Since 1998, HPT existed as a small business unit of a larger business. In January 2012, however, President James M. “JM” Hasson acquired the business unit along with two partners.
“The time had come for HPT to begin operating as a standalone entity,” he says of the period following the acquisition. “It was sink-or-swim time.’”
Shortly after making that leap, HPT’s leadership wanted to better understand what makes them unique in their marketplace. In particular, they hoped to learn why their customers buy from them over their rivals and identify areas of weakness among the competitors currently serving prospects.
“HPT was building a growth strategy,” recalls DVIRC’s Director of Marketing Services, Chris Scafario. “They wanted to validate what they believed to be their organizational strengths, diagnose any weak points or threats from a market perspective, and identify opportunities. They were hungry for market perspective and eager to put their market insights to work in building their brand.”
As a result of their need to qualify customer perceptions, challenge their understanding of the market, and identify potential opportunities, HPT engaged DVIRC to develop and conduct a Voice of Customer primary research survey. The project was intended to capture specific quantitative and qualitative data and insights from key contacts within HPT’s current and prospective client base.
Using a scripted questionnaire developed specifically for this study, DVIRC completed surveys with 31 individuals from 24 unique companies. These individuals represented both current customers and prospects, and the questions were written to assess the following:
- Level of overall satisfaction with HPT;
- Areas in which HPT excels/could improve;
- HPT’s support strengths and opportunities for improvement;
- Key decision maker-level awareness of HPT, as well as customers’ knowledge of products/services;
- Preferred sources for industry information (print, web, word of mouth, etc.);
- Comparisons of HPT’s leadtimes to similar vendors; and
- Perceived capabilities and expertise between domestic and international players.
- The survey also included questions aimed at determining the existence of sales opportunities among existing and prospective customers.
One of the most important assessment avenues, though, dealt with understanding customers’ primary decision factors.
“We gave respondents four purchasing-related decision factors as part of the survey,” says Hasson. “We believed we understood which considerations were primary to our customers and prospects when making purchasing decisions, and that if we did those things well, it would positively influence their decisions to buy our products. In this way, succeeding in a few targeted areas would enable us to both win over prospects and expand sales to existing customers.”
In the end, the survey results validated these beliefs to a point, but they also identified other areas that had not been on the company’s radar before the survey.
“We found our assumptions to be true in some cases,” Hasson says. “but there were others that we hadn’t really considered.”
As a result, the survey data enabled HPT to better understand the marketplace, and that understanding has informed and shaped short-term sales tactics. They can now apply this knowledge to appeal directly to those attributes that are most important to customers and prospects.
Moreover, Hasson says that the data also has had long-term benefits.
“I constantly refer to the DVIRC study,” he says. “When we consider making significant business- or product-development decisions or marketing strategies, I use the Voice of Customer report as an important component in the decision-making process. As we adjust our business practices now and in the future, we can go back to the same survey group to gauge our progress and uncover any opinion shifts that might impact longer-term opportunities.”
The data summary indicated a very high level of customer satisfaction with HPT’s products and services (90% of respondents rated their satisfaction as either 4 or 5 on a scale of 1-5). Among other data points, the company was able to identify customer service and quality as areas of particular strength, and to confirm those attributes that customers and prospects weigh heavily when selecting new vendors.
“JM was particularly happy that we reached people he’d had a hard time getting a hold of,” says Sylvia Wower, DVIRC’s Lead Researcher and manager of the HPT survey effort. “In addition to being an unbiased third party, we utilize skilled professionals and a proven process that enables us to connect with people who might not be especially open with a representative from the supplier themselves.”
“The approach was terrific,” Hasson says. “The data and feedback were very insightful. The Voice of Customer study that DVIRC delivered was a profound, fundamental stepping stone in terms of how we will brand, market, and ultimately grow the business. It identified the things we do well—in addition to what we need to improve—based on actual feedback from customers. It was an honest look at our performance from our customers’ perspective. As for prospect-specific information, we learned more about our brand perception in the marketplace and found an area of weakness among competitors.”
“Knowledge truly is power, and the team at HPT walked away from this project with insights from some highly influential players in their industry,” says Scafario. “In the days and weeks after this project closed, its outcomes provoked some very structured responses focused on growing the top line.”
HPT has continued its partnership with DVIRCs Business Growth Services Group and gone on to improve its customer interface with a revised brand position, a new website, and a very focused effort to build a steady stream of qualified leads through DVIRC’s lead generation program.