Is this the future for Customer research teams in 2024 and beyond?


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I’m obsessed with AI at the moment. Luckily, the rest of the world seems to be, also. One area that will feel the influence of AI keenly is customer market research. I thought we could discuss this here today since it likely affects many of you readers, too.

A recent article by Qualtrics, “AI Will Reinvent the Market Research Industry,” had a couple of stats I wanted to share with you today, which include:

  • 83% of researchers see AI as an industry opportunity, and 7% see it as a threat.
  • 26% say AI will create more market research jobs than there are today, 35% believe it will reduce the overall number, and 39% don’t believe it will change the overall job market.

To summarize, most people think AI will be a great enhancement to the market research industry, and no one group has a majority opinion on what that means for customer insight or market research jobs.

If we look back, technology rolls like a wave through a lot of industries. After it recedes, some industries have gone away while others boom. Now, in the instance of an AI wave over the market research field, it could be that some jobs go away in traditional customer market research but new ones spring up in the new industry boom. Regardless, it appears as if the AI wave will significantly change what jobs people do and for whom they do these jobs.
So, does anyone know where the area of customer insights going? Alyona Medelyan, CEO of Thematic ([email protected]) in Auckland, New Zealand submitted a video for our None of Us Are as Clever as All of Us program, to tell us what she thinks.


Some of the key points from Medelyan’s video include:

  • Current customer insight is largely high-level metrics and categories in dashboards, and allows for reading verbatims in real-time, but it doesn’t provide in-depth understanding of customer needs or identify trends. Moreover, getting any customer insight usually involves a lot of manual analysis.
  • AI will enhance these tasks, can discover themes, and improve efficiency with the current process with things like how customer insight teams prepare monthly reports (by doing things like writing a summary of what’s working and what’s not that the team can cut and paste into the report).
  • AI provides more access to insights than were available previously, making it easier for people outside of the customer insight team to leverage the findings and create a more customer-centric culture.

I’ve listened to a lot of people talk about AI over the last year. That was one of the most intelligent, coherent, insightful analysis I’ve heard. I thought Medelyan raised strong points and didn’t overstate things the way I sometimes hear from people in AI.

It surprises me that people don’t look at trends. I believe in looking at trends, rather than the snapshot of what the data is telling us today, and comparing it with last quarter.

It could be that organizations don’t look at trends because they don’t really respect what the customer insights teams contribute. They are often treated like second-class citizens and usually lack the power of their colleagues at the same level in the company. Therefore, the interpretation of their trends might not have agreement from others in the firm, which could lead dismissing the area entirely.

Of course, there is also bias to consider. We know that AI isn’t above having human bias written into the algorithms or code. So, some of the dismissal could come from people’s awareness of that coloring the results.

That said, it can be difficult to game the system with AI if you didn’t build it. If the AI used for customer market research is “off the shelf,” then it is less likely to be skewing results. Therefore, ignoring customer trends identified by AI could be dangerous.

Medelyan says that AI should be measured. In other words, it means it was specific to a particular problem and built upon the strengths of the AI systems. For example, AI systems are excellent at unbiased analysis. Moreover, it can create categories. Whether you need qualitative or quantitative data analyzed, AI is great at grouping outputs. So, you can give it unstructured data and then group it numerically or by theme, or whatever you need. This type of activity is what they do best, and, most times, better than humans.

So, Where is the Opportunity?

Now, even though I started this newsletter with the statistics, these still seem a million miles away. I’m sure organizations feel the same way as I do.

However, things are already changing, the wave is building, and that presents an opportunity. One thing to leverage in the coming AI technology wave is taking a more strategic role to ensure that the system is set up in the correct way. You want to ensure that you are identifying and analyzing the right things. Minimizing the level of interpretation is essential to get the kind of insight that machines are excellent at providing.

People are getting used to asking questions and having a conversation with the chatbots of this world. So, doing that and getting the proper the answers out of it will be fascinating.

That said, things won’t change drastically in the very near future. However, they will change in a way that makes customer market research more efficient, faster, and in some instances cheaper. Plus, it could democratize access to data in ways we don’t currently have.

In my experience, market research and customer insights teams are not well perceived in organizations. In the future, that could change, particularly if there is a strategic view employed in the systems. If I was in this industry now, I would plan that in five years’ time, it’s going to be about the strategy and how we can use this analysis to create a more customer centric organization.

Colin has conducted numerous educational workshops, on how to improve your Customer Experience, to inspire and motivate your team. He prides himself on making this fun, humorous, and practical. Speak to Colin and find out more. Click here!

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Colin Shaw
Colin is an original pioneer of Customer Experience. LinkedIn has recognized Colin as one of the ‘World's Top 150 Business Influencers’ Colin is an official LinkedIn "Top Voice", with over 280,000 followers & 80,000 subscribed to his newsletter 'Why Customers Buy'. Colin's consulting company Beyond Philosophy, was recognized by the Financial Times as ‘one of the leading consultancies’. Colin is the co-host of the highly successful Intuitive Customer podcast, which is rated in the top 2% of podcasts.


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