Gathering and Leveraging Customer Decision Insights: A Look Into the Brand Impact, Product, Communication and CX Research Future


Share on LinkedIn

There are strong currents of change in the worlds of customer experience, advertising and communication, product performance, and brand positioning and behavior impact research and analysis. These new dynamics of customer decision-making will impact the levels of innovation, insight and action for everyone applying any form of syndicated or custom research for making experience, brand equity, product and service, advertising, and communication plans. We’re not just speaking of the tools for collection – such as the declining use of telephone surveys, except for some targets and regions, in favor of online and other methods. Major modifications, in terms of insight quality and actionability, are taking place in both research and data analysis.

In studies among research practitioners, on both the corporate and vendor sides of the desk, there is strong belief that innovative and creative methodological advances – such as fully understanding the level of trust and relationship value that customers want with brands and suppliers – must move to reflect the explosion of online and offline data sources. As well, practitioners understand the need to integrate all of this information, produce more actionable insights through analysis, and drive better business decision-making and more positive outcomes.

Perhaps the biggest challenge can be boiled down to one word and concept: DATA. Simply stated, the sheer volume of information which can be generated through online informal brand-related content, as well as customer profile data (from public and corporate databases), and syndicated and custom research must be effectively integrated. Further, there must be requisite methodological and analytic capability exhibited by professionals, and the systems they utilize, to take these integrated data and generate actionable, meaningful insights. In the face of this complexity, customer, advertising, and brand marketing researchers must become consultative and strategic professionals to keep from becoming commoditized and marginalized.

From my perspective, this is a significant opportunity for the marketing research and analysis community rather than a threat. Studies have found that some elements of research and insight generation – brand strategy, customer and shopper behavior, advertising and promotional effectiveness, cultural/multicultural monitoring, media mix planning, product development, pricing etc. – will endure over time. Text analytics (sentiment/semantic analysis), and data generated through digital and mobile marketing, are emerging trends receiving research attention, and new methods must align with what is evolving here. The same is true of touchpoint effectiveness (modes of consumer contact, such as advertising, customer service, public relations, promotion through sponsorship, etc.), social networking, and even the re-emerging potential of neuroscience, which are all becoming more important and receiving more attention as emerging marketing elements.

For researchers and analysis to become strategic consultants in this arena, the name of the game will be adaptation to the growing complexity of marketing in a digital world and the explosion of data streams from it. Another key trend, leveraged by marketing, communication, brand and research budget shrinkage and corporate desire for more integrated insights, is the movement seen in an increasing number of companies: the blending of these functions into a single, overarching discipline, which also drives customer-centric corporate culture. Innovation, whether in syndicated or custom research, more sophisticated and granular analysis, or in the application of customer, brand and communication impact data, will help make this happen.

Michael Lowenstein, PhD CMC
Michael Lowenstein, PhD CMC, specializes in customer and employee experience research/strategy consulting, and brand, customer, and employee commitment and advocacy behavior research, consulting, and training. He has authored seven stakeholder-centric strategy books and 400+ articles, white papers and blogs. In 2018, he was named to CustomerThink's Hall of Fame.


  1. Excellent article, Michael. I look forward to more quantification of the effects of customer service failures so that HR will improve their hiring practices. (Yes, I just had an amazing customer service fail experience with a large company. While I did get a lovely apology and a slew of free upgrades, I still had a bad experience and everyone in my Twitter audience heard about it. Not good for brand, wouldn’t you agree?)

  2. …because so many studies, and customer service tracking metrics, examine the impact of negative experiences, particularly through service, on customer risk (evidenced as lower wallet share) and churn. I’ve quantified this many times, and it has been the focus of many presentations. In one well-documented example I’ve used over the years (and replicated by other researchers), a major bank found that only 21% of customers who’d had a negative recent service experience said they planned to remain at the bank, compared to 87% who’d had a positive recent service experience.

    Under the heading of what most customer service/experience research doesn’t usually generate is the existance, and impact, of unexpressed complaints. Unexpressed or unregistered complaints may dwell among as many as 95% of customers in a b2c vertical and 40% to 90% in a b2b vertical. No matter the nature of the unexpressed complaint, the very fact that there has been no interaction between customer and vendor over an issue (customers will often not wish to invest the time involved for complaining, feel poweless in the interction, or project that they will not have their issue appropriately addressed) will impel over half of these customers to defect. So, it is critical that these insights be gathered in customer experience research so that they can be minimized or eliminated.

  3. And yet the practical application of this information has not trickled down…

    Yet another question I have is this: what other (unexpected) effects is this producing? When I told my daughter my experience (she is a customer service pro) she said, “See mom, it pays to complain.” She’s right, of course. The value of my complaint (by the value of the resolution) was about $800. But the net is the perception that complaining is good. Somehow, that doesn’t seem like it contributes to a kinder, gentler world.

    Am I just being a sixties chick or is something wrong here?

  4. …and become known for handling them well. They understand that, to eliminate the real root causes of neutral or negative customer service experiences, they need to have a full spectrum, or inventory, of staff-related, process-related, product-related, and culture-related performance impediments. The reality of complaining is that it offers the company an opportunity to create a stronger customer bond.

    Some years back, consultant Janelle Barlow co-wrote a book entitiled “A Complaint is a Gift”. Her key point was that customer complaints have real, strategic performance and financial value for organizations, if they will just reorient their thinking to see customer service as an ambassador for the enterprise, and as a profit center rather than a grudging cost of doing business. I completely agree.


Please use comments to add value to the discussion. Maximum one link to an educational blog post or article. We will NOT PUBLISH brief comments like "good post," comments that mainly promote links, or comments with links to companies, products, or services.

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here