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6 Customer Research Myths ~ Debunked

In discussing Customer Care and Retention Research with potential clients, I am hearing comments reflecting 6 specific beliefs about customer research. These beliefs have evolved based on the technologies available and the media coverage of various studies which make it appear easy (and therefore cheap) to either avoid customer research all together, allocate a very limited budget to this work and/or expect their internal team to be experts at customer research.

Read on to understand the 6 beliefs and why they are myths …

Myth #1: We don’t need customer research, we know our customers.

Do you really KNOW your customers? What they value about their relationship with your company? What they wish you would change? Where they experience problems or annoyances with your company? Where they experience ‘pain’ that you could help them with … even if this is not something you currently offer?

Customers are often unwilling to provide candid feedback to their sales representative for a variety of reasons:

  • they want to avoid hurt feelings
  • they don’t want to compromise their negotiating position
  • they have already decided to leave, and don’t want the bother
  • they have not been asked (especially true of positive feedback)

Customer research will help you to keep up with changing customer needs and wants and anticipate opportunities to improve and expand your products and services.

Myth #2: Transactional data tells us everything we need to know.

Transactional data is of great value as it tells us WHAT people are buying, when and where and how they are paying for the items.We can even correlate promotions with consumer behaviour.

What transactional data does NOT reveal is why. What is driving that purchase and how solidly a customer is bound to your brand, your people, your company.

We know that some purchases are price driven while many others are not. Without a clear understanding of the wants, needs and expectations of our customers, we are handicapped in developing our path forward.

Myth #3: If we do need customer research, we can do it ourselves.

You certainly CAN do your own customer research. There are tools (e.g., apps) available to help you collect the information and tabulate the results. Some of the tools are even available free.

And, just as anyone with a tool box can do their own mechanic work, or plumbing or carpentry, that does NOT make them experts.

Marketing research is both an art and a science. And, researchers are skilled professionals who know how to word and how to present questions to minimize biasing the customer’s answer. The interpretation of data is a science which researchers have mastered. And, your customers are more likely to speak freely to an unbiased researcher than they are to speak freely with members of your team.

Myth #4: A researcher could never understand our business – it’s too complicated.

The researcher brings knowledge and experience of capturing customer insights across a range of businesses and industries.

While they will need your help understanding the jargon (and acronyms) of your business, and an overall understanding of your business, it is more important for the researcher to fully understand your research goals, your market, and your customers.

Remember, the objective outside perspective from a skilled researcher is of great value in providing you with a deeper understanding of your customers. An understanding that is free of bias or agenda!

Myth #5: It’s easy to design a survey questionnaire.

As mentioned above, there are many tools that make it appear easy to design a survey. But, if the information gathered is to provide useful insights, you must think about how you will analyze it and design accordingly.

You will also want to be sure that the order and wording of the questions minimizes the bias introduced to the dialogue (e.g., that you don’t provide the answer to a later question or lead the customer to give a specific answer).

You will be surprised at the intricacies of questionnaire design and data capture; it is not as easy as it looks!

Myth #6: Anyone can conduct a focus group.

As with questionnaire design, moderating focus groups requires specialized skills and abilities.

Not only will the moderator ask the questions in a specific order, and an objective manner, they will ensure that participation is inclusive and that all points of view are explored.

Moderators often use projective techniques and specialized tools (e.g., usage diaries, experience journals, ethnography, and observation) to support the discussion and develop a clear picture of customer behaviour.

Next time you are tempted to undertake a do-it-yourself solution or disregard the value of customer research all together, please consider these 6 myths and how a researcher can bring great value to your organization.

The Dunvegan Group works with B2B companies to improve customer retention using The Platinum Rule®, “Treat other people the way they want to be treated.” Learn more about our solution.

Anne Miner founded The Dunvegan Group in 1987 as a full-service marketing research consulting firm. Under her leadership, the company has adapted to changes in the markets, advances in technology, and economic ups and downs. The firm developed its own processes, metrics, and software to support the services it delivers to Business-to-Business corporations, as well as smaller companies, including start-ups. The company serves clients across North America and around the world as they thrive and grow through serving their own customers according to the insights customers provide.