Why voice of the customer is friend, not foe of traditional market research

Market research always aimed to deliver insight, writes Chris Breslin, but the next step has to be the ability to deliver real understanding that businesses can act upon.

Chris Breslin_Confirmit (1) bwThere has been much navel-gazing about what the future holds for market research and whether it will be subsumed or superseded by non-traditional research methodologies and approaches.

While traditional market research certainly delivers reliable data that can be aggregated to provide a macro level view of market trends, it doesn’t necessarily offer the ‘micro’ level detail about a customer’s experience that can make a difference to future sales or repeat business.

Market research has tended to steer well away from direct contact with respondents, citing impartiality and anonymity as vital to best practice.

It has also, understandably, wanted to avoid any link to direct marketing or to ‘sugging’ (selling under the guise).

But corporate decision makers are increasingly wondering if traditional market research is missing a trick because it doesn’t help businesses engage with the customers providing the feedback.

This is putting growing pressure on market researchers to include one-to-one interactions, embrace social media and master the issues around big data.

Instead of being known for its large studies, pages of computer output and PowerPoint presentations, market research now needs to demonstrate its value to the customer experience, the brand and business success overall.

The move to adopt new approaches – mobile, DIY, social media monitoring, big data analysis – is something that clients are increasingly calling for, and there are plenty of new entrants looking to out-manoeuvre the ‘old’ market research.

The challenge is how best to marry the old and the new to create something more responsive, more agile, more direct and more relevant.

This is where voice of the customer is making its presence felt.

Instead of relying on periodic panels with long surveys to produce strategic reports that take three months to complete, it has been proven that the ‘plugged in’ consumer responds more effectively to shorter and more frequent enquiries, especially if their views are requested immediately after an interaction.

This ‘moment of truth’ feedback might not provide the same strategic intelligence as that of a compressive panel but it does provide valuable insight that can be used immediately to generate demonstrable ROI.

When such insight is also combined with other operational and financial data and information from wider market research studies – insight really shows its value.

Tapping into mobile as a new market research tool also has the potential to dramatically increase the immediacy of the survey design, delivery and data collection process.

Changes can be made centrally and then synchronised across the entire network of researchers.

Respondents are far more likely to take a survey and enjoy the experience if it’s available on a mobile, which is vital when there is so much demand on consumer’s attention and time.

Surveys are increasingly completed during ‘cracks in the day’, such as during commuting time, and market research activities should capitalise on this.

A multi-media mobile interaction with a brand via a ‘mobile diary’, for example, offers an immediate opportunity to provide positive or negative feedback to a supplier which radically improves the chances of real-time correction or problem resolution.

Traditional surveys simply can’t offer this kind of value-added benefit.

Traditional surveys, random samples and statistical rigour will not go away but they will decrease in importance as we become more practised at incorporating ‘indirect’ data from social media and ‘inferred’ data from behavioural tracking into the overall market research mix.

Market research always aimed to deliver insight, but the next step has to be the ability to deliver real understanding that businesses can act upon.

Insight has to become a driver for change which means it is highly likely that market research suppliers will become more like ‘client-side researchers’ in the future; focused on the business issue not the method.

In order to create a holistic view of the customer, traditional and non-traditional technologies must work alongside each other.

Market research must integrate seamlessly with CRM, HR and sales to get to the ‘why’ of customer sentiment and behaviour.

Surely this is where the evolutionary path will lead us and where the balance between MR and VoC can be achieved!

 

Chris Breslin is country manager at Confirmit Australia.