We are pleased to announce that CSR is once again appearing at The Market Research Event, which will be held in Orlando this coming November. We will be discussing how Customer Experience research initiatives have evolved over recent years, in our presentation “Iterative Innovation At Work.”
Wealth is the ability to fully experience life.
– Henry David Thoreau
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Understanding customer experience has become one of the newer gold standards in market research, leading us to ask the question, “Are You Experienced?” in our most recent edition of the CSR newsletter, Research with a Twist. Right on! I mean, Read on!
Are You Experienced?
Usually, when I have songs running through my mind, they are upbeat and fun. From oldies but goodies like “Bad to the Bone” to those recent pop hits that seem to pop up everywhere (when don’t you hear “Shake It Off”?), if it’s got a beat, it makes the drive, the day, or the task move ahead that much more quickly. Lately, though, that Jimi Hendrix song, “Are You Experienced?” had been buzzing in the back of my brain. I’ve never been a Jimi Hendrix fan (too many hyped-up guitar solos for me), so I wondered, “What’s up with that?” As usual, the answer is related to market research!
Over the past couple of years, CSR has been designing and implementing an increasing number of customer experience studies. I think Jimi Hendrix had a different kind of “experience” in mind when he wrote his song, but for us geeky researchers, getting to know our customers is pre-tty darned mind-blowing!
Here are some reasons to consider experiencing your customers’ experiences in a deeper, more mind-expanding way:
If you can remember the Sixties, you weren’t there, part 1
It’s an old joke – if you can remember what happened in the 1960’s, you weren’t really there. Get it? I think it has something to do with drugs, but I’m not sure. I’m positive it’s related to research, though.
Capturing reactions to experience in real time, or as close to real time as possible, is critical to understanding the dynamics of what happened. If you talked to people at random points during the Sixties about their lives, you’d hear about family milestones, school and work activities, and a lot of things that seem to have nothing to do with “The Age of Aquarius,” but which would help paint a meaningful, insightful picture of that era.
Similarly, talking with your clients continually, rather than only when your company wants the answer to a few specific questions, can build your knowledge of the true customer experience. Not only will customers appreciate that you are interested, they will contributed more context about their overall perceptions and feelings about your company – a true gold mine.
If you can remember the Sixties, you weren’t there, part 2
Here’s a trippy thought: Another way to think of this old joke is that subjective involvement can inhibit objective analysis. If you were in the experience, you may be able to see it only from your own point of view – so were you really even there?
OK, ontology aside, the fact is, anyone who remembers the 60’s does so not just from his or her personal experience (for those who lived through that decade), but also from a variety of social, political and cultural commentaries from that era. The people who documented it – for example, Ken Kesey, Hunter S. Thompson, and William F. Buckley, Jr. – all contributed to our understanding of what really happened.
This points to the fact that enlisting help to collect and analyze information from your clients is not just more efficient because of the expertise companies like CSR have in structuring studies in order to get valid, reliable, actionable information (though that’s important). But the fact is, as a third party, we don’t have a personal stake in the information we’re collecting. Objective is all we can be!
Woodstock wasn’t the only thing people experienced in the Sixties
As touched upon above, it’s not just the watershed events that define an era. Routine occurrences are important too. Lots of people attended Woodstock, but each person experienced it differently based on what led up to it, whether it was a breakup with a boyfriend the week before, or spending the previous year abroad in Paris. Many of us have seen events repeated on TV, or re-enacted in movies, so often that we’re no longer sure if we saw the original news footage of the JFK, MLK, or RFK assassinations, or have seen the replays so often that we just think we saw the original… so the original experience of the event, no matter how memorable, has been subject to many influences since.
In the quest to understand the experience of your customers, don’t wait until the big events like major purchases or customer service exchanges take place. Ask about everything and be open to whatever they have on their minds. By conducting longitudinal research in a structured way, you’ll get to the real customer experience, and be less likely to collect information that’s been subject to bias or mis-remembering (as a President who admits he doesn’t remember the 60’s would say). That’s mind-blowing, man!
Here’s the Twist: Developing a reliable understanding of your customers’ experience is the ne plus ultra of research initiatives in many businesses today. Capturing information about those experiences as they are happening, partnering with a third party consultant to support the process, and focusing on all aspects of the relationship, small and big, is key to getting to assessing how well you deliver on promises. Follow these steps and the next time someone asks you “Are you experienced?” your answer will be “Right on, right on!”
Mixology (Putting Research into Practice)
In order to make the most of a customer experience initiative, the key is truly to engage your customers in the process. Here are some tactics CSR has successfully deployed to keep customers qua research participants involved and happy:
Appreciation, and compensation, not just at the end of the study, but at the beginning and during, too: When recruiting participants, offer payment at the end of a lengthy, e.g., one-year commitment. However, hold lotteries and send small tokens of appreciation, like a gift card for a cup of coffee, throughout the year.
Offer ad-hoc research opportunities: In order to keep things fresh, and to provide clients with additional chances to earn or win incentives, ask your customers’ opinions about a variety of topics throughout the year.
In-depth interviews: People like to talk with other people about what they think. They will share a lot more during a phone conversation than they will in an online survey, so – all we are saying – is give their piece (of mind) a chance! (Apologies to John Lennon.)
The Center for Strategy Research, Inc. (CSR) is a research firm. The “Twist” to what we offer is this: We combine open-ended questioning with our proprietary technology to create quantifiable data. As a result our clients gain more actionable and valuable insights from their research efforts.
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