl win.

Are YOU a strong problem solver? Come join our team!

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Topics: Chadwick Martin Bailey, Boston, research design

5 Things Boston's Snowpocalypse Taught Me About Customer Loyalty

Posted by Tara Lasker

Fri, Feb 27, 2015

snow, boston, customer loyaltyMaybe you’ve seen the news? This winter, Boston ushered in a new ice age. I’m joking (sort of), but you’ll forgive me since we have had six, SIX consecutive snowstorms, dropping over 90 inches of snow on the region. Commuting has become a game of strategy, and shoveling and “roof raking” have overtaken hockey as the city’s top winter sport. You know it’s bad when The New York Times’ editorial board tries to lift their city’s spirits by reminding New Yorkers that at least they don’t live in Boston. Ouch!Of course these storms have been no laughing matter for area businesses and employees, and customer loyalty is critical for surviving these stressors. So what can companies do to leverage loyalty when their customers are buried under 7+ feet of snow?

  1. Make me love you so much I’ll go out of my way to get to you. Loving a brand can help a customer look past inconvenience. For example, I have been using a service to help me decorate my house. The appointment when we were going to make some final decisions just happened to fall during one of the many snowstorms. I should have rescheduled—it was snowing and the roads were awful. But I was so excited that I just couldn’t wait, and I drove through the snow to make the appointment. Are your customers willing to drive through a raging storm to get to you?  That’s an example of the true love and loyalty we strive for.
  2. Build a strong foundation of trust and confidence. Between commuting nightmares, school closings, and travel bans, much of our work was being done outside of normal business hours. When I explained our situation to clients and coworkers, they understood. Communication and transparency are critical—be honest and upfront, and your loyal customers will respond. But. . .
  3. Even the most loyal customers have a breaking point. A few weeks ago, my husband and I had highly anticipated dinner plans, but we ended up not going because we knew we wouldn't have the patience to handle the parking challenges. We weren’t alone, and because of this, restaurants in particular have suffered. Businesses can use this time to find other avenues to connect with customers, e.g., doing competitive research or communicating to your (snowbound and captive) customers via social media, getting them excited about when they can come and see you next.
  4. Alternative online experiences are critical. Even though I couldn’t get out, I still needed things to do, and the snowpocalypse gave me the opportunity to beef up my online purchases and explore new websites. This is just one reason (of many) it’s important for businesses to have a functional and enjoyable online and mobile experience for customers who can’t get to you.
  5. One man gathers (shovels?) what another man spills. Customer loyalty is truly tested during times like these. Our public transit system has been having major problems. It’s been over a week since our last snowstorm, but our service is nowhere near back to normal. My colleague, who just couldn’t take it anymore, called an Uber and paid $50 for a 3 mile ride to work. It is unlikely the MBTA will lose customers over its spotty service, but will Uber or Lyft gain new and loyal customers as a direct result from the MBTA’s limited service? It’s surely possible.

The fact is, we can’t control the weather, and we can’t control every touch-point in the customer experience. But we can make sure we’re prepared by building a strong base of loyalty that can see through stormy weather and won’t melt come spring.  

Tara Lasker is a Research Director at CMB who is a survivor of 7 school snow days in 3 weeks, limited bus/train service, and severe cabin fever. She is looking forward to a family ski trip to North Conway, NH where she'll actually be able to enjoy the snow.

Topics: Boston, customer experience and loyalty

4 Things I Learned at the 2015 Pinnacle Awards

Posted by Caitlin Dailey

Thu, Feb 19, 2015

Originally posted on the Greater Boston Chamber of Commerce blog


CMB
In January 2014, my colleagues from Chadwick Martin Bailey and I attended the Greater Boston Chamber’s Annual Pinnacle Awards. I was so inspired by the stories of success from the honorees and felt so proud that the president and CEO of my company, Anne Bailey Berman, had herself been a recipient of a Pinnacle Award back in 2007. While I went there to support the women in our community and hear about their journeys toward achieving their goals, I left with a new personal goal I was committed to working towards.You see, during the ceremony, a group of women were asked to stand up as the room applauded them. These women were members of the Chamber’s Women’s Leadership Program—women who were selected from a large pool of applicants who were given the chance to attend seminars, workshops, and networking events to grow their leadership skills. I wanted to be part of that group.

Fast forward to a few weeks ago – when I achieved that goal, sitting among the new Women’s Leadership class being recognized at the 2015 Pinnacle Awards. And once again, it was an incredibly inspiring event.

Using my experiences from the program, I examined the honorees’ speeches through a new lens. I listened to identify how the skills and tenets I had learned myself helped this amazing group of honorees achieve their success. Four great insights left a lasting mark in particular:

1). Embrace every opportunity that’s presented and don’t shy away from something that’s outside of your comfort zone. When Emily Rooney, Host and Executive Editor of Beat the Press, was interested in creating Beat the Press, she learned that Arianna Huffington wanted to pitch something similar with the same name. Emily wasn’t afraid to take a risk when the odds may have been against her, and she came out the victor.

2). It’s ok to be emotional and passionate. Deb Re, CEO of Big Sister Association of Greater Boston, said it best: “If something doesn’t make you emotional and passionate then it probably isn’t worth your time.” As women, showing emotion does not make us weak. We’re likely to produce better work when we care about what it is we are doing.

3). Having a good support system is just as important as having a good idea. All of the honorees had family and friends in the audience who helped them get to where they are today. I loved hearing the loud cheers from sections of colleagues who play a role in the honorees’ every day successes – and in turn, the honorees acknowledging the importance of these partnerships in their speeches.

4). Pay it forward. Many of the honorees were also members of volunteer committees. As we move up in the working world, it’s easy to succumb to the pressures of the job, but also important to make time to give back. This was illustrated best by honoree Cindy Laba, Founder and Head of School at Beacon Academy, when she made every person in the audience take out his/her cell phone and say hello to someone who means a lot to them.

I was so inspired by these amazing stories of success and look forward to attending the Pinnacle Awards in the years to come.

The Chamber has created so many opportunities for women in the Boston business community and continues to serve as a support system by helping women in our community achieve their goals. It’s an honor to be part of that.

Caitlin Dailey is a Project Manager for Chadwick Martin Bailey (CMB). CMB is a Boston-based Gold Top 50 market research and consulting firm, partnering with a select group of the world’s leading brands to deliver critical insights for confident, strategic decision-making. 

Topics: Chadwick Martin Bailey, our people, Boston

Leaning in at CMB

Posted by Caitlin Dailey

Thu, Feb 05, 2015

pinnacle award winners, cmbCMB is a great place to work for both genders, but, as a woman, I’d like to give you my perspective. Having recently attended the Greater Boston Chamber of Commerce’s annual Pinnacle Awards, a luncheon celebrating women leaders in the Boston community, I started to reflect on my own journey in the workforce. The eight women receiving awards that afternoon all had such inspiring stories, most facing some form of adversity, to become leaders in their field and contributors to the Boston community. Fortunately for me, CMB has given me many opportunities to grow and develop professionally, perhaps due in part to the fact that it is a woman-led company. Our President and CEO, Anne Bailey Berman, was herself a recipient of a Pinnacle Award back in 2007 for achievement in entrepreneurship, and CMB was named one of the top women-led businesses in Boston this past year.I joined CMB straight out of college nearly 5 years ago, starting out as an associate researcher. My first impression was that CMB’s culture was an open one in which collaboration between senior and entry-level staff was not only encouraged but considered a critical part of a project’s success. However, you’re not just thrown to the wolves. CMB has a great training program for new associates, teaching all facets of project execution through classroom-setting sessions and on-the-job training through project mentorship from senior associates. There are clear paths for promotion and growth and development opportunities for all levels in weekly “CMB University” sessions. Anne is always telling us to “ask for forgiveness, not permission.” We’re encouraged to have our own voice and contribute strategic thinking from the outset, and after only 3 years, I was promoted from associate to senior associate to project manager.

As a project manager, I have faced new challenges in finding the managing style that works best for me, particularly as a woman. Thanks to Anne’s involvement in the Boston business community as well as her recognition of the importance of the role of women in leadership, I have been presented with examples of strong management and opportunities to attend events that help me find the style that works best for me.

As a group, the women of CMB attend networking breakfasts and co-host WIRE (Women In Research) events. The best opportunity I’ve received so far is being accepted to the Boston Chamber Women’s Leadership Program, which allows me to attend events, seminars, and lectures to learn from my peers and other women leaders in our community. Just this week, our Senior Marketing Manager, Stephanie Kimball, was accepted to Boston’s Future Leaders Program.

So ladies (and gents), if you’re interested in a career in market research, I encourage you to apply here. We have smart people, do important work for world-leading brands, and give back to the community through fundraising and volunteering. There is a true sense of comradery between colleagues here. CMB’s not just a stop along the way, but a place where you can grow your career. This is a place where producing exceptional work is the attainable expectation and every day is a new learning experience.

For key takeaways from this year’s Pinnacle Awards, visit http://bostonchamber.com/lessons-in-leadership-for-greater-boston-women/.

Caitlin Dailey is a Project Manager for the Travel/Entertainment/Finance/Healthcare/Insurance practice. Outside of work, she is a company dancer with DanceWorks Boston.

Come grow with us! We're currently hiring, so check out our open positions and contact us today.

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Topics: Chadwick Martin Bailey, our people, Boston

Deflategate and the Dangers of Convenience Sampling

Posted by Athena Rodriguez

Wed, Jan 28, 2015

The Patriots have landed in Phoenix for yet another Super Bowl, but there are still those who can’t stop talking about “Deflategate.” Yes, that’s what some are calling the controversy surrounding those perfectly legal 12.5 PSI inflated footballs that lost air pressure due to changing atmospheric conditions and repeated Gronking* after touchdowns during the first half of the Pats-Colts showdown.

Here in Boston, we were shocked to turn on the TV and hear the terrible accusations. Were we watching and reading the same things as the accusers? Did those doubters not watch the press conferences (all three of them) where our completely ethical coach proclaimed his team’s innocence? Did they not understand that Belichick even conducted a SCIENCE EXPERIMENT? 

Or could it be simply that the doubters live outside of New England?

athena blog

The chart above makes it pretty obvious—from Bangor to Boston, we just might have been hearing the voices of a lot more Pats fans. This is, in fact, a really simple illustration of the dangers of convenience sampling—a very common type of non-probability sampling.

Sure it’s a silly example, but as companies try to conduct research faster and cheaper, convenience sampling poses serious threats. Can you get 500 completes in a day? Yes, but there’s a very good chance they won’t be representative of the population you’re looking for. Posting a link to your survey on Facebook or Twitter is fast and free, but whose voice will you hear and whose will you miss?

I’ve heard it said that some information is better than none, but I’m not sure I agree. If you sample people that aren’t in your target, they can lead you in the completely wrong direction. If you oversample in a certain population (ahem, New Englanders) you can also suffer from a biased, non-representative sample.

Representative sampling is one of the basic tenets of survey research, but just because it’s a simple concept doesn’t mean we can afford to ignore it. Want your results to win big? Carefully review your game plan before kicking-off data collection.

  • Sample Frame: Is the proposed sample frame representative of the target population?
    • Unless you are targeting a niche population. . .
      • online panel “click-throughs” should be census balanced
      • –customer lists must be reflective of the target customers (if the population is all customers, do not use email addresses unless addresses exist for all customers or the exceptions are randomly distributed)
      • –compare the final sample to the target population just to be sure
  • Selection: Does the selection process ensure that all potential respondents on the frame have an equal chance of being recruited throughout the data collection period?
    • To be sure, you should. . .
      • randomize all lists before recruiting
      • not fill quotas first
      • not focus on hard-to-reach respondents first
  • Data collection: Will the proposed data collection plan adversely affect sample quality?
    • –Ask yourself:
      • Are fielding dates unusual (e.g., holiday, tax returns, Super Bowl, etc.)?
      • Is the schedule long enough to cover weekdays and weekends? Will it give procrastinators sufficient time to respond?
  • Structure: Will important subgroups have sufficient sample sizes if left to fall out naturally?
    • –If not, set quotas. . .
      • –Quota groups must be weighted back to their natural distribution before analysis or treated as an oversample and excluded from any analysis at the total level.
  • Size: Is the proposed sample size sufficient?
    • –We must always balance costs against sample size, but, at the same time, we must recognize that we need minimum sample sizes for certain objectives.  

Are there times you might need some quick and dirty (un-Patriot like) results? Absolutely. But, when you’re playing for big insights, you need the right team.

*spiking the football after a touchdown.

Athena Rodriguez is a Project Consultant at CMB. She’s a native Floridian, who’s looking forward to the end of the Blizzard of 2015 and the start of Sunday’s game!

Topics: Boston, television, research design, digital media and entertainment research

Fighting to the Death with a Zombie: 3 Important Lessons on Teamwork

Posted by Jordan Evangelista

Wed, Oct 22, 2014

cmb, teamworkNever in my life did I think I would be running away from a zombie, but that’s exactly what I did on a recent adventure. I embarked on this journey with eleven of my coworkers and friends. We went to the Room Escape Adventures studio in Charlestown, Massachusetts where we were assigned a complicated task: escape a room with a hungry zombie in it. The zombie was chained to the wall; however, every five minutes, the chain extended, and the zombie got closer and closer with the intent of having us for a full-course dinner. In order to escape the room in one hour, we were left no choice—our survival depended on us working together to follow the clues and solve the puzzles for the key that would lead us to freedom.Failed Flesh or Triumphant Team?

I’m proud to say that we successfully worked together to find the key and escape the room before the hour ended. Mind you, only one-third of the teams who have participated in this challenge have escaped the zombie’s clutches.

What made us a high performing team?

  1. We worked together with one common goal. It was clear that none of us wanted to be the zombie’s dinner, so we quickly regrouped, adapted to the environment, and worked together to achieve a superior result. While we don’t have zombies chasing us here at CMB, the need to work toward a common goal as a group is the same. Our common goal is simple—help our clients achieve success in their markets and potential markets—and we do this through getting our clients to focus on specific business decisions when scoping out research, which ensures superior results are achieved.
  2. We trusted each other and kept the lines of communication open. This challenge allowed us to really think outside of the box, and while some crazy ideas worked, some didn’t. The important thing is that we kept communicating, and we trusted each other enough to try everyone’s outlandish plans, which eventually led us to the key. We value similar things here at CMB—trust, teamwork, and open communication are paramount, and those are the values that drive the rock solid execution for all of our client projects.
  3. We let our passion and talent shine through. My team eagerly went straight to work figuring out the first clue. Each of us has a distinct personality and a diverse set of strengths, so we each found ourselves playing different roles in the effort to escape the room. For example, one of my friends put her organizational skills to work by keeping track of each clue we solved in case past clues were needed again. At CMB, we do the same thing. We work on projects we’re passionate about, and each of us brings our own unique set of skills to the table. This allows us to do world-class research with clients from a variety of industries.

The zombie went home hungry, but the experience reminded me about the importance of teamwork and how these three factors can contribute to a team’s success. At the end of the day, I’m just happy my flesh is intact.

Jordan is an Associate Researcher at CMB. You can catch him at any of the Boston music venues for a concert, lounging on the Jamaica Pond, or actively avoiding the walking dead.

Speaking of teamwork, we would love to have YOU on our team! Check out our open positions:

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Topics: Chadwick Martin Bailey, our people, Boston

Light the Night: Our Story

Posted by Catherine Shannon

Wed, Oct 08, 2014

ltn

In February of 2008, I was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s Lymphoma. That year, my coworkers formed a Light the Night team as a way to rally around me and show their support as I began my two year journey to kick cancer’s butt! The Light the Night Walk is the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society’s (LLS) annual fundraising event. The walk starts at dusk and everyone carries a lantern that is lit from within. There are three different types of lanterns: a red lantern shows support, a white lantern represents a survivor, and a gold lantern represents the memory of a lost loved one. It pays tribute to those who have fallen to this terrible disease and brings hope to those still battling cancer. This Thursday, CMB will be participating and walking as a team for the seventh year in a row.Since we started the walk, we have raised over $65,000 for LLS. And, in true CMB fashion, we had fun doing it. In the weeks leading up to the walk, we do a variety of events to excite and inform CMBers about LLS and their mission. For example, every year we sell tickets to a lunch courtesy of our resident champion BBQ master, Jared Huizenga. During the lunch, we also hold a silent auction and the items up for sale—homemade lunches, handmade scarves, photo editing sessions, etc.— give my coworkers a chance to showcase their diverse talents.  

As a cancer survivor, it means so much to me that something as negative as a cancer diagnosis could result in such a positive movement by CMB. Their participation with the Light the Night Walk is just one example of how my work family helped me through a very difficult time. There were many others: the daily visits from coworkers to help me countdown to the end of chemo and the easy acceptance of my wig, my scarf, or my bald head—whichever I chose to wear that day. 

LLS funds research with the goal of curing blood cancers. It provides support to patients and their families, and I (as well as countless others) have personally benefited from this research. Due in no small part to the advances made from this very research, I will celebrate five years in remission next May. I was the recipient of a lifesaving stem cell transplant and proton radiation therapy…and these are just two examples of the advanced therapies now available because of LLS. Thanks to them, I will be holding my white lantern high this Thursday.

From the LLS website:  When LLS was founded in 1949, a blood cancer diagnosis was almost always fatal. Thanks in part to innovative research funded by LLS, survival rates have doubled, tripled and even quadrupled for blood cancer patients. Today, cancer research in one area helps across all types of cancers. One example of this is the approval of the revolutionary drug Gleevac. The 10-year survival rate for certain blood cancer patients improved from 1 in 10 to nearly 9 in 10. 

We’re a small company trying to make a big difference. If you’d like to join us in the fight against cancer, please donate here or join us on Thursday at 5PM in the Boston Common.

Catherine Shannon is the Director of Finance at CMB. She’s a two time cancer survivor who is happy to say that she’ll celebrate five years in remission next May, and she looks forward to Light the Night tomorrow. 

Topics: Chadwick Martin Bailey, our people, Boston

The Effects of Choice Presentation on Consumer Satisfaction

Posted by Ramya Parameswaran

Wed, Oct 01, 2014

cmb, choice presentationIf you’ve never lived in Boston, you might not understand the spectacle that is September 1st. It’s the day that most new leases start, which means it’s the day almost every person in the city moves into a different apartment. U-Hauls crowd the narrow streets, abandoned furniture sits on the sidewalks, and new neighbors begin to pack into the halls. This year, as I watched boxes being lugged around, I couldn’t help but feel relieved that I didn't have to move. While moving itself is a chore, apartment hunting is the more challenging part of the process—should I go in for a one bed or a two bed? Should I just pay another $150 per month and get additional square footage? Or should I stay firm and stick to my original budget? And this is the most agonizing question of all: if I let this apartment go, will I regret it? The process is exhausting, and even though you know you'd make the very same choices if you were to go through it again, there is no sense of triumph in the final decision made. Why is that? 

Think about it: what makes a house hunt different from the many other choices we’re faced with on a regular basis, such as buying a can of soup or a light bulb? Besides needing to deal with a real-estate agent, the key difference lies in how the choices are presented to us. In one situation, we are presented with choices sequentially (you see one house at a time), whereas in the other situation, we’re shown all the options at once (you choose a can of soup from an array of options at the store). So why does this matter? According to a study by Cassie Mogilner, Baba Shiv, and Sheena Iyengar, the way in which we are presented with choices has a considerable impact on how happy we are with the chosen option and how committed we are to that choice.

In one of the experiments conducted, researchers showed participants descriptions of five gourmet chocolates and asked them to choose the one they wanted to taste. One group of respondents (sequential choosers) was shown the chocolates one at a time, while the other group (simultaneous choosers) was shown the chocolates all at once. Once participants selected a chocolate and sampled it, they were each asked individually to complete a survey and indicate how satisfied they were with their choice.

The result? Participants who were presented with the options one at a time were less satisfied with their choice than the participants who considered all the options at once. More interestingly, “sequential choosers” were also more likely to switch to a different option when given the choice to swap for a randomly selected option about which they knew nothing, indicating lower levels of commitment among this group.

The reason? As you might expect, the regret of having passed up “better” options plays some role, but researchers found that this goes away once the chooser is allowed to pick from previously seen options. What really drives lower satisfaction among “sequential choosers” is the feeling of “hope.” According to the research, sequential choosers know that alternatives will become available in the future, so they tend to “imagine a better option, hoping it will become available.” This focus on other possible options leaves them less happy with their selection. In contrast, “simultaneous choosers” remain focused on the options in front of them, and, as a result, are more satisfied and ultimately more committed to their choice.

What does this mean for businesses? When deciding how to present your products to consumers, it is worth noting the impact that this could have on their commitment to the products. This research clearly shows that allowing consumers to evaluate all their options simultaneously (vs. one at a time) results in higher levels of satisfaction. This, in turn, impacts product returns/cancellations, customer loyalty, and advocacy for the brand.

What does this mean for market researchers? When designing concept test exercises, it is important to understand the impact that sequential vs. simultaneous presentation will have on consumer satisfaction and commitment ratings to the chosen option.

As for me, while I can’t change how options will be presented the next time I look for a house, I now understand the inherent limitation of the process. . . and that the “best one” may be the one I have in hand and not one yet to come.

Ramya Parameswaran is a Project Manager at CMB. She is passionate about consumer marketing and is always on the lookout for new insights on what drives consumer choice. 

New Webinar: The New Hotel Path to Purchase: The Mobile, Social, and Online Journey As part of CMB’s Consumer Pulse program, we asked 2,000 leisure travelers to share their journey from awareness to booking. This webinar will give insight into the role of mobile, apps, customer reviews, and social media. 

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Topics: Boston, brand health and positioning, customer experience and loyalty