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Currents: research in the community

Three Cheers for Market Research Students

It was 10:30 a.m. on April 2 when representatives from New London Hospital management and the board of trustees arrived on the Colby-Sawyer campus for a major student presentation.

By then, the 24 students of the Market Research course (BUS411) were already in their places in Ivey 101. New London Hospital President/CEO Bruce King and his colleagues were seated in the front row and seven hospital trustees, led by Board Chair Bill Helm (also a Colby-Sawyer trustee), were seated in the second row.

The moment had arrived - it was show time!

This presentation was the culmination of a research project the students had begun for the hospital a month before. Back on March 5, the class had been briefed by Susan Bryant, senior vice president of marketing and community relations at the hospital, about current projects. She explained that the students' survey project should focus on the hospital's $21 million expansion, already under way, and more specifically on New London and Newport residents' level of awareness of the project and the benefits it would provide. She also made it clear that a goal was to learn about how important each benefit is to people, and whether knowing about them would influence people to use New London Hospital for their next medical treatment.

The students were divided into four teams: Luke's Flukes led by Luke Driscoll; Cait's Flakes led by Cait Putnam; Steph's Pests led by Stephanie Kimball; and Scott's Flock, led by Scott Boddy. The teams went to work drafting six-question surveys and conducting interviews with people outside Colonial Pharmacy in New London and Shaw's Supermarket in Newport - lots of interviews! The weather was cold, the ice was slippery and some freezing rain fell, but the students persevered despite being rejected by a number of “I'm too busy” people.

The teams completed an impressive 424 interviews in the two towns, then entered the findings into a consolidated database managed by class member Malcolm Smith so they could analyze and report the results. All this with the April 2 presentation only 24 hours away! Malcolm scrambled to create booklets of the results for all the hospital staff while Molly Mullen and Kate Managan created poster boards for the presentation, and the team leaders began rehearsing their parts of the presentation, which broke down into The Survey; Awareness Results; Benefit Importance, and Interest & Conclusions.

While the information gained from the survey is owned by New London Hospital and we won't share the details here, suffice it to say that the presentation was a triumph. The team leaders laid out the facts – some good, some bad, some surprising, and some disappointing to the hospital representatives – but they told it like it was. They also held their ground during the spirited Q&A session that followed the presentation, and their team members chimed in.

The hospital folks learned a lot and seemed genuinely appreciative of the quality and breadth of the findings, which could now help them set some new priorities and communication objectives.

After the presentation, the feedback was supportive and made all involved feel great. We were glad to hear that Bill Helm contacted Colby-Sawyer President Tom Galligan to say, “Tom, I've just returned from the student presentation on the results of their survey for New London Hospital. In a word: professional. Both the substance of the work and the oral presentation were once again excellent examples of the quality of education the college provides and the ability of its students to perform at a high level. Three cheers!”

Tom replied, “Three cheers is right, and a tip of the hat to the students!”

Bruce King added, “Please convey the gratitude of all of New London Hospital management and the Board to the entire market research class for their efforts. What a great, important, and relevant project! Their findings are intriguing and offer NLH many areas of future focus.”

The students had triumphed, and the teams could breathe again … on to their next project!

-The BUS411 Class