Inverting the research, and applying it to customer satisfaction surveys

I have just read an interesting piece by Rebecca Brooks published on Research World (ESOMAR’s own publication, November/December 2015 issue, pages 20-22) where she proposes at least a couple of reasons why research project might yield a far-from-satisfactory result: organisational fragmentation and narcissistic objectives.

While I am not going to discuss here the impact of having multiple clients – and sometimes contracting needs – to be satisfied within organisations when undertaking a market research project, I would like to focus on the misalignment between the client objectives and the respondent goals during the survey interaction. Speaking from experience, it is very often the case that when market researchers write a customer satisfaction questionnaires they ask respondents to express what they think of brand X, candidate Y, service Z, etc very often driven by client’s request. That is probably because it sounds like the most logical way of measuring the likelihood current customers will continue to purchase what they did in the past.

However it is true – and market researchers are very aware of the fact that – “the consumer has changed” and “technology is changing [customer] behavior”. That also means that increasingly “consumers aren’t interested in helping a brand improve itself”, mining the efficacy of the traditional customer satisfaction survey.

Consequently, market researchers should switch from client-focussed questions – e.g. “how do you evaluate X?”, “how likely are you to recommend Y to friends?”, etc… to more respondent-focussed discussion with questions of the sort “in what way X is functional to your well-being?”,”how deep would you say is your relationship with service Z?”, etc…

Yes, definitely more qualitative data, surely harder to analyse and to report than numerical scales, but of greater value because part of a more meaningful relationship between the company and the client.

PS: As you might have guessed by now English is not my mother-tongue so please excuse any grammar/syntax faults.

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