This chapter will discuss the research methods that were delivered in order to meet the aims and objectives of the research within the Barlow Blinds Ltd Company. This chapter will then elaborate on the types of research methods that were utilised and the approaches that were undertaken in order to conduct the analysis. The methodology section of this chapter in the research process plays a substantial role in delivering the correct approaches to chosen methods in order to conduct an effective analysis. The initiation stage of the research will involve the research settings for the In-company project, and then will go onto discussing the other key elements such as the research purpose, research design, data collection and analysis of findings, research ethics and limitations of the research.
2.1 Research Settings
The research will be conducted in the East Midlands region of Leicestershire and five to six companies will be based in the west midlands region of Birmingham and Nottingham, and one to two companies will be in the South-East region of London. The 36 companies that I am conducting my research of which 16 companies I have chosen to study are within 15 miles of distance to Barlow Blinds Ltd and are in membership of the British Blinds and Shutters Association (BBSA), based within and on the outskirts of Leicestershire. The British Blinds and Shutters Association (BBSA) plays a very important role for the companies within the UK Blinds Industry since the purpose of this Code of Practice is to provide members of the Association to adhere to practical guidelines with the aim of enhancing the quality of the service to their customers. It demonstrates a binding commitment on the part of each member of the BBSA to a high standard in terms of quality, safety, integrity and reliability.(The BBSA Article, 2012) The remaining companies that the research study will be conducted on are small, family- owned, private limited companies that share similar characteristics in trading and traditional means of advertising in comparison to Barlow Blinds Ltd. Lastly, the remaining study will focus on five to six public limited companies who distribute blinds as well as specialise in other household essentials within their companies.
2.2 Research Purpose
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The first part of the study will exemplify the different advertising methods that Barlow Blinds Ltd are undertaking within their organisation to maximise their sales , and suggest alternatives or find ways to improve upon existing. This part of the section will be conducted by undertaking a competitor analysis technique. I will conduct an analysis to assess the weaknesses and strengths within the macro and micro environment of the Blinds Industry in UK, in which Barlow Blinds Ltd are also operating within. A competitor analysis will be conducted in order to investigate into the advertising methods that Barlow Blinds Competitors are utilising, both traditional and online. Secondly, to identify marketing strategies that Barlow Blinds competitors are using. This will help to identify competitor's strategies and how Barlow Blinds Ltd can expand and grow their business in a more cost-effective and feasible manner. Thirdly, I will analyse the exposed risks from competitors, customers, suppliers, product substitutes, and threat of new entrants into the market that Barlow Blinds Ltd may experience at present and in the near future.
The second part of my research will be to analyse Barlow Blinds Ltd current customer service process and standards and find ways to improve these skills which will lead to upselling of their products. I intend to do this by investigating into the key areas of development required for Barlow Blinds Ltd employees, and conducting observations on them when they are providing customer service over the telephone and face-to-face with customers within their showroom. I will analyse this part of study by undertaking the following key performance indicators into account such as greeting the customer with a welcoming warmth smile, eye contact, body language when speaking with the customer, offering immediate assistance, friendliness, polite and courteous manners, using customer's name in conversation, pleasant voice tone, being able to efficiently solve customer queries over the telephone and within the showroom in an effective manner. These observations will be conducted on a rating of 1-6 performance scale where 1=Excellent Service and 5=Poor Service. This will help me to assess the average rating that the service is being offered to customers and develop an action plan for improvements. The study will enable me to gain a better understanding of employee interactions with customers and will help me to conduct an in-depth analysis on the ways in which improvements are necessary and where implementation of new strategies are required within the Barlow Blinds Ltd business. Secondly, I intend to conduct an employee performance review in which this methodology will enable me to identify employee's strengths and weaknesses within the business and the skills that are required in order to enhance their development in key areas of the business. In order to conduct this analysis, I will focus on specific key performance indicators such as communication, inter-personal and team-building skills to measure and assess their performance.
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Finally, the research study will suggest improvements for Barlow Blinds Ltd website by analysing their competitors' websites, strategies for enhancing search engine optimization (SEO), and social-networking links. I will then conduct an in-depth analysis for Barlow Blinds Ltd that is cost-effective and very effective in implementing in terms of its budget constraints and economic climate. The study will conduct research in gathering data and information from a wide range of web designers and obtain quotations in terms of its costs and feasibility and decide upon the best package that would be effective to implement for a small business like Barlow Blinds Ltd. This will lead to developing an action plan for current and future recommendations for improvements of marketing strategy or strategies formation that Barlow Blinds Ltd can adopt in order to enhance their business within the current economic climate.
2.3 Research Design
For the first part of my research, I adopted the methodology of qualitative data analysis in conducting a face-to-face interview with Barlow Blinds Ltd Company. According to Creswell (1994) qualitative data "provides a numerical description of the population, which enables the researcher to generalise the findings from the sample of participants of the population". (Creswell, 1994, pp.143-172) The reason for adopting this type of methodology is that conducting a face-to-face interview portrays several benefits. It enables the researcher and the informant to arrange it quite easily, secondly the advantage of interviews is that "it allows to express opinions and views in a more open manner". (Denscombe, M. 2010, P.176). The face-to-face interview conducted with the organisation was recorded on a tape recorder, and a complete transcript was generated of the interview. The advantage of this method is that "there is evidence provided on the Interview tape that constitutes the interviewee's voice when listening back to it". (Denscombe, M. 2010, p.176)
According to Bell (1992), the interview technique assesses an individual's responses to questions, which further provides an in-depth analysis in order to conduct the research. The benefits of interviews are, "it can raise issues of which the interviewer was previously unaware of and has higher response rate than questionnaires". (Bell, 1992, p.3)
For the second part of my research study, I utilised quantitative data analysis. For this method of analysis, I utilised both, open-ended and closed-ended questionnaires to conduct an in-depth analysis of the 36 Blinds companies. "A well-structured questionnaire is a good source of quantitative data for analysis". (Hague, 1993, p.21) According to Bryman and Bell, 2007, p.248, the advantage of utilising an open questionnaire is "they are useful for exploring new areas in which the researcher has limited knowledge".p.248
The competitor analysis of 36 companies that I investigated as part of my research enabled me to identify the opportunities and threats that were portrayed over Barlow Blinds Ltd Company. The feedback received from the questionnaire were very limited with low, delayed responses. This part of the analysis was to examine the competitive advantage Barlow Blinds Ltd competitors possessed, and the ways in which they differentiated themselves from Barlow Blinds Ltd within the micro- environment . Therefore, for this purpose I utilised secondary information through using the company websites, government publication bodies and Internet data in which I was able to complete this part of my research study. The advantage of using secondary data information is that it is cheap, information is easy to find. Although there are limitations associated with these. The information can be out-dated on the website. Therefore, this can be problematic when conducting an analysis due to inaccurate information.
2.4 Data Collection and Analysis
For this part of the study, I utilised secondary data sources to collect information on the Blinds Industry within UK. This entailed Keynote, Mintel to access marketing industry reports and business level in-house data to access financial company reports, company websites, Internet, Government National Statistics data, Industry Magazines such as the British Blinds and Shutters Associations, Marketing Week Retail week, Business Monitor, Data Monitor to access company information. I utilised newspaper sources such as the 'Daily Telegraph', BBC News, 'The Guardian' to access information on the UK Blinds Market. The reasons for adopting these sources of information is that they are cheap because the research is published in advance and ease of accessibility in finding the data.
2.5 Research Ethics
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The proposed research study will follow (Bell and Bryman 2007, p.248) ethical principles of ten professional associations in the social sciences to conduct my analysis. These principles are:
Ensures that no harm comes to participants
Respecting the dignity of the research participants
Ensuring a fully informed consent of research participants
Protecting the privacy of the research subjects
Ensuring the confidentiality of research data
Protecting the anonymity of individuals or organisations
Avoiding deception about the nature or aims of the research
Declaration of affiliations, funding sources and conflicts of interest
Honesty and Transparency in communicating about the research
Avoidance of any misleading, or false reporting research findings
The limitations that were experienced whilst carrying out the research was the time-scale allocated to complete the research study for the Interview and questionnaires. There were difficulties experienced in receiving specific, detailed information from the 36 companies. The responses received were too generalised in order to conduct a competitor analysis. The limitations of conducting a postal questionnaire were that the response rates were very low such as 10% response of questionnaires were returned from the 36 companies.