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Conducting stakeholder research in the transport sector

James Rentoul Senior Director 03/03/2021

Stakeholder engagement is an essential tool for success for any organisation in the transport sector.

Understanding your standing among stakeholders, and your strengths and weaknesses, is a prerequisite for being able to manage and improve your reputation.

The combination of a highly regulated environment, organisational interdependence and the unprecedented changes brought on by COVID-19 mean that it is essential for transport organisations to have a strong understanding of their external stakeholders.

Understanding your standing among stakeholders, and your strengths and weaknesses, is a prerequisite for being able to manage and improve your reputation. Research of this type allows organisations to drive continuous improvement in communications and operations, and maintain confidence among stakeholders, funders and investors. Ensuring that you are working with, rather than against, stakeholders will allow you to deliver on organisational objectives and overcome problems in partnership.

Below are six key things to bear in mind when measuring what stakeholders think of you:

  1. Identify your stakeholder audience. This can be a diverse group, taking in customers, industry, government, passenger groups, charities and more. It is essential to have a clear understanding of who your stakeholder audience consists of, and how it breaks down among different groups. Mapping out stakeholders allows you to consider who your key influencers are and target them effectively.
  2. Ask the right questions. Typically, the most effective approach is to combine a mix of tracking metrics to measure performance over time, and topical questioning to address the challenges and issues of the day. Within these it is important to ask about the topics that will let you drive improvement: we recommend at a minimum exploring performance, communications and future plans.
  3. Identify your KPIs. Research should assess the key metrics for your organisation, and so a crucial question is how you will be measuring success. This could be based on known areas of organisational focus, requirements from a regulator or funding body, or on measures to feed into a wider organisational scorecard or matrix. Often, it is helpful to define a number of KPIs across performance (e.g. service delivery) and communications (e.g. quality of engagement), as well as creating an holistic, one-number score across your metrics that can be easily communicated to senior executives.
  4. Engage with your stakeholders in the right way. We recommend combining both quantitative and qualitative measurement to provide both robust, reliable indices and in-depth insight. An online survey, supported by telephone, allows you to evaluate performance, where in-depth qualitative interviews capture unanticipated insight and advise on recommendations.
  5. Ensure insight gets taken on board. Research is only valuable if it is used to drive action and facilitate continuous improvement. Making sure your results are clear, accessible and action-focused will help to ensure they are taken on board internally, rather than sitting on a shelf. Holding debriefs and action workshops will help secure buy-in from senior executives and other parts of the business.
  6. Show gratitude for stakeholder input. Busy people have given up their time to help you, and nobody likes feeling that they are shouting into the void. Thank your stakeholders for participating, tell them what you have heard and how you are going to be acting on it.

For more information on managing reputation and risk download our guide here. Alternatively to find out how we will support you to effectively engage with key stakeholders please get in touch.

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