Advances in technology are radically altering customer expectations, and decision makers at the highest levels are struggling to keep up, let alone make genuinely customer-led decisions. This phenomenon has created an extraordinary opportunity for researchers. In fact, Tyler Douglas, chief marketing and strategy officer at Vision Critical, asserts that there has never been a better time to be a researcher. However, his endorsement comes with an important caveat. The traditional tools and tactics we rely on must evolve. Just as technology has shaped the expectations of respondents – we need to elevate our expectations for the market research industry.
Market researchers must first reframe their relationship with customers
The dogma of the research industry is to extract information from customers as efficiently as possible. The experience of the respondent is rarely a consideration. Customers are a source of data—little more than numbers on a spreadsheet. But as I mentioned above, customer expectations have changed. Today’s digital-first customers expect near real-time engagement with high levels of personalization and authenticity. Not exactly the pillars of traditional market research.
At best the survey experience is impersonal and a bit frustrating, at worst it’s alienating; our CEO calls them spam surveys. He believes they not only deliver questionable data, but they actually damage brands. So it’s no surprise response rates are plummeting and the time it takes to uncover meaningful insight has increased exponentially. To succeed, to truly add value, researchers must step out from behind the two-way mirror and engage with customers in more personal, on-going, two-way dialogue that fosters authentic relationships that improve over time. We can no longer be invisible observers. We must become passionate advocates for the voice the customer.
Every customer interaction is a brand experience, and good experiences deliver value to the customer
If we change from an extraction mindset to one of relationship building, we must find ways to deliver value to the customer. The simplest way to do that is to demonstrate that your customers’ feedback has been heard and acted on. At Vision Critical we advocate for share backs: providing information back to the customers that communicates how their feedback is helping the brand improve. We also believe that one of the best ways to personalize your activities is to avoid asking repetitive questions. Why? Because asking repetitive demographic and qualifying questions demonstrates you don’t know who the respondent is or even if they are a customer, which is a terrible experience. By eliminating repetitive questions, you can start to build authentic relationships with your customers with shorter, more targeted activities that build trust and deepen your understanding of what they want or need. The result is higher levels of engagement and better insight, in less time, with higher ROI. And that, is a better experience for everyone.
SVP of Customer Success at Vision Critical