Last week, the Total Customer Experience Leaders Summit occurred in Glendale Arizona. The Institute for International Research (IIR) hosted the event, and it featured three full days of presentations about measuring customer feedback, operationalizing it, and optimizing programs to maintain business success. I was fortunate to chair the Action Planning track, so I enjoyed unique one-on-one discussions with the presenters in my track as I prepared to introduce and lead discussion for each of the presentations.
One of the biggest topics at the conference was social media. Whether it was the Social Media CRM symposium, which led off with a presentation on “Linking Social Media to Consumer Behavior” by Becky Carroll from Petra Consulting Group, the keynote speech by Jeanne Bliss from CustomerBliss, or the several presentations showing how companies have applied information captured through social media to make decisions, folks are still trying to wrap their arms around it.
My take on it: Most companies are dipping their toes in the “deep pool” of social media, and the continued interest reflects a need to assess their experience relative to other companies. In the end, market research vendors and clients are looking to establish the process for integrating this new data and communications channel…
Two presentations from Maritz Research stood out in this regard. Randy Brandt presented findings from recently completed research comparing Consumer Generated Media (CGM) guest ratings for a luxury hotel chain via TripAdvisor to guest ratings with ratings from a traditional direct brand solicitation for that same chain. The results identified strong differences in data between the two channels. It’s not a surprise, as the sample of guests providing their input via CGM is a small subset of guests (even smaller than the 15-20% who might typically respond to a brand solicitation) with a different set of motivations for sharing their opinions. This unique apples-to-apple comparison truly demonstrates the challenges we face – as researchers - when we are asked to bring together two very different evaluation samples.
This fed nicely into the presentation by David Ensing (also from Maritz), who spoke about integrating data from multiple Voice of the Customer sources, including social media. As David noted, research managers are now dealing with lots of information and trying to make sense of it all; and with research budgets constrained, researchers are looking at (relatively inexpensive) social media information and trying to figure out if it is useful and if so, how it is useful. We are seeing a shift from solely one-off/ad hoc research studies to a combination of ad hoc with continuous listening, and this may strike researchers as a threat to their role. However, it shouldn’t be that way.
David summed up his presentation with a clear opportunity for market researchers to take the lead: “We believe that the future of marketing research is not just in collecting customer feedback through surveys, but also in integrating multiple sources of company-controlled information both with each other and with new information streams, such as consumer-generated media.”
Personally, I believe the market researchers who have been successful at applying research outcomes to business decisions will find this skill to be vital in maintaining leadership and effectivenes in this new landscape. Market researchers really need to think of themselves as people who inform internal clients who strive to make decisions to improve their business.
I find the current mass of data at everyone’s disposal can be daunting and confusing, in large part because the technologies that pull and deliver the data do a great job at just that – pulling and delivering. Heck, most companies in the data delivery business would consider shock, awe, and confusion from massive data to be a “good thing." To a point that's true, but they fail to translate and inform.
This is where market researchers need to take a lead role. As the stewards of applying research outcomes to business decisions, the skills that allow them to translate and inform will be vital in maintaining a lead role in this new landscape. Market researchers really need to think of themselves as people who organize and give structure to all data – and then deliver information in a precise manner that informs internal clients who need the information to make business decisions.
Posted by Jeff McKenna. Jeff is a senior consultant at CMB and a lover of the mid-west, beer, and customer satisfaction data.
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Did you attend the Total Customer Experience Leaders Summit? What did you think?