Where Does Customer Research Fit in Your Customer Strategy?


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The more we know about customers the better we can serve them, help them get things done, and generally build retention and relationships. But, most companies don’t know their customers as intimately as they need to if they are to develop lasting customer relationships. To obtain that knowledge of the customer, many companies turn to customer research — an essential component of a well-crafted customer strategy.

But there a couple of things happening in recent years that threaten the use of solid customer research in driving strategy. The first is the availability of large volumes of customer data in huge data warehouses, leading some firms to believe they know their customers. The problem is that the data do not paint a complete picture of the customer and larger SME’s in particular just don’t know how to make good use of the data.

Second, we are seeing a dramatic increase in do-it-yourself research. The availability of programs like Survey Monkey and access to customer databases create a situation where companies can easily send surveys to their customers. But, chances are, these surveys are being designed, distributed and analyzed by people who are not skilled in questionnaire design, sampling or data analysis.

Some progressive companies are relying on databases and do-it-ourselves surveys to gather fairly basic information and then turning to reliable research houses to produce the deeper insight they need to drive strategy. They are also looking for a different kind of research supplier and a different relationship than they may have wanted in the past. They want to work with researchers who can behave more like partners in strategy building.

The best research companies will have to rise to the occasion and move beyond the provision of predictable research results. They will not only have to gather the right INFORMATION, but they will have to deliver solid INTERPRETATION of research results, gleaning the kind of INSIGHT that clients need and can not get from mere data. They will then have to know the client’s business well enough that they can identify the IMPLICATIONS for the client and be able to advise on the IMPLEMENTATION of a course of action to build customer loyalty.

Look for a research partner who can do more than collect data; they need to be able to tell you what the data mean and what you should do about it. Look for the five I’s.


  1. Jim

    We all agree that Data Fusion is an important area for buinesses today. Businesses are collecting ever more transactional data but know practically nothing about the context in which transactions are carried out. Traditional market research is a part of the answer, but it needs to be supplemented by a whole host of other customer information: From ethnography to understand the cultural context to blog post analysis to understand the online meme proagation.

    Even when businesses have gethered all of this information, there are still huge challenges ahead in statistically analysing the data, in simulating customer bahaviour and in responding quickly to any insights generated by analysis or simulation.

    Graham Hill
    Independent CRM Consultant
    Interim CRM Manager


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