Research vs. Diagnostic – which is best?


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People come into Customer Experience Management from a number of of different professions. Some come from a research background, some from a customer service background and some come from a marketing background, to name but a few. Because of their different origins, each tends to have a slightly different approach to Customer Experience Management.The first stage of any Customer Experience programme is pretty much to understand what the current state of play is.

For those people coming from a customer service or operations background, their instinct is typically to carry out some kind of diagnostic exercise – to do a walk-through of the business, looking at the call centre and/ or sales operations – typically the customer-facing areas of the business. However for those people coming from more of a research background, their typical approach would be to undertake some kind of research exercise to understand what the customers’ current levels of satisfaction are, how likely they would be to recommend or repurchase; or what their expectations are. But which of two approaches is the best one?

Research vs. Diagnostics

The diagnostic angle certainly has a great deal of merit. Having an experienced professional looking over the business and making recommendations on how to improve, enhance or even remodel the operations can prove to be invaluable. I have seen dozens of experienced consultants going into call centres, monitoring their performance metrics (e.g. AHT; Call, Wait & Wrap; Hold time, ASA, etc.) and behaviours; and then making recommendations and implementing management and training changes that have significantly improved business performance. However the main weakness of this approach is that it doesn’t involve customers. At the end of the day, customers are the only people who know what they want their experience to be like. Going purely down the diagnostic route doesn’t tell you what customers’ expectations or ideal scenarios look like.

The research approach clearly does include the customer as part of the understanding phase; however it has weaknesses too. Customers are usually not business experts. Customers can usually tell you what they don’t like about your business; however they cannot always tell you what your business should be like. Ask customers about their expectations and a significant proportion of them will tell you that they want everything for nothing, i.e. your product or service without paying for it. This clearly doesn’t work if you want to stay in business for any significant amount of time!

Clearly the question posed in the title of this blog isn’t a fair one, as both approaches have their strengths and weaknesses. The ideal, of course, is to use both methodologies in parallel. Using a combination of both is arguably more of a strategic marketing based approach to the issue. With a more strategic marketing based approach, the understanding phase of a Customer Experience programme should ideally consider:

  • a full micro- and macro-environmental assessment
  • a full internal audit, including 7P and 7S analysis;
  • a research audit to understand CSAT, NPS, Brand Health and other existing data sources
  • new consumer research to understand customer expectations

We love trick questions! ;)

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Ian Williams
A customer experience specialist who works with organisations that understand that by placing customer value at the heart of the business' operations, they not only deliver enhanced customer experiences; but also discover the secret to driving improved business profitability. Has worked with organisations such as TalkTalk, Prudential, Mercedes-Benz Financial Services & E.ON.


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