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ABSTRACT THESIS: Action Research as a Research Method: New Marketing Approaches Using Digital Telephony STUDENT: Rodney M.

Smith DEGREE: Master of Arts

COLLEGE: College of Communication, Information, and Media DATE: PAGES: July 2008 37

The purpose of this thesis is to explore the following research question: How does action research serve as a research method in the discipline of Communications? Specifically, this study will approach the question by analyzing existing literature on action research and also performing an action research trial of a new marketing approach using digital telephony. The study finds that action research has a combination of four characteristics that make it a discrete method of research. Action research involves collaboration, invokes change, requires a researchers vested interest, and allows a kind of knowing that can only come from direct involvement in a change.

ACTION RESEARCH AS A RESEARCH METHOD: NEW MARKETING APPROACHES USING DIGITAL TELEPHONY A THESIS SUBMITTED TO THE GRADUATE SCHOOL IN PARTIAL FULFILLMENT OF THE REQUIREMENTS FOR THE DEGREE MASTER OF ARTS BY RODNEY M. SMITH ADVISOR: DR. JAMES W. CHESEBRO BALL STATE UNIVERSITY MUNCIE, INDIANA JULY 2008

Acknowledgements Many thanks to my thesis committee: Dr. James W. Chesebro, Chair, who helped me to learn so much about communication theory and research methods over the last two years; Dr. Joseph Misiewicz, who guided me through the process of discovery at the graduate level; and Dr. Mary Spillman, for asking challenging and inspiring questions. Thanks as well to the Digital Storytelling graduate faculty and staff for their support, particularly Dr. Dominic Caristi , Nancy Carlson, Dr. Beth Messner, Dr. John Dailey, and Administrative Assistant Kris Scott. I am also thankful to have had the opportunity to work with Steve Baker on this project. He is a brilliant businessman and good friend. Thanks to the Digital Storytelling graduate colleagues for their friendships, insights, discussions and laughs. And most importantly, very special thanks to my wife Debra for her unending support and love.

Chapter 1: Introduction and Statement of the Research Question

The focus of this thesis is to analyze methods used by members of the discipline of communication to establish and reveal knowledge about the communication process. Specifically, this thesis maintains that a traditional set of methods currently define how research is conducted and how knowledge is to be understood. These traditional methods include quantitative, qualitative, critical, and applied research methods. More precisely, within the discipline of communication, some distinctions now exist about research and understandings that are worthy or not. Right now, for example, in terms of generating research, only two specific methods are normally recognizedthe quantitative method associated with science and social science, and the qualitative method associated with field and naturalistic research method (Keyton, 2001; Wimmer & Dominick, 2006). When the notion of research is expanded to include how people more generally know about the communication process, the question of knowing includes more than scientific and naturalistic methods. More generally, knowing includes experience, authority and science (Sparks, 2002). This broader conception of how we come to understand the communication process suggests that solely quantitative and qualitative methods are limited. In her book, Communication Theories in Action, author Julia T. Wood illustrates the quantitative, qualitative methods in communication (Wood, 1997). Wood describes the quantitative method as information gathering with the goal of interpreting the data so that the

2 numbers reveal communication behaviors to help argue a claim. The use of experiments, surveys and statistics are used to describe a research subject. The qualitative method puts importance on the explanation of an experience. Unobservable factors such as human perception and interpretations are valuable in this method. Analyzing and interpreting written text and the study of human activity are two commonly used forms of qualitative research, and are used to explain a research subject. Within this broader conception of how we come to know about communication, we now expect that other approaches to knowledge exist. These alternative methods would include the methods of the critic (Brock, Scott, & Chesebro, 1990), for the contributions of critics provide a way in which we can understand the meanings of communication. Critical research may take the form of reviews and essays, and go beyond description and explanation (Wood, 1997). This form of research judges a research subject. The judgments are informed, reasoned evaluations and assessments used to influence attitudes, beliefs and actions (Chesebro, Bertelsen, 1996). Additionally, alternative methods now include applied communication methods which have demonstrated that concentrated focuses on specific situations can reveal insights into the communication process that neither the social scientist or ethnographer can provide. Like the critical approach, applied research may rely on other methods of research, but should be distinguished from these other forms. Applied research is based on solving problems and brings into use theory and methodology in order to understand how communication can solve problems (OHair, Ploeger and Moore, 2009). The greatest distinction between applied research and other forms of research is that they are

3 usually client-centered efforts (OHair, Kreps and Frey1990). In other words, applied research consists of case studies that do not try to generalize, but are specific to a company or sponsor to predict a solution to a specific problem. The following chart illustrates the interdependency of all the research types mentioned.

Quantitative and Qualitative Research = Describes and Explains

Critical Research = Judges

Applied Research Predicts

Part of this thesis comes from a personal motivation of the author. The author has been working for 12 years as the owner of an audio marketing company, and was looking for ways to utilize digital technology to enhance marketing. Specifically, the company produces advertisements that are heard on telephone systems when callers are placed on hold. This study could not be purely defined by the four previously mentioned research

4 methods. The focus would need to include a determination of what method of research would be most effective with this emerging communication technology. So, one of the purposes of this thesis will be to define action research. What is posited in this thesis is that action research involves collaboration, invokes change, requires a researchers vested interest, and allows a kind of knowing that can only come from direct involvement in a change. The second part of the thesis involves performing two extended trial examples of action research. The research method, as defined in this paper, will be utilized and analyzed for effectiveness. Chapter 2 will examine the history and attributes of action research as they exist in published literature of the discipline of communications. Chapter 3 will use the definition of action research gained from Chapter 2 to perform an actual action research trial. Specific characteristics of the research method will be implemented, analyzed and reported. The chapter will also describe the action research project in detail: the problem, solution, purpose and significance of the research. Chapter 4 is the authors 2007 Central States Communication Association complete research paper which demonstrates action research in the discipline of communication. Finally, Chapter 5 will cover the major conclusions and limitations of the study.

Chapter 2: Review of Literature on Action Research

This chapter examines the history and attributes of action research as they exist in published literature of the discipline. The survey will include some evaluative claims of the utility of some of these publications. By the end of the chapter, an explicit definition will emerge which compares it to four other research methods: quantitative, qualitative, critical and applied. The precise origins of action research are not clear, but most literature points to the work of Kurt Lewin in the mid-1940s as the first constructed theory. Lewin argued that to understand and change certain social practices, social scientists have to include practitioners from the real social world in all phases of inquiry (McKernan, 1991). According to Janet Masters, action research was initially applied to the field of education (Masters, 1995). It was later used in the work of John Dewey to solve problems in philosophy, psychology and education. Kurt Lewin then used action research for a variety of groups experiencing problems. He also developed and documented the steps of reflection, planning, action and observation. Masters defines three types of action research: Technical Action Research, Mutual-Collaboration Action Research, and Participatory Action Research. The following chart summarizes the attributes of each type.

Philosophical Base The nature of reality Problem

Technical Action Research Natural Sciences Single, measurable, fragmental Defined in advance Separate

Mutual - Collaboration Action Research Historical - hermeneutic Multiple, constructed, holistic Defined in situation

Relationship between the Knower and Known Focus of collaboration theory Type of knowledge produced Change duration The nature of understanding

Interrelated, dialogic

Participatory Action Research Critical Sciences Social, economic. Exists with problems of equity and hegemony Defined in the situation based on values clarification Interrelated, embedded in society

Technical validation, refinement, deduction Predictive

Mutual understanding, new theory, inductive

Descriptive

Mutual emancipation, validation, refinement, new theory, inductive, deductive Predictive, descriptive

Short lived Events explained in terms of real causes and simultaneous effects

Uncover and understand what constrains equity and supports hegemony to free oneself of false consciousness and change practice toward more equity Note. From Masters, J (1995) The History of Action Research in I. Hughes (ed) Action Research Electronic Reader, The University of Sydney, on-line http://www.behs.cchs.usyd.edu.au/arow/Reader/rmasters.htm (download date 06.14.2008)

The role of value in research Purpose of research

Value free Discovery of laws underlying reality

Longer lasting, dependent on individuals Events are understood through active mental work, interactions with external context, transactions between one's mental work and external context Value bounded Understand what occurs and the meaning people make of phenomena

Social change, emancipation Events are understood in terms of social and economic hindrances to true equity

Related to values of equity

According to Masters, a technical action research project will have the following characteristics:

7 1. The project is started by a person or group because they are seen as authority figures or experts in their field. 2. Personal participation by the practitioners is encouraged, and aids in the process of improvement. The results are the accumulation of predictive knowledge and the focus is on the validation and refinement of existing theories. 3. The problem to be addressed comes from conversations between the practitioners and the researcher until a mutual direction is agreed upon. There must also be an open flow of communication between the facilitator and the group. Mutual-collaboration action research project will have the following characteristics: 1. The facilitator and the participants work together to identify the problem, causes and possible solutions. 2. 3. The personal knowledge of the participants is valued and utilized. Personal judgment is valued and autonomous, deliberative action is encouraged. This characteristic is also referred to as Praxis. (Praxis is a term used by Aristotle and is defined as acting on ones conditions in order to change them. Theoria is an opposite Aristotelian term that means activities that are concerned with the knowing, for its own sake.) Participatory action research project will have the following characteristics:

8 1. A critical consciousness is encouraged. In other words, problems are identified by raising the collective consciousness of the participants. This may include greater awareness of a theory or practice. 2. 3. Critical intent is what motivates action among the participants. The action produces emancipation of the participants, or freedom from a restraint, control or power. For another perspective, Seymour-Rolls and Hughes define action research as collective, self-reflective inquiry undertaken by participants in social situations in order to improve the rationality and justice of their own socialpractices. (Seymour-Rolls and Hughes, 1995). The research consists of four parts that include reflection, planning, action and observation. Reflection includes the collaborative discussion among the researcher and participants to identify a concern or problem. During the discussion, a plan may arise about what the action may be and then an evaluation of the potential outcomes. The action is a deliberate and strategic step to make a change in real-time. Potential effects can then be observed and compared with the changes outlined in the plan. Author Rory OBrien says that action research is learning by doing (OBrien, 2001). A group of people identify a problem, do something to resolve it, see how successful their efforts were, and if not satisfied, try again. OBrien goes on to state that action research requires the active collaboration of researcher and client and thus stresses the importance of co-learning as a primary aspect of the research process. In this way, action research differs from a traditional research approach in which the researcher goes out in the field as an expert of a given topic. Problems are identified and action is

9 taken by both the research facilitator and the participants. The subsequent results are also analyzed by both the research facilitator and the participants. OBrien goes on to say that by involving the participants in each step of action research, they become co-learners and researchers themselves. He claims that people learn best and are more willing to apply what they have learned in this scenario. And finally, Learning from experience: principles and practice in action-research (Winter, 1989) illustrates the following important principles regarding action research: 1. Reflective critique This principle ensures that participants share their concerns, biases, assumptions and interpretations. These accounts are what give rise to the theoretical developments. 2. Dialectical critique By analyzing the language of a group, or the relationships among a group, elements will arise that are unstable. These are the elements that are most likely to initiate change. 3. Risk Changes will almost always illicit fear amongst the participants. Therefore, this principle identifies the importance of the research initiator to communicate that the entire group will be subject to the process, and that through allowing unexpected outcomes, learning will happen. 4. Plural Structure Rather than having the goal of one outcome, the understanding must be that there may be several outcomes, options, opinions and interpretations.

10 A report is therefore viewed as a tool for ongoing discussion rather than a final conclusion of fact. 5. Theory, Practice, Transformation Theory informs practice, practice refines theory, in a continuous transformation. The researchers will make theoretical justifications for actions taken and question the basis of those justifications. The cycle continues until an agreed upon conclusion. There is an abundance of literature on action research, and this review is not comprehensive. However, the literature that was reviewed contained many different definitions and uses of action research. Much of the literature supports the common traits, while other literature demonstrates little distinction from quantitative, qualitative, critical or applied methods of research. Based on this review, the key characteristics of action research are participation, collaboration, vested interest and knowledge that can only come from being directly involved in the change. In the following chapter, 16 steps of action research will be implemented to see how the reflection-planning-actionobservation cycle works in a communication-based research project.

Chapter 3: An Action Research Trial

Smart Technology Services, Inc. is a call center and helpdesk that services primarily state office and educational computing needs. CEO Mr. Stephen C. Baker was looking for a way to customize the advertisements playing on the companys phone system while customers were waiting on hold. Currently, all callers hear the same group of advertisements. With such a diverse client base, the research question became, How can on-hold advertisements be customized for callers placed on hold? Before describing the methodology for the experiment, the planning phase required an understanding of the history and components of marketing on-hold. Specific steps will be utilized to organize the action research study, followed by the study results. Background The telephone has been one of the most utilized communication tools in the last century. Initially invented as a way to provide a sound enabled version of the telegraph, the telephone was to become integral to every home and business in the world (Coe, 1995). As with most technologies, features and enhancements to the telephone have developed over time. Initially, the telephone only connected one transmitter to one receiver and was either active (off hook) or inactive (on hook). Telephone companies later developed and incorporated features such as call waiting, caller ID, and call forwarding. Business telephone systems also became more advanced, using their own in-

12 house switching systems to efficiently utilize the phone lines and provide even more flexibility and features such as call transfer, conference call and call hold. In the last few decades, more companies are providing services via the telephone with more features becoming available. The main challenge in providing customer service over the telephone is keeping the efficiency and quality in balance. Companies with large call centers will receive thousands of calls in a day, and each of these call demands a fast response (Garnett, Mandelbaum, & Reiman, 2002). In their article on Telephone Call Centers, Gans, Koole & Mandelbaum (2003) found the following: Telephone call centers are an integral part of many businesses, and their economic role is significant and growing. They are also fascinating sociotechnical systems in which the behavior of customers and employees is closely intertwined with physical performance measures. According to Deborah Crowes article in the Los Angeles Business Journal, Marketing On-Hold was born when a Santa Monica radio salesperson Rick Hodges was waiting on the phone for one of his clients (Crowe, 2006). The client had a local radio station playing on their telephone hold circuit. Hodges was horrified to hear an advertisement from his clients competitor. It was then that he knew there must be a way to get his clients own information playing, and sell to this captive audience. In 1980, the custom Marketing On-Hold industry was born when Hodges founded Audio Marketing Systems Inc., now based in Culver City. Since then, many competitors have jumped into the market following technological advances that made it easier for companies to have professionally recorded customer messages.

13 Marketing On-Hold created a way to keep a caller entertained or informed with music and/or verbal prompts while waiting for the other caller to return to the line. Businesses can control the content of the messages, control the music, use the time to sell a captive audience, reduce call abandonment, and give the business a professional image. Marketing On-Hold can be custom-created to suit the particular needs of a business. The announcements can be scripted to emphasize particular attributes of the business such as location, store hours, or special promotions or services. These are typically used for upselling and cross-selling callers. To produce a Marketing On-Hold message, information must be gathered from the customer. The information can be gathered through interviewing key personnel, synthesizing information from a company brochure, website, or questionnaire. A script writer then takes that gathered information and creates a series of brief written advertisements that fit into a predetermined length. Generally, the advertisements are loosely based around the conventions of the 30 second radio or television advertisements. The following two paragraphs demonstrate a set of typical Marketing On-Hold messages.
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After the messages are written by a script writer, they are recorded by a voiceover professional. Again, the radio conventions of using a pleasing, professional voice are typically utilized. A group of messages are then edited and interspersed with music by an audio engineer to create a seamless production that can be played in an endless loop on the customers telephone system. The finished production is then distributed to the customer(s) via a variety of means, from a cassette tape, CD, by transfer over the phone, or mp3 audio files. In her article from Bank Marketing, author Jamie Thibults says, But do me one personal favor, do not use the phrase Your call is very important to us. If that was the case you wouldn't lessen the caller's priority by putting them on-hold in the first place, and you certainly wouldn't use a disembodied voice to make the apology. (Thibault, 2002). The misuse of Marketing On-Hold can lead to aggravated callers. Often times they are too generic in nature, and there is no way to know what messages were heard and who heard them. Few things are more dreaded among telephony end users than the short yet foreboding phrase, Please hold. Perhaps what bothers folks is that they never know quite how long they're going to be on hold, or maybe it's the notion that they're going to have to re-explain themselves to a whole new person who winds up on the line after the hold time is over with. Fortunately, music-on-hold makes that wait time a little bit more tolerable. (Wallingford, 2005). Like radio and television, Marketing On-Hold uses a mass marketing approach. The format and use of Marketing On-Hold has remained relatively unchanged for the last

15 decade. However, just as the Internet has changed the way that marketers can monitor customer traffic, marketers also have the ability to customize advertisements specifically to each customer. Therefore, with new computer-based VoIP systems, Marketing OnHold messages can be customized specifically for callers, and can also be tracked for sales and marketing purposes. As the telephony industry is seeing new technology emerging through digital and internet capabilities, opportunities are also opening for companies to provide their Marketing On-Hold services in a new way; the advertising can now be offered in a way that is customized to each individual caller, rather than providing identical messages on a mass scale. One possible solution may be the utilization of software driven systems which analyze the Caller ID of each incoming call. The Caller ID could be compared with phone numbers collected in a database either from customer records, surveys or other data collection methods. If a match is made between the Caller ID and the phone number in the database, specific customized messages could be delivered to the caller while they are waiting to be transferred to a representative. Example #1. A consumer has a question about an air filter that was purchased from XYZ, Inc. and calls the customer service center. Because the consumer had purchased the air filter online, they provided their phone number during registration. When they call, their Caller ID is analyzed for past purchases and demographic information. From that information, specific advertising can be provided to the customer while they are waiting for a representative. The content could include: 1) Answers to frequently asked questions about the product they

16 currently have; 2) Promotions for new products that they may need in conjunction with their prior purchases; 3) Pertinent information based on their age, location, or other demographic information; or 4) Entertainment, news, weather or sports that are customized for the area they are calling from. Example #2. The same company, XYZ, Inc., has a dealer that is calling in to check the status of an order. This time, the dealers Caller ID can be analyzed and matched with the dealers sales history. If the dealers sales for a particular item are low or nonexistent, then the Marketing On-Hold promotions can be targeted to inform the caller about those products. The benefit in both examples is that caller receives pertinent information. But even more importantly the company has a cost effective way to target the pertinent information rather than by human interaction. The perception for the caller is that they are being delivered information that is useful rather than arbitrary. The information can be both entertaining and informational. Ultimately, the system could be utilized as a fulltime sales and marketing system with the cost effectiveness and reliability of an automated system. One limitation in this system is the ability of the caller to block their Caller Identification. There is no way around this limitation and would result in a separate bank of messages that would be generic in content. A new system for marketing via digital telephony would also provide traceable information about what advertisements were played, how long the advertisements played, how many times the customer heard the advertisement and any resultant outcomes. An

17 advertisements effectiveness could be evaluated based on units sold or trends in sales compared to advertisement frequency, content and customization. The following action research project was aimed at incorporating this new system for marketing via digital telephony. This advertising system becomes another enhancement of a sales and marketing effort. This new system would provide a service that is more dynamic and profitable than what is currently utilized in businesses today. 16 Steps Involved in the Action Research Trial The steps for this action research project were based upon McTaggarts work and his 16 tenets of Participatory Action Research (McTaggart, 1989). Each tenet will be followed by an example of how it was realized during the research project. Tenet 1. Action research is an approach to improving social practice by changing it. In this research project, Smart Technology Services, Inc., a Chicago-based call center and computer helpdesk was commissioned to incorporate a change to their telephone on-hold system. The anticipated improvement would be to better customize the advertisements that the callers would hear Tenet 2. Action research is contingent on authentic participation. McTaggart uses the reflecting, planning, action and observation model described in Chapter 2 to define this tenet. At Smart Technology Services, Inc., initial communication indicated an interest in advertisement customization. This information was reflected upon, and a plan was developed. An exploratory change was scheduled, after which data would be collected and reflected upon.

18 Tenet 3. Action research is collaborative. The facilitator of this project (the writer of this paper) and the CEO of Smart Technology Services, Inc., Mr. Stephen C. Baker, initially collaborated and then later expanded the collaboration to include a group of employees in the call center/helpdesk. The participant selection was based upon how their daily practices were directly affected by the proposed change. An entire work day was scheduled for the facilitator to visit the facilities of Smart Technology Services, Inc. The approach of the facilitator was not one of an expert, but of a collaborator. Tenet 4. Action research establishes self-critical communities. The aim of action research is to gain a group of people actively participating in the reflectionplanning-action-observation process. By doing so, the group becomes a community of people committed to discovering the circumstances, actions and consequences of the project. It was the directive of Baker to select a group of his employees who understood this tenet. Tenet 5. Action research is a systematic learning process. In other words, the participants must act with intention yet be open to unexpected results. In the case of Smart Technology Services, Inc., all participants were informed that results may be unexpected and they were not looking for a prescribed result. On the contrary, the participants were to be receptive to learning from the change. Tenet 6. Action research involves people in theorizing about their practices. This tenet encourages inquisition of the participants into their own practices. The participatory groups at Smart Technology Services, Inc. consisted of various supervisory and managerial functions of the call center. Each person was

19 encouraged to reflect upon the planned change and how it would affect their individual functions. Tenet 7. Action research requires that people put their practices, ideas and assumptions about institutions to the test. Each participant at Smart Technology Services, Inc. was made aware of the exploratory nature of the reflecting, planning, action and observation process. The understanding was that the action may challenge the prescribed way of doing things. Tenet 8. Action research involves keeping records. All meetings at Smart Technology Services, Inc. were recorded using a small handheld digital recorder. Written notes were also taken by the CEOs Administrative Assistant. Tenet 9. Action research requires participants to objectify their own experiences. In other words, participants must be active in keeping notes in a journal, reflecting about how the process is developing and how the action research is going. This tenet was not effectively incorporated at Smart Technologies, Inc., however further study would benefit from all participants keeping notes on their individual experiences. Tenet 10. Action research is a political process. It involves making changes that will affect other people within the system and can create resistance. Within this meeting, a small cycle of planning, action and reflection led to a point where the group had to include more participants who were more qualified to make a critical analysis. The second group created a more political environment and there was more resistance to incorporate the proposed changes. Mr. Baker tried diffusing the resistance by reiterating that this was a self-critical process and that

20 everyone must be open to unexpected results. The resistance was initiated by a highly respected team member who was a top level technician for the call center. After hearing the plan, he deemed the action was not technically possible with the current telephony equipment. Once the facilitator was confident that the resistance was legitimate, and not just reactionary, the action phase came to an end. Politically, given what the participants gave of their time and facility, the research served its purpose. However, this researcher views this only as one case study and is actively searching for other companies for further action research. Tenet 11. Action research requires making critical analyses. Conflicts that arise from a change to an institutionally structured system may create the need for critical analyses by the action researcher (participants and/or facilitator). The analyses will help the action researcher act politically when dealing with others involved in the process. It will help them deal with conflicts and communicate the plan and intentions of the project. And finally, it will help create rational understandings and make the work more fulfilling for all involved. Because the CEO of Smart Technology Services, Inc. knew his employees the best, he was most affective at applying this tenet. Tenet 12. Action research starts small. By working on small changes that can be easily managed, the action research project is more easily controlled with the goal being to incorporate more extensive changes as the project evolves. The planning phase of this action research project consisted of email correspondence and telephone conversations between the facilitator and the CEO of the company.

21 Basic information was gathered about the needs of the company and their current operation. Tenet 13. Action research starts with small cycles. The cycles of reflection, planning, action and observing initially help define what the problems may be. More powerful questions can then evolve as ideas and assumptions become clearer. This narrowed the idea to a supposedly executable action research project. Tenet 14. Action research starts with small groups. When working with Smart Technology Services, Inc., the facilitator (author of this paper) met with the CEO of the company first. The second group included 2 additional people to extend the reflection-planning-action-observation process. The third group included all of the previous two groups plus an additional participatory group of 5 people. Participants are added gradually to widen the community of researchers as the plan evolves. Tenet 15. Action research allows and requires participants to build records. The group must be able to show evidence of a group dynamic where everyone expects that their claims can be supported and can give such evidence. Respect must be shown, and value must be given toward the evidence given. The participants must be able to defend this evidence to convince others. Baker demanded an environment of respect, yet allowed the free flow of ideas and objections. Tenet 16. Action research allows and requires participants to give a reasoned justification of their work to others. The participants must show the evidence

22 that has been gathered and the reflection they have done that led to the rationale for change. By creating this rationale through critical analysis, the participants can legitimately ask others to incorporate such changes and become participants in the action research cycle. Action Research Trial Results To verify a solution, Call Accounting and Marketing On-Hold must be combined. The biggest obstacle is finding a VoIP program that is open source, or can be custom programmed by the end user. One such telephony program is called Asterisk, an open source, converged telephony platform, which is designed primarily to run on Linux. Van Meggelen, Smith & Madsen (2007) describe the system with the following: Asterisk combines more than 100 years of telephony knowledge into a robust suite of tightly integrated telecommunications applications. The power of Asterisk lies in its customizable nature, complemented by unmatched standards compliance. No other PBX can be deployed in so many creative ways. Applications such as voicemail, hosted conferencing, call queuing and agents, music on hold, and call parking are all standard features built right into the software. Moreover, Asterisk can integrate with other business technologies in ways that closed, proprietary systems can not. (Van Meggelen, Smith, & Madsen, 2007). In terms of time placed on hold, the callers to Smart Technology Services spent about eight seconds on average. The short hold time indicated that the company employed an adequate number of customer service representatives to handle the volume of calls received. In speaking with Stephen C. Baker, President and CEO of the

23 company, putting the callers on hold was seen as a negative. Therefore, a greater effort was made to hire and train call center personnel to meet call demand. In the short average wait time of eight seconds, customization and traceability may not make an impact. However, Baker did comment that in focusing on shorter hold times, the quality of his staff may be compromised. Instead, he could utilize a smaller, better educated and loyal group of call center employees. The on-hold times may increase, but the quality of the customer service may improve. Smart Technology Services, Inc. currently utilizes a survey response system at the end of each call. Out of 750 calls, Baker says that he receives approximately 200 survey responses. While this may seem like a decent response, he says that he would like more responses. His concern is that the people that are not responding may have had a bad experience. The company is looking into ways to determine if their clients are satisfied, and give their clients incentives for taking the surveys. Ultimately, Baker is looking to change his business model to cater to smaller numbers of clients in more profound ways. In other words, rather than mass marketing to 4000 potential customers, he would rather use the same marketing dollars to build solid relationships with 400 of his best clients. It is this philosophy that he hopes will bring much greater client satisfaction and ultimately the referrals that would not come from any form of marketing. The company can look at their Marketing On-Hold in the same way. Instead of mass marketing to all of their callers with generic messages, each of their clients can hear Marketing On-Hold that is personalized, interactive and traceable.

24 Baker thought that by recognizing a client by their caller ID, he could record personalized messages to the client during their hold time. He felt that in many cases, the hold time is speaking for him; it is a reflection of him and his company. The on-hold content could actually have more contact with the client than he does. Another idea was to make the on-hold time interactive. In other words, create an experience for the caller when they are placed on-hold. Let them choose from a menu of options. They can choose to listen to music, news, weather, finance by pressing a touch tone key, thus making the experience positive and showing the client that their time is valued. Also, by tracing what is heard by the customer, the Marketing On-Hold content could be used to show a correlation between what was heard and their satisfaction rates. Data that is gathered could be used to further customize the content for each client. The current limitation is technology. The telephone system at Smart Technology Services, Inc. is an Avaya system. Mr. Baker would have incorporated some or all of the Marketing On-Hold ideas presented, if his equipment would allow it. Unfortunately, the features can not be added on to the proprietary Avaya system. Instead, the features would have to be developed and integrated by Avaya, who would then upgrade the system. Telephony products like Asterisk that are open source could also be utilized, but much time and specialized programming must still be accomplished for this product to be implemented. The most important finding of this experiment was that Mr. Baker has a need for this product in his call center, but telephony technology must evolve further before it can be implemented.

Chapter 4: An Academic Paper Utilizing Action Research

The following paper was written by the author of this thesis and presented at the 2007 Central States Communication Association Conference. This paper demonstrates how action research was transformed into an academic paper and presented in more traditional academic terms. In researching the topic, the author learned about the nature of online marketing by actively participating and collaborating within online communities. The author also had a vested interest because he owns a marketing company that benefited from the research results.

26 MySpace: An Advertising Frontier for Google? Central States Communication Association Conference Research Panel Presenter: Rodney M. Smith April 28, 2007

In the last 20 years, advertisers having shifted their approach to potential consumers. The days of mass marketing, when the whole family would gather around the radio or television, have evolved. Instead of gathering around a storyteller be it on a radio or on a television - young people are more often found gathering in front of their computer screen on a social network such as MySpace.com. So, how does a company like Google, who invested 900 million dollars for advertising and search engine rights in the MySpace network (Clark, 2007), plan to harness the spending power of this generation? With todays interactive digital technology, advertisers can customize a marketing message to each person a shift from mass marketing to what will be referred to as micro-marketing. This paper examines how a social network like MySpace challenges the definition of community, redefines the institution of demographics and lifestyle analysis in marketing, and creates a new method of customized advertising for adolescents. Turning to my first concern: How can we understand MySpace as a community? Being in community is an important aspect of a persons identity. This need has manifested itself on the Internet with a plethora of community websites. The most popular of these among adolescents and young adults is called MySpace. MySpace is a social networking website offering an interactive, user-submitted network of friends,

27 personal profiles, blogs, groups, photos, music and videos. MySpace also features an internal search engine and an internal e-mail system. It is currently the world's sixth most popular English-language website, the sixth most popular website in any language, and the third most popular website in the United States. (Kharif, 2006) People are curious about it. So, why is it so popular among young adults? A PEW/Internet report states that, compared to four years ago, teens use of the internet has intensified and broadened as they log on more often and do more things when they are online. Online communities are also replacing traditional communities. According to a recent NYT article, an hour of time spent using the Internet reduces face-to-face contact with friends, co-workers and family by 23.5 minutes, lowers the amount of time spent watching television by 10 minutes and shortens sleep by 8.5 minutes (Markoff, 2004). My Space provides two basic, seemingly unrelated needs for adolescents. On one hand, they're willing to conform so that they might be accepted to a social group. On the other hand, they crave to make their individual mark among their peers. By posting to MySpace, an adolescents need to belong to a group is fulfilled. By designing his or her own message, and hopefully developing a network of like minded individuals, the adolescent's need for individuality is also answered. These two seemingly unrelated needs are arguably key driving forces that have made the Internet a comfortable haven for the world of young adolescents, perhaps explaining the attraction that somehow turns spaces like MySpace into overnight sensations.

28 Is it any surprise that marketers have come to see these showcases for adolescents as new platforms that can be used in reaching an influential young audience? Television, Radio, Newspaper and Billboards are all forms marketing that have traditionally worked at reaching a mass audience both young and old alike. Young adults want to find places where they can gather without the influence of parents. Computers and digital technology have created a new environment where they can have a virtual reality that is uniquely theirs. It is a place where they can be social, express themselves and interact privately, without being judged or scrutinized by older adults. Of course, advertisers have discovered the popularity of digital technology among their consumers, and Google has the technology they need to reach this audience. Early marketing on the internet in the form of Spyware, Adware and Spam took on a mass media approach without foreseeing the lifestyle of an emerging generation. The backlash to most Internet marketing schemes was the creation of a public that is very weary and cynical about pop-up ads and spam. A digitally savvy population is basically ignoring the more invasive forms of advertising. Marketers are no longer dealing with a helpless consumer. While technology is creating media fragmentation, a new generation of young people are emerging who are increasingly expert at manipulating digital information and consuming it on their own terms. Most of Google's revenue is derived from its online advertising programs. Google not only paid for advertising and search engine rights on MySpace, but also acquired YouTube for a reported $1.65 billion in Google stock. It is no coincidence that YouTube videos are an integral part of many MySpace pages. Among every MySpace page is an advertisement supplied by Google. (Graham, 2006) Google AdWords allows

29 website advertisers to display advertisements in Google's search results and the Google Content Network, through either a cost-per-click or cost-per-view scheme. Retrospectively, with Google AdSense, website owners can display advertisements on their own site, and earn money every time it is clicked. So, if most of Googles revenue is derived from online advertising programs, how are they securing their future? In one sense, MySpace is the perfect vehicle for an advertiser like Google. The target audience provided all of the information Google needs. Every member of MySpace enters a profile of information to share with their friends. Theoretically speaking, advertising can be targeted to each user by basing it on the information in their profile. Because of the interactivity of websites, the advertising effectiveness can be measured immediately. Amazon.com already customizes the website visit for every customer by looking at past purchases, recently viewed items and profile information. Googles Gmail service scans every email for key words, and places content specific banner ads in the margins of an email. Additionally, advertisers can get a pulse on the pop culture of a demographic from the music, videos and photos they place on their site. Imagine if an advertiser also knew what television shows and movies were watched? Advertising on MySpace is evolving, but micro-marketing in combination with understanding the values of the user will go a long way in building an emotional relationship with entertaining and engaging ads. These ads are provided as entertainment, yet are still successful at increasing branding and sales. Micro-marketing is a new approach to advertising on social networks. By customizing advertisements based on user profile data, the products can be positioned to become a friend not a stranger. Tie the positive emotion of gaining a virtual friend to a product instead of

30 boring the audience with its details. Online friends have a powerful pull. In 2006, about 100,000 people signed up to be friends with the animated square hamburger from Wendys Old Fashioned Hamburger television commercials. If someone finds the friend to be innovative, entertaining or even absurd, they will pass it on to other friends. Mass media and mass marketing are not going away, but the successful advertising companies will continue to customize the advertisements and target their audience. They are finding creative ways to advertise that do not isolate and homogenize, but empower and entertain. Google sees the power of converging media. They can imagine a social network where people not only share their profiles, photos, icons and music but also watch television shows and movies through their computers and mobile phones. Google is strategically securing its place with this upcoming generation and understands the power of the advertising dollar.

Chapter 5: Conclusions

Overview So, what is action research? Action research involves collaboration, invokes change, requires a researchers vested interest, and allows a kind of knowing that can only come from direct involvement in a change. The literature reviewed in Chapter 2 contained many different definitions and uses of action research. Much of the literature supports the common traits, while other literature demonstrates little distinction from quantitative, qualitative, critical or applied methods of research. The case studies in Chapters 3 and 4 illustrated that unlike an applied researcher or consultant, the action researcher is not hired by a company. Rather, this researcher is invested in the project and its outcomes. While all research methods provide useful tools to the researcher, action research is uniquely able to utilize experts in the field who would not typically be participants in the research process, yet they provide valuable and arguably necessary input. In the sample action research study, the author of this paper acted as the facilitator. For the scholar who is interested in predicting, observing, documenting and creating changes or patterns in technology, making these experts actual participants and collaborators in the research process is effective.

32 However, the characteristic that makes action research truly unique lies in the roll of the researcher. In the sample action research study, the facilitator and author of this paper had a vested interest in the design and implementation of customized marketing using digital telephony because he owns an audio marketing company that specializes in telephone on-hold advertising. The researcher in action research is not hired by a company, but is participating with a group of people in a vested interest. Whether the purpose is to profit monetarily, sell something or promote a cause, the researcher joins the team in an effort to reform the situation for his or her benefit. The following chart illustrates the research methods mentioned in this paper, along with examples, definitions and goals.

Research Examples Quantitative Surveys, Questionaire Qualitative Unobtrusive Observation, Open-ended Questions, Ethnography Reviews and Essays

Definition Behaviors Cultural

Goal Describes Explains

Critical

Applied Action

Case Studies Sales, Marketing, Politics

Assessments and evaluations, designed to influence attitudes, beliefs and actions Client-Centered Problem Solving Vested Interest in the design and outcome of the research

Judges

Predicts Reforms

Limitations Based on traditional social science research, the limitations of this study include a small sample size, the instability of the research type, and the open-ended nature of the

33 study. Because of the participatory nature of action research and the tenet of starting small and allowing cycles of change to evolve, achieving a large sample size would be time restrictive. However, this is not the goal of the research method. Instability is also not traditionally a favorable condition in research. However, action research sees the instability as an opportunity for further reflection, planning, action and observation. In the sample project involving on-hold marketing using digital telephony, a major limitation was not being able to complete an action research cycle. While valuable information was collected, the goal of change was not actually achieved. However, given time, a secondary cycle of action research will continue the work in progress and eventually lead to actual change. For future action research projects, the recommendation is that the planning phase confirms that change is viable prior to initiating an action phase. By incorporating key participants earlier in the cycle, this limitation could have been avoided. In regards to sample size, future research would include multiple projects using similar change goals. The benefit of this methodology would allow for a comparison of outcomes among similar scenarios. However, the role of the facilitator is critical in planning, acting, observing and reflecting upon the outcome. For consistency, the same facilitator would be required to coordinate multiple projects. The time intensive nature of action research may prohibit this luxury. Otherwise, the use of multiple facilitators would be inconsistent because of the varying degrees of facilitator efficacy.

34 Finally, because the researcher is invested in the outcome of the research, they may bias their own research. However, alternative research methods provide their own limitations without the benefits that action research provides. Concluding Statement Companies worldwide have used the same tenets of action research in board rooms and brainstorming sessions to develop and enhance products and change procedures. The academic community can enhance their research by not only standing on the shoulders of their peers and predecessors, but also by walking along side and collaborating with the great achievers of today. This unique combination of scholarship, collaboration, participation, and vested interest make action research a unique asset to the researcher who is personally involved, professionally invested and academically oriented.

35

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