METHODOLOGY (research CRM and Microfinance)

By 7 June 2011

This chapter describes the different approaches that have been applied to gather necessary information in order to perform a successful research study, contributing to the development of a valid and critical thesis.

An exploratory research design is chosen in a bid to develop a profound understanding of the research topic and to obtain in-depth data about the research object. All elements of research paper, comprising theory, empirical findings, and analysis are incorporated in a lucid and cohesive manner and structured in order to address and evaluate the central research questions appropriately (Hair et al, 2007, pp. 153; Hair et al, 2006, pp.174).

3.1 Introduction into the Research Method
The research study is qualitative as the selected research method ought to be effective in collecting the data needed to answer the research questions. Qualitative research represents descriptions of things made without assigning numbers directly and used in exploratory designs, “offering a detailed insight and understanding of the research object” (hair et al, 2007, pp.152).

Moreover, Tharenou et al (2007) describes methodology as the approach that must be organized in order to collect and analyze data to obtain good result. The research collection collection is either qualitative or quantitative. Sekaran (1992) suggested that research design is characterized by manipulation or control. It involves data collections that are specific, undigested which will be analyzed for the ambiguity to be resolved and questions to be answered. Research design as it were, will involve testing of cause-effect relationships. Creswell (2003) gave a framework for the overall design that can be a guide in achieving the desired focus for the research.

Methodology Framework
Figure 3.1: Methodology Framework (Creswell, 2003).

Creswell also proposed three questions based on the framework above that relies on design of this research:

  • What knowledge claims are being made by the researcher?
  • What strategies of inquiry will inform procedures?
  • What methods of data collection and analysis will be used?

All this forms and will continue to form the cradle on which this research project is all about. The research design maps out framework for the research procedures. As above said, research involves using the quantitative means or qualitative means to get the desired result, which can also be attained when both means are used.

3.2 Research Strategy
According to Bryman (2004), the field of research is wide and broad. However, many writers in methodological issues distinguish between two main categories in research methods, namely quantitative and qualitative research. It is argued that these two categories differ with aspects to their foundation as well as other aspects, such as the connection between theory and research. In this chapter, the author will present how the selected topic is going to be treated in relation to literature collected, the kind of method used and how it is intended to be used to come up with a suitable and credible analysis and conclusion.

3.2.1 Quantitative Research
Quantitative research strategy is described as a research very objective and distinctive research strategy where the procedures consist of involving numerical and statistical data. The study portrays a view of the relationship between the theory or hypothesis and the empirical research through the gathered numerical data.

The quantitative research strategy usually contains the following elements as stated by Wilson (2003):

  • The data is more structured and less flexible than qualitative research.
  • The quantitative strategy tends to include larger samples of individuals than would be used in qualitative.
  • The comparisons between results are easier to perform.
  • The gathered data provides that can quantified in their extent.
  • The final analysis is usually statistically and very objective in nature.

3.2.2 Qualitative Research
Saunders et al (2007) stated that a qualitative research strategy must present the real picture and attempt to offer distinctiveness and quality to readers. Wilson (2003) also stated that a qualitative research is normally commenced using mostly unstructured research approach with a small number of carefully selected individuals to construct insights into behaviour, motivations, and attitudes. The different base emphasis between quantitative and qualitative strategies is the priority accorded to perspectives of those being studied, along with a related emphasis on the interpretation and understanding of the observations in accordance with the subjects own understandings.

The qualitative research strategy usually consists of the following key components as stated by Masson (1996):

  • Although the research study should be systematically and thoroughly constructed, the data gathering process is less structured and more flexible than quantitative research.
  • The researcher should involve critical self-scrutiny and flexible than quantitative research.
  • The study usually involves small samples of individuals who are not necessarily representatives of larger populations, although great care should be taken in the selection of respondents.
  • Qualitative research should present explanations rather than measurement to question.

3.2.3 The Mixed Method or Triangular Approach
The Mixed method employs both the qualitative and quantitative approaches as the approaches can be used interchangeable to get desired result. But for the purpose of this research, only mixed method approach will be used; the research is contented with using the mixed approaches. The mixed methods will help guide the in-depth analysis of the research topic as it is will help with identifying and categorizing the significance of the topic. The mixed method is also called the triangulation approach.

The use of literature is used in searching for information on past happenings as well as existing occurrences to establish a frame for the problems that subsist in the research area. This gives a basis for examining and accessing the level of technology management in the Cameroon Microfinance industry.

The further stage is the survey questionnaire that provides the view of managers on the connection between the CRM technology and the marketing issues that are hurting microfinance sector in Cameroon as provided in the aims and objective of the research. In order to back up the literature reviews, the role of primary data collection cannot be overemphasized. According to Tharenou (2007), questionnaires are the most frequently used method of date collection in management research. This reveals that for this particular research, questionnaires are an integral part. The questionnaires are analyzed to generate result and used in back up the earlier reviewed literature from the authors/researchers whereby appropriate references are made as proof for the external sources of information.

3.3 Data Collection
Basically, this exploratory study is based on a solid theoretical framework. Secondary literature on the research topic is reviewed and the theoretical structure is build up, aiming at functioning as a clear and comprehensive basis of the thesis. This means that the data, according to Hair et al (2007), was not gathered directly and purposely for the project under consideration. The secondary data is of specific use to get an insight into the field of study. A general overview has been established in a bid to define the area of the report as well as its limitation and to identify particular variables of interest for further investigation. Thus, the theoretical framework represents the foundation of the topic, upon which further data collection is deduced. In addition, it will assist in how to approach the primary research and the design, content and conduction of the questionnaires. Information on CRM and microfinance are collected from books from the university library, scientific articles from online libraries and journals as well as company reports and reliable websites. In order to obtain important background information and knowledge about the field of research, different sources of data were used.

By means of creating a deeply rooted theoretical part, terms and definitions, the underlying questions concerning issues that determine long-term efficiency of Cameroonian MFIs and how confidence and trust play a role in order to gain competitive advantage through customer satisfaction and customer retention could be elucidated. Therefore, responses to the question of how CRM technologies can lead to a competitive advantage for MFIs in Cameroon in theory could be developed. Moreover, controversial views of various authors on the research matter are illustrated and evaluated. So, secondary data is adequate to cover these aspects as it serves to place the research objectives into context and different reliable sources dealing with the subjects of CRM and Cameroonian MFIs are available. Although secondary data are collected for a specific purpose differing from the research questions of this thesis, or being not up to date as the data are collected a few years earlier, it is chosen to make use of secondary data, because larger data sets could be analyzed (Saunders et al, 2007).

The figure 3.2 below shows also the different data collection methods with respect to the determinant variables (numbers involved and personal involvement of the author). Collection of data for this project is mainly through a questionnaire survey and some few structured interviews conducted through phone calls.

Data Collections Methods
Figure 3.2. Data Collections Methods (Source: Mc Neill and Chapman, 2005)

3.3.1 Survey
Mc Neill and Chapman (2005) define a survey as a method of obtaining large amount of data, usually in a statistical form from a large number of respondents in a relatively short time. Social surveys usually take the form of self-completed questionnaire which may be handed to the respondent or sent through post. This system was adopted by the author in carrying out this project as prior physical discussion was facilitated between the respondents (Various microfinance institutions managers) and the researcher of this project when he called some MFIs managers in Cameroon. Therefore, upon sending them the anticipated questionnaires, a short cover letter was also attached to it further give the respondents a glimpse of what the aims and objectives of the research is all about. Ethical consideration was ensured in the whole process in that the anonymity of the respondents was highly required since the essence of the research was purely for academic purposes.

3.3.2 Population
The sample population is structured in such a way that it covered various MFIs categories in Cameroon. Due to time constraint, and the necessity to reach all the MFIs since the implementation is meant to cover the whole micro financial industry in Cameroon and not just the selected companies, the author drove the research and data collection in grouping into 3 categories.

3.3.3 Questionnaire Instruments and Layout
Bryman (2004) define questionnaires as tools completed by the respondents themselves often referred to as self-administered questionnaires. It is used for the purpose of asking questions to ascertain people’s thoughts about, and their feeling towards issues, events and behaviours to research problem.

Questionnaire is the main data collection technique of this research. This survey method was preferred for it is relatively use to use, cheaper, and is the most plausible alternative for measuring unobservable attitudes, values and preferences, intentions and personalities. (Moorman and Podsakoff, 1992).

The underlying objective of this questionnaire is to find answers to the research questions of this project which sounds the overall aims and objectives as well. These aims and objectives are:

  • To appraise the current level of CRM usage in Cameroon microfinance institutions.
  • To assess how CRM implementation can deliver an effective customer value
  • To determine a fulcrum for leveraging between the transformation which a comprehensive CRM initiative will bring and fit-in to business environment in Cameroon (Proposed action plan).

When deciding what questions to ask, the researcher’s first problem is usually to apply the concepts to be used (Mc Neill and Chapman, 2005). This essentially means converting the hypothesis and related concepts into question form. Based on these aims and objectives, and review of past literatures in this research area, the following research questions emerged.

  1. 1. How well are the customers segments understood and individually serviced?
  2. 2. What relevance will CRM tool offer the management towards value delivery that can create customer loyalty and satisfaction?
  3. 3. Can any CRM technology be implementable in MFIs that could also produce results like it is the case in other developed countries?

The questionnaire has been designed qualitatively and articulately divided into 16 questions in total to contain these questions. The x-ray of the questions comprised in the 16 questions are to address areas such as; General Information about respondents and their enterprise, CRM Objectives, Strategy formulation, Implementation initiatives, CRM Components, Project Management and CRM Success Criteria and Evaluation. The success criteria and evaluation is to compare the CRM strategy and implementation Model by Payne and Frow (2005) and CRM Conceptual framework by Dasai et el., (2007) which was reviewed in the earlier literature review.

Payne and Frow (2005) identified four (4) critical elements for successful CRM implementation (CRM Readiness Assessment, CRM Change Management, CRM Project and Employee Engagement) and also five core CRM processes (Strategy Development, Value Creation, Multi-Channel Integration, Information Management and Performance Assessment). All these cross functional elements have been incorporated into the questionnaire so as to evaluate if the same framework can work for Cameroon system or whether it could be modified. But what is certain for now is that the frameworks by Payne and Frow (2005) with that of Dasai et el. (2007) has been helpful towards the final outcome of this whole research and will be adopted but modified.

The questionnaire format used was Likert scale and check-list. The Likert scale is useful to produce a comparative set of data based on strength of feeling or belief. In this case, the respondent is to tick one from a range of boxes indicating “very strongly agree”, “agree”, “have no opinion”, “disagree”, and “strongly disagree”. But majority of the questions are patterned in a check-list format. The question is asked and various options were given for the respondent to choose from either a single answer is need or multiple. But where multiple choices are expected, the researcher has indicated it for easier understanding and correct answers by the respondents. Generally, the wording of questions is made clear, precise and unambiguous. The researcher also put into consideration in the question formulation, not to presume that the respondents have more knowledge than they have by not leading respondents to a particular answer. in such cases, the research made some questions open-ended while some are closed ended so that respondents can give their answers if not is different from the alternatives supplied by the researcher.

Figure 3.3 illustrates the processes taken before the questionnaire produced and sent out for data collection.
Questionnaire Design Process
Figure 3.3: Questionnaire Design Process

3.4 Pilot Testing
The draft questionnaire is initialized by the researcher and focused on the objectives and the research questions stated in Project Proposal that are going to be answered regardless the past work done in the area based on the literature review carried out. From the observations of the researcher’s supervisor, a pilot test was carried out on the questionnaire. This pilot test aims at knowing whether:

  • The questions wording pattern can achieve the desired results.
  • The questions have been placed in the best format and order.
  • The questions are well understandable by the respondent.
  • There are questions to be added or subtracted from the draft.
  • The instructions given to respondents as to what to do are enough and comprehensive.

The author sent a number of draft questionnaire to respondents put into the same category with the final respondents that will answer the final questionnaires. The feedback from the pilot test produced not much problems as the only adjustment done to the draft questionnaire was to rephrase some questions for easier understanding. After this was done, it was shown to the supervisor and the final questionnaire was produced.

3.5 Validity
As shown in figure 3.3 above, before the draft and final questionnaire was produced, a problem was identified and then review of past literature was done. From the literature reviews, frameworks of Payne and Frow (2005) and that of Dasai et al., (2007) were the sources of the questions asked in the questionnaires. Payne and Frow (2005) divided their frameworks into two sections. Four critical elements for successful CRM implementation (CRM Readiness Assessment, CRM Change Management, CRM Project Management and Employee Engagement) with five core CRM processes (Strategy Development, Value Creation, Multi-Channel Integration, Information Management and Performance Assessment) were all incorporated and fashioned into questions statements in the questionnaire.

The question on the objective of CRM implementation asked in question number five (5) in the questionnaire was to verify the claim by IDM 2002 report as stated in the literature review that when they carried out their research as to the three top reasons why companies implement CRM, they discovered after the researcher was done on these companies that; Gaining customer fidelity, providing a personalize services to customers and for better knowledge of customers where the top three reasons. So the researcher wants to see if the same results are obtained by IDM 2002 is also same or different in the Cameroon Microfinance Industry as to why they want to/ have implemented CRM.

Finally, question sixteen (16) is adopted from the IDM report (2002). They chart was built to assess the chances of success with CRM implementation in companies. Seven critical success factors (Goal setting, Management Support, Change Management, Project Management, Business rules and Processes, Customer Data obtained and Vendor support) were used to measure their readiness which is to be indicted with a check-list style of reporting. The options given are if: Readily available (score 3), Achievable with slight difficulty (Score 2), Achievable with Difficulty (Score 1) and Achievable with great difficulty (Score 0). After these options have been stated, each company’s readiness can be known. They used the following parameter to advice the companies on whether to proceed with CRM implementation or not to. The criteria is thus if;

  • 15…………Go for it
  • 12-15……..Think carefully
  • 8-11……….Better not go for it
  • <8…………Forget it

So the data obtained from responses on question 16 will be interpreted and the criteria stated above will be used to determine the readiness of CRM implementation in the Cameroon microfinance industry.

3.6. Response Rate
A total of 100 questionnaires were sent out. The questionnaires were distributed with respect to the various MFIs categories which cover all the country. The response rate has been encouraging so far and as of this present time.

3.7 Data Analysis Methods used
This research adopts a quantitative analysis method in analyzing the data obtained from the survey instrument (questionnaire). The Questionnaire is a qualitative instrument that was used to obtain data. Information contained in qualitative survey is often not measureable by counting unlike the case of quantitative experiment. Since SPSS was used to analyse the data, some of the qualitative information, which cannot fit into the variable and data view window of the software will be recoded appropriately into a quantitative format and then interpreted.

In summary, the data analysis method to be used for interpreting data in this research will be quantitative analysis.

3.8 Ethical Considerations
Research ethics or ethical considerations entail how those who participate in our research are treated and how the data obtained from the survey are handled thereafter (Scott and Deirdre, 2009). Ethical considerations at the research planning process are very important and should not be overlooked. It is important to put into consideration, potential ethical implication. This, the researcher has followed and was approved by the institution. Jupp (2006) stated that ethical problems in research arise from tensions between the research objective and rights and interests of individuals or the group at large that maybe affected. This implies that, since research cannot be carried out without involving entities, definitely, a number of people or group direct interest will be touched which makes ethical issues of these categories of people paramount.

3.9 Confidentiality
This research has put into consideration the confidentiality of microfinance institutions involved in the data collections. This aspect was looked from two angles, the company and the respondent. Anonymity of each respondent was stated on the questionnaire since the aim of the research is purely for academic purposes and not for benchmarking operators. So this point has to be made clear so that each respondent can know that whatever information he has given cannot be directly traced to him. The success, reliability and quality of data collected lies on the level of confidentiality attributed to the research method as each respondent is afraid of divulging the company’s information. In terms of consideration of the company, the aim and title of the research was stated. Also the school and means of contacting the researcher (Mobile phone and student email address) was stated on the questionnaire cover page so as to assure the company that the researcher is really from an academic environment and that if there is/are any complaint about misuse for information given to the researcher, they know how to reach him or the appropriate quarters.

3.10 Informed Consent
Steps were taken in making sure that respondents were not deceived about the research thereby getting information from them with another ulterior motive. The cover page of the questionnaire contains information on the project title, aims and objectives. Also respondents who are not clear with any part of the questionnaire were given the privilege of getting a direct contact with the researcher through his mobile number and email address. Overall, the respondent is at liberty to withdraw his/her involvement in responding to the questions asked by the researcher if he/she feels not clear enough to give out his company’s information which could result into him/her loosing is contract with his employer.

As required by Staffordshire University/ APIIT research ethics, the following ethical considerations were adhered to and appropriate ethical forms were filled and submitted for research approval.

  • Careful evaluation of the ethical acceptability of research proposal.
  • Clear analyses of the potential impact of the research were stated. In case there is any negative consequences, there is need to ethically justify this and get it explained to the participants in advance for consent.
  • Participants involved in the whole research are informed of all the features contained in the research which might influence their willingness to participate.
  • Research data are treated with confidentiality and respect and are not shared with any third party without full consent of the respondent.

3.11 Research Design and Procedures
The research design deals with the particular way in which hypotheses or research questions are to be investigated and tested. It essential to decide a suitable design based on the philosophical doctrine of the research question and also time constraint to complete the whole task. Brewerton and Millward (2001) define research design as the strategy or schedule used to collect evidence, to analyze the findings and from which to draw conclusions. They also state that the design of this research is driven by some principles and characteristics of the three types of research design, such as case study, correlation design, and experimental design.

3.11.1 Case study or “now” Design
This design is the simplest. It is a description of a current situation or event with respect to a particular outcome of interest (strategies to cope) over a fixed time in the “here-and-now”. The benefits of the case study:

  1. It encourages a more in-depth examination of a particular situation than the rest.
  2. It yields rich information and enlightening and could also provide a new ahead-way or raise questions that might never have been thought of initially.
  3. Well-circumscribed and active groups of people are usually involved in this process creating an opportunity for the researcher to describe detailed events.

However, considering the positive side of this approach, the shortcomings arise mainly from difficulties with interpretation. There is no guaranteed method for determining the impact of an event which has not been controlled systematically. Additionally, problem might also arise when there is an absence of underlining information against which results obtained can be compared. To be able to over-ride such problems, equivalence of outcome can be done against some absolute standards of success.

3.11.2 Correlational Design
Correlational (or quantitative) design aims to explore the relationships existing between variables in a given field of study. The focus of this kind of design mainly examines relationships and interrelationships between processes. This design is based on the assumption that reality is best described as a system of interacting and mutually interdependent relationships.

3.11.3 Experimental Design
The experimental design deals with the manipulation of the independent variables, and the recording it causative effect on the dependent variable. Experimental designs are adopted in controlling for external variables as much as possible.

The fundamental ideology behind all the various types of designs explained above presuppose that something has occurred or presently taking place and that it needs to be examined. Therefore, the problem occurring could be an everyday activity or a special case staged for research purposes.

In line with the aforementioned designs explained above, this research design will adopt a “narrative case study design”. This design type will employ a quantitative technique to elicit and analyse descriptive qualitative information and also act as technique to classify countable data. These descriptive data can be obtained through journals, interviews, stimulated recall of experience along research path and questionnaire. But mainly, questionnaire is the information gathering instrument used.

Figure 3.4 below shows a diagrammatical framework of the research design outline.
Research Design Outline
Figure 3.4: Research Design Outline

3.12 Conclusion
This research covers the five fundamental topics that make up an academic research enterprise. Firstly, the researcher followed the traditional understanding of the research process. Then proceed to deciding which of the approach to use in the research. A combination of qualitative and quantitative approach (for data analysis) will be used. The purpose of and strategies for writing a research project of academic standard was also considered. As planning out intentions for research prior to data collection is necessary to ensuring qualitative project outcome. The issue of ethical implication of the project was also considered. Though this concept is often overlooked by the general public, but considering the community context in which the research is carried out (academic), the researcher of this project has to be familiar and adhere to the ethical standards set by the institution. Finally, in analyzing the data, a statistical-computing software package also known as SPSS will be used.

Use of CRM in Cameroon Microfinance Industry
Staffordshire University
Msc. in Technology Management / Ludovic KEUTCHA TANKEU

  1. Microfinance Industry – Research
  2. Understanding Relationship Management – Customer RM
  3. Customer Relationship Management and the Customer Differential
  4. CRM Applications and Technology
  5. Setting a Customer Relationship Management CRM Program
  6. The Customer Relationship Management Frameworks/Models
  7. What is Microfinance?
  8. METHODOLOGY (research CRM and Microfinance)
  9. Microfinance industry in Cameroon
  10. Objective Setting/Strategy Development – CRM program
  11. The Theoretical CRM Framework (Artefact Produced)
  12. Conclusions and recommendations, Microfinance