Technology Spain , Salamanca, Friday, March 27 of 2015, 11:26

The UPSA researches the key factors of corporate reputation

Experts from the Universidad Pontificia de Salamanca have analysed the aspects that influence the perception of the electricity and insurance sector and are currently studying on-line reputation management

José Pichel Andrés/DICYT The Technological Management and Knowledge Ethics research group of the Universidad Pontificia de Salamanca (UPSA) has been researching the key factors of corporate reputation for the past five years. The analysis and the measurement of the perception of different groups of the public of two key sectors of the economy, that of electricity companies and that of insurance companies, has currently given rise to research in an avant-garde field: on-line reputation management.


“Corporate reputation is the way in which companies are perceived by all groups having dealings with them: clients, the specialised press, society as a whole, workers, and possible investors”, DiCYT is told by Marcelo Vallejo, professor of the Faculty of Computer Studies of the UPSA and the person directing this line of research. All parties that are related to companies generate a series of perceptions that exert a great influence.


By means of two research projects, Vallejo and his team have recently measured the level of corporate reputation of both electricity companies and insurance companies as a whole, studying the various groups that influence it. “We have approached clients, journalists specialising in this kind of information, workers' representatives, management personnel, and even the specific bodies regulating each sector”, he explains.


The study has served to assess a series of dimensions that are considered to be “generators of the opinion that the various groups have of the companies”; each part of the public to which they are related attaches greater or lesser importance to each of them. For example, clients value quality products at the right price, while workers give more importance to the working environment: the relationship with the companies, payment, job security, or training.


The techniques used to analyse the perceptions of the various groups were varied, ranging from focus groups, group meetings to give rise to debate among experts, to random sampling and personal interviews. A large proportion of these actions were carried out in Madrid and Barcelona as these are the main headquarters of the companies.


Conclusions by sectors


The insurance sector obtained a good overall assessment as the relations with the various groups are satisfactory. “The feeling is that the sector has withstood the crisis well”, Vallejo comments; “in particular clients feel well looked after when an incident occurs”.


Society's image of electricity companies as a whole is much more vague as there is a considerable lack of knowledge of the sector, which moreover has very particular characteristics. “There are companies that generate, distribute, and market electricity, but citizens are not familiar with them; until recently they had no choice, and in any case they appreciate no difference because the product that reaches their home is the same”, the expert points out.


In any event this type of study allows companies to manage their corporate reputation better, “an asset that must be exploited” through specialists who need information.


Internet and social networks


A very relevant aspect of current corporate reputation is its on-line side. For this reason the Technological Management and Knowledge Ethics research group has concentrated its attention on it. “Many businesses generate a large number of conversations on the Internet and the social networks, which means that their reputation is being built on these new supports”, comments the lecturer of the Faculty of Computer Studies of the UPSA.


The paradigmatic example is that of the hotel sector because nowadays before booking one “the first thing we do is consult the Internet for other clients' opinions”. In general the weight of the on-line reputation depends on the conversations that each business is capable of generating in the new media, but there is no doubt that “companies want to know what is being said about them and how to manage it, and what type of actions they have to carry out to obtain good perceptions through this channel”.


For this reason, a large part of the work of this research group is currently focused on the analysing of this type of information by means of computer tools that allow the conversion of the huge amount of data on the Internet into knowledge that is useful for the companies.


“The objective is to get to know how the company is perceived on the Internet; to do so monitoring must be carried out and the result is a huge accumulation of data or Big Data”, Vallejo points out. Standard software cannot manage all this information, which means that the reasearchers face the challenge of analysing the data and transforming them into information that can be used for managing the on-line reputation efficiently.