By Linda Kuster / Marketing Column

There are so many channels today for gathering customer data and insights that it can be challenging to determine the ideal mix for soliciting information without fatiguing customers and/or staff. Our recommendation is to implement a program that includes both real-time data gathering and traditional market research approaches.

Why is it important to implement both? Because customers’ perceptions, satisfaction and needs often change throughout their customer journey. It takes a 360-degree view to truly understand customers, make sound decisions and communicate effectively.

There are many ways these two types of research can complement each other. If you conduct business online, you could use short surveys or a quick question after a specific step in the customer journey. For example, when ordering from Domino’s Pizza, a window may pop up on your display after completing an online order, asking you to rate your satisfaction with the ordering process.

Customer satisfaction and brand loyalty are more holistic than simple ratings for a specific transaction or communication, however. Your product may not perform as well as expected over time, social media comments may alter customer perceptions or customers may later see a similar product from a different company at a lower price. Combining an annual customer survey with real-time data gathering would give you a more complete and accurate view of brand loyalty and your customers’ overall experience.

On the other side of the spectrum, it’s also possible for a customer to have strong dissatisfaction at one point in their journey, but still have an overall positive experience. For example, a friend and I recently attended a concert. The traffic control and parking area were horrendous, making us very unhappy. Four hours later, however, after a spectacular concert with great seats, our attitude had changed. If you had asked my satisfaction at these two points in time, my answers would have been greatly different.

Best uses for real-time data

One of the best ways to leverage real-time data is to measure and adjust aspects of your customer service. Asking customers for immediate feedback on transactions, phone service, delivery, online help and more will give you more reliable data than asking about these aspects months or years later. Real-time data and analytics are also valuable for:

  • targeting marketing content and formats
  • testing promotional or pricing concepts
  • providing service staff with immediate feedback
  • providing data for updated sales projections
  • identifying and tracking customer behaviors.

 

Best uses for traditional market research

Traditional market research approaches are more effective at understanding what is driving customer behaviors, preferences and perceptions, and how that impacts your organization. Some typical uses include:

  • learning more about pricing sensitivity, brand loyalty and what drives customer satisfaction
  • understanding the ideal set of features and attributes of a product or service
  • testing marketing messaging or executions.

 

Link your various types of data

Don’t leave your data in silos. If you conduct an annual customer satisfaction or needs survey, flow through data from your CRM or other data collection activity so that it gets appended to the survey results. This provides two important advantages: first, it reduces the number of survey questions you need to ask, which ensures a higher completion rate with higher-quality responses; and second, it allows you to segment the survey results by many more criteria than the demographics you do ask.

You can also provide more context for real-time data by layering in your traditional market research results. Perhaps your real-time sales data alert you to a decline in your most profitable service line. You might invest in research to determine what changes could increase market share.

If there is one missed opportunity we see often with our clients, it is the chance to connect, and combine various sources of data captured from different sources and at different times. The more often you can do this, the more valuable you will find your customer, sales and market information. •

Linda Kuster is president at Vernon Research Group, based in Cedar Rapids. Contact her at (319) 364-7278, ext. 7104 or lkuster@vernonresearch.com.