Using an established customer satisfaction process adapted from CR Magazine’s sister publications, we identified the top players in the PR space, using data and feedback from your colleagues and other readers.
By Elliot Clark
Ranking service providers is a new and ongoing feature of CR Magazine, designed to improve the practice of corporate responsibility. We have implemented strict survey protocols developed in our HR publications that are described below.
Service providers are an important tool in the arsenal of the Corporate Responsibility Officer. One key partner is the communication firm. Being a good citizen is paramount, but to maximize the benefit of good citizenship you need to communicate with customers, shareholders, and employees.
Corporate Responsibility Officers, or CROs, are at a point of evolution similar to where human resources leaders were prior to 1980. HR was then known as personnel, or, in unionized companies, labor relations. The professional association was the American Society of Personnel Administrators, with barely 3,000 individual members. In 1989 the group changed its name to the Society of Human Resources Management, or SHRM, a change that rapidly professionalized the HR practice. Today SHRM has 250,000 global members representing companies with an estimated aggregate budget of over $200 billion. Yet, even in the HR market, there existed no reliable independent ratings of HR service providers, a fact bemoaned by HR leadership.
In 2002, CR Magazine’s sister publications HRO Today and HRO Europe began ranking several categories of HR service firms in what are known as Baker’s Dozen Customer Satisfaction Ratings. Since 2007 the Baker’s Dozen lists have been based on a highly successful customer satisfaction survey methodology. Practitioners in the HR field have actually produced our rankings in post-RFP bid meetings and asked the bidder about why they scored well or poorly in our survey. Our customer satisfaction-driven approach has become the gold standard in vendor evaluation. So, why introduce it to CR Magazine?
The CROA is much younger, representing about 200 companies and about 1,200 individuals. But these executives now own rapidly growing budgets totaling billions of dollars. Communications firms are among the recipients of this new spend. Yet the CROA’s members tell us that sourcing the best services in this emerging field is highly uncertain because no reliable ranking program exists.
In response to this market need, in each of the next three issues of CR Magazine we will scientifically rank the Top Ten providers in three categories: energy-environmental technology service and legal, accounting compliance/governance advisors.
In the following pages, you will find the first of these three Top Ten Rankings—PR, Communications and Advertising firms. We trust they will make your sourcing work more objective and data-driven.
We solicited the input of current CROs as well as marketing/communications executives to rank the top PR and communications firms in the space. We surveyed more than 10 firms, but only 10 made the final list.
Ranking Methodology: Current customers were asked to participate in an online survey regarding their experience with their current provider (their identities are strictly confidential). The survey instrument measures three dimensions. The first is “Breadth of Service,” which is the subset of services provided. The next dimension is “Deal Size,” a reflection of divisional or geographic reach or size of company, etc. We only offer deal size as a comparator for you to measure a potential provider against the scope of a program you may wish to put out to bid. The final component of the index and the most important is “Quality of Service.” This is based on a series of questions that examined the performance, relationship, and trust between provider and customer. We used a five-point Likert scale with answers ranging from “Strongly Agree” to “Strongly Disagree.” Each answer was ascribed a point value and the points were totaled, averaged, and the mean was calculated into the overall quality score. We then weighted each dimension for the “Overall Score.”
We allow providers to refer customers, but they do know the weightings of questions or the dimensional categories in the final index. We keep this information secret so known customers cannot be coached to focus on certain questions. We perform spot verification of respondents using two different methods. We also solicit respondents from our own lists so our sample is not only generated by the provider referrals.
This is the respected and standard methodology used in all of our Baker’s Dozen customer satisfaction surveys. Once again, CR Magazine ranked only providers for which we were able to compile enough respondents to have statistically valid customer data.
We hope that the CR Magazine’s Top Ten Customer Satisfaction Ratings in Communications helps you identify the most appropriate partner for your needs.