Dan Fougere

Market research was developed almost a century ago, at the dawn of advertising in the 1920s. It was a response to the beginning of brand-crafting — companies wanted a means of testing the effectiveness of their products and their advertising. Market research gave companies a way to gauge what consumers thought about this one-way communication — to see how customers were reacting to company products and marketing efforts.  Back in the day, this could be fairly effective. Inundate the airwaves with your messaging and attractive images of your products, check with your market research team after a few months to see how effective you’d been, then tweak and iterate.

Customer Experience Is The New Marketing

Things have changed a bit in the past hundred years.  Companies are no longer in full command of brand perception.  The Internet and social media have forever changed the way company reputations are made and undone.  Consumers have wrested the microphone from businesses and can now broadcast their dissatisfaction or delight with companies in very public channels.  Purchase decisions have changed accordingly: customers check online before making decisions; they find what others are saying on review sites and social media; they get recommendations from colleagues, friends, and family.

In this new world, market research is no longer enough.  Customers won’t wait while you take months to collect feedback from a small sample, circulate the insights, and finally take action.  You need to be immediately responsive to the interactions customers have with you, especially now that they have powerful tools to impact your brand reputation.  You need the tools to address their needs as soon as issues crop up.

Measuring Customer Experience

Customers no longer see businesses based on mystical branding and flashy advertisements, but instead, based on the sum of experiences you deliver.  An airline might be able to produce ads depicting an airborne paradise, but far from feeling such bliss, consumers focus on actual, terrible airline experiences.  In order to build an effective brand in this era, you need to ensure every experience you deliver to every customer is a great one. The first step in this? Tracking all the interactions your customers have with your business throughout their journey with you.  You need to capture what they’re saying about all these interactions as soon as they have them, in real time.  Only then can you know how your customers felt about their entire experience with you as well as the people responsible for those interactions.  And in turn, only then can you know where to improve and train, and which customers to reach out to.

Wiring Your Organization to Customer Feedback

The speed at which customers can share their experiences means that your organization has to be immediately responsive.  You must repair endangered customer relationships and reach out to your fans, all while their interactions with your company are fresh in their minds.  Your customers can both ruin your reputation and sing your praises, leading to new customers.  It’s in your power to take them in the right direction by responding to them as quickly as possible.

No longer can you afford to wait months or even days for market research results to be disseminated across your organization.  Nor can you silo customer data within a CX team, and wait for them to trickle learnings down through your organization.  Your customers won’t wait for you.  All your employees make business decisions that impact the customer, so all your employees — within the c-suite as well as the frontline — need immediate access to customer data, so that they can make informed decisions with the customer in mind.

Market research vs. Operational Customer Experience Management

Despite being a century old, the kind of analysis market research can do is still valuable.  It’s still helpful to have a panel of customers go through a 20 page survey for some truly in-depth analysis, untethered to specific customers or interactions.  It allows customers to take on a disinterested perspective to offer you suggestions.

But the increasingly connected world means that specific, individual customer interactions could have outsized consequences to your brand.  It’s when customer emotions are running high that you need to engage with them immediately.  You need an entirely different system — one that we call Operational Customer Experience Management (Operational CEM for short) — that can be immediately responsive to customers, and that treats them as individuals.

Market research shows your customers that you care about your business.  Operational CEM demonstrates to your customers that you care about them as actual people.  And in this world where customers wield so much power in shaping your brand perception, you can’t afford to ignore their voices.
Photo credit: Michael Mandiberg