NFU Mutual listens to the 'Voice of the Farmer'

Summary

NFU Mutual, the UK’s leading rural insurer, is well known for its services to the farming community and its ability to stay ‘close to its customers’.  NFU Mutual has more than 320 Agents offices across the UK and has developed a close working relationship with people living and working in the countryside.

 The ‘Voice of the Farmer’ survey conducted 1-2 times a year, by market research experts, Protel Fieldwork in collaboration with Mindset Research, helps the Mutual to stay close to its customers. It provides ‘insight’ into the insurance cover needed; key motivations of the market and a steady source of new ideas for future product design and requirements.

Objectives

The ‘Voice of the Farmer’ survey has now been running for eight years. It initially focused on establishing the approach taken by farmers to insuring their businesses.   The survey has now been extended to look at additional aspects of farming including:

  • Diversification strategies and new commercial areas being introduced such as renewable energies, farm shops and recreational and leisure activity centres. This provides valuable input to policy development.
  • Farming outlook examining – including Health and Safety and Risk management
  • Current views on investing money in the business.
  • The selection process used to decide on financial services
  • The level and drivers of supplier loyalty.

Approach

The fieldwork research study was targeted at all regions of the UK and sought feedback from a UK-representative sample of farmers, including NFU Mutual customers and also non customers.   Quotas were set according to region, size of farm (acres/hectares) and the extent to which the farm had diversified into non farming areas.

Protel Fieldwork undertook 1200 interviews using a 20 minute CATI (Computer Assisted Telephone Interview) over a period of three weeks.  The research needed to address a number of challenges that existed due to the characteristics of the agricultural sector.

  • 24 x7 working hours -Farmers tend to work over a 24X7 time period, so a key challenge of the research was to identify suitable times for interview.  This was achieved by arranging interviews on a weekday between 8am – 8.00pm and between 10am – 4pm on a Saturday.  The survey was also structured to include ‘anchor points’ which enabled an interview to be saved and continued at a later date using the same researcher, should the interviewee not have enough time to complete the interview during initial contact.

 

  • Lack of a database that reflected the nature of the farming community – especially smaller farms.

There was no database commercially available that reflected the trends of farming diversification into areas such as farm shops, holiday camps, restaurants and riding schools.  Protel therefore developed a ‘Diversification database’ through internet research which covered these areas.  A key factor which needed to be established as part of this research was the size of the farms being interviewed. No database could provide this information and so this was also established during the interview screening process.

Outcomes

“The farming community is notoriously difficult to survey. We have worked with Protel on this project for many years and greatly value their understanding of the market and experience of conducting interviews with farmers. We set very tough challenges for Protel in terms of the sample profile and we rely heavily on Protel’s experience of the market together with their resourcefulness in developing an appropriate database.” Martin Olver, Managing Director, Mindset Research

The survey’s findings allow NFU Mutual to:

  • Identify opportunities for new products and services as they arise, allowing NFU Mutual to respond quickly. Of particular benefit is the information on how farmers are diversifying; NFU Mutual is able to develop insurance policies based on the ‘new’ activities which farmers are increasingly undertaking alongside more traditional farming pursuits.
  • Continually update its understanding of the issues and challenges affecting farmers.