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Don’t Overlook Research’s “Other” Benefit

Research is more than just a feedback mechanism; treat it like what it really is – a vital customer touch point.

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By Adam Rossow

In our last blog post, Every Touch point can be a Tipping Point, my colleague Bethany argued that we never know with certainty what will have the most impact on which customer. Therefore, we have to ensure that each experience individuals have with a brand, from email communications, to packaging, to customer support, is flawless.

Thankfully the touch points above, and others that quickly spring to mind, are often created and executed with an eye on the customer experience and how it will shape their perception of the brand. But there is a touch point, one that can hit customers numerous times, one that requires both their time and effort, and one that helps shape the future of organizations, which is often formed with little if any regard for the customer – the market research project.

The goal of most research initiatives is to help us make a choice, provide direction or simply give us a better sense of things. C-level execs, insight teams and marketers focus on what they need to come away with from an insight perspective, but often overlook what our consumers take away from the experience. And the landscape is littered with damming evidence. Some of the greatest offenders are well-known, but still called into action time and time again: the 45-minute survey, the online exercise plagued with technical hurdles, the under-utilized and poorly maintained community,  the same question asked 8 different ways, and the uninspired quant questionnaire. Just think of how you felt the last time you were on the losing end of one of these initiatives. Let down? Unappreciated? Angry? Irrelevant? If it was tied to a brand, what affect did it have on how you view them, and how you think they view you? Despite all the brand brownie points they might have accumulated with you, did it serve as a negative tipping point?

And let me be clear, the desire to have the research experience “just not suck”, an unspoken goal of some organizations, isn’t exactly inspired change. Market research has the ability to be one of an organization’s most successful marketing touch points, and most of us are missing the boat. We are in the era where control is firmly in the hands of the consumer. They expect to speak out, be part of the process and communicate with brands. Fulfilling their desire for this type of relationship can be accomplished in part by simply including them in good research. And when they are given the chance to truly engage, when they feel like their voice matters, when they are able to offer their opinions in a thoughtful way, they feel special and valued. In terms of how we want our customers to feel, is there much more we can ask for?

In this day and age there is simply no excuse for unimaginative research that doesn’t engage. There are gamification approaches, live interaction options, a myriad of imagery-based activities, and fun virtual ethnography techniques at our fingertips. There are so many great tools and design options available that finding one that meshes with specific research objectives and is additive is relatively easy. Not comfortable with new technology? Leave the tools in the toolbox and just design a concise, clear, non-repetitive, targeted, smart research exercise that doesn’t put your respondents in a box. There’s no need to be flashy as long as you’re thoughtful.

The opportunity for research to work harder for your organization and your brand is there, and it’s a simple one to take advantage of. All it requires is a bit of a paradigm shift to think of research as more than just a feedback mechanism, and treat it like what it really is – a vital customer touch point.

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3 Responses to “Don’t Overlook Research’s “Other” Benefit”

  1. Ellie Hutton says:

    June 12th, 2013 at 8:07 am

    Thanks for the great post Adam! I couldn’t agree with you more.

    Technology has put the power to connect with the customer directly in the hands of many people within the organizaiton.

    Social media seems to be largely under control, and there are people who specialize in customer interactions on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest etc who often have a CEM, customer service, or customer care background. So they “get it”.

    But “research” is in the hands of many in the organization because there are so many free and easy to access tools out there. It’s important to recognize that conducting research well is both an art and a science. You need to set a methodology and ask questions in the right way, plus you need to treat your customer as a real person not a research subject. This means being conversational, respectful of their time, and showing their opinion is valued by sharing back with them what you’ve learned.

    I work in the insight community world, so these things are second nature. But we can still apply these same principles, especially the “art” part, when doing ad hoc quant and qual. It just takes a bit of extra time and care.

    A truly customer centric organization should recognize the critical piece of the puzzle that research plays when it comes to both understanding the customer AND building the customer relationship one person at a time.

  2. Mark says:

    June 26th, 2013 at 10:57 am

    This is clearly not written by a serious researcher. Just another attempt to sell or promote in the guise of research. It skirts the edge of ethical violations if the sponsor is identified with the intention of promoting the brand. Can’t believe this is given any support by Greenbook.

  3. Leonard Murphy says:

    June 26th, 2013 at 6:07 pm

    I’m not sure why you think that Mark; in dealing with customer sat, brand perception, point of experience studies or hundreds of others where the brand is identified (and there is NOTHING unethical about it), the research process SHOULD be considered a brand touchpoint. 60 questions surveys filled with grids and other difficult to answer questions certainly don’t do brands any favors from that perspective. I call being protectors of the brand experience very serious research indeed.

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