Six tips for customer experience-enhancing customer research
Customer research is an interaction and its impact on the customer experience needs to be taken into account when it is being designed. As such, Jack Springman provides six simple rules for customer experience-enhancing customer research.
- Consider the expectations of those being researched. An experience is always judged relative to expectations. (Four-star service feels great if only a two-star level was expected, but lousy if five-star or better was anticipated.) Customers will expect some benefit for giving up their time. If you wish to ask questions for the benefit of your company rather than your customers, it is far better to recognise this and pay up front for customers’ time.
- If not paying customers for their time, be sparing with the questions you ask. If the answer to a question does not lead you to take a specific, identifiable action – particularly when the score is very high or very low – challenge whether the question merits inclusion. Avoid the impression of being cavalier with customers’ valuable time.
- Ensure there is as much emphasis on the qualitative as the quantitative. Give customers the opportunity to express themselves rather than feel boxed in by the questions asked. Also genuine voice of the customer comments will provide far more ‘a-ha’ moments for enhancing the service provided and encouraging innovation than score-keeping ever will.
- Avoid forcing an answer where one doesn’t exist. Researchers appear terrified that if they provide a ‘don’t know’ or ‘neutral’ option, people will use it the whole time. But those who would cop-out in that way will also be those who answer randomly if no such option exists. Far better to know that – and exclude them – than for their indifference to be masked by a completed but inaccurate answer. Also a ‘Don’t Know’ or ‘Don’t Care’ is far more revealing about knowledge and priorities than forced agreement or disagreement.
- Make it fun. One of the advantages of a research technique like conjoint analysis (in which respondents are asked to trade off different combinations of attributes) is that it is genuinely engaging for interviewees. It also reveals their true priorities, often to the surprise of participants, so they find out a little bit about themselves in the process. For customers it will be a good experience if they feel the research provides a mirror for them to look at themselves.
- Finally, balance any research on features with that on benefits sought. Asking customers what features they would like and designing to that specification will frequently yield lemons – they are not experts in your business. But they are experts in what they want to achieve (e.g. saving time, saving money) and what costs them most time and most money currently. They can define the problem that needs solving but only you can design the optimal solution.
Jack Springman is head of corporate advisory group at consulting and systems integration firm Business & Decision.