By Edward Appleton
Do we need to worry about our reputation of the Market Research industry? I would give a resounding “Yes” as an answer. Two recent examples from the Harvard Business Review reinforced this belief.
Firstly: the “HBR Tip of the Day” (an App on my SmartPhone) for 27 Feb. 2012 shocked me – it was about “Put Yourself in the Customer’ Shoes”, and the first sentence read:
“If your company is looking to innovate, don’t waste time analyzing market research reports and delving into data. What customers say they will do is not necessarily what they end up doing. Instead, put yourself in the customers’ shoes” (my italics)
The main message of the piece – to get senior executives out observing customers first hand – was fine.
It’s the first bit (quoted above) that I found worrying: suggesting that market research reports are
a) not worth reading and
b) pace Behavioral Economics not reliable in any case.
Secondly: an article from the March 2012 hard copy edition of the Harvard Business Review, entitled “The CEO as Mystery Shopper”
The article is by the CEO of Office Depot, and relates how, when he first became CEO, sales were going down but Customer Satisfaction values were excellent. To right things, he visited 70 stores personally in the US to get a close-up view.
His take on MR: the Customer Sat. survey method was great, but they were asking the wrong questions. MR had evaluated things that didn’t matter to customers at all. He quotes that the research had covered the issue of whether the customer felt the toilets were clean – and pointed out that nobody cared about that issue.
We need to care about these kind of articles: opinion leaders read HBR.
Here’s my take:
1. MR needs to get into the front line, up close and personal, just like the CEO quoted. How many interviews have we client-side researchers conducted ourselves, how many Mystery Shopper interviews have we done? Credibility and reputation are soft but important factors.
2. We need to demonstrate the value of “reports” – re-cut the data, share it with customers and those in the front line. Link up with some impact-related goals.
3. We need to make sure that we’re not asking the wrong questions – so maybe time to review and adjust on some longer standing ongoing quant. surveys such as Brand Trackers and Customer Satisfaction. Time to do some qual. work exploring consumers’ issues and priorities.
4. Industry Bodies need to represent us well, put across a good picture of who we are: engaged, contemporary, on top of modern technologies, attuned to what’s going on in society and at a market level. Engaging positively with influencers and opinion leaders.
5. MR suppliers need to explore how best to shape report-outs so they do NOT end up in a drawer, forgotten. That can be any number of things: reporting out collaboratively, exploring ways of enticing customers of dipping into the data after project complete, for example.
6. We all need to ask ourselves: just because we did it this way before, does that make it right? Change is happening fast, so simply using history as a justifier can be comforting but weak.
Finally, maybe we need some sort of rapid rebuttal unit. We need to actively manage media relations.
I’m conscious that many MR Suppliers may read the above and think – how can I impact on that? I’d say – next time you have a chance to informally chat with your Clients, ask them what they think, and what you might do to contribute.
In short: we need to at the very least to protect ourselves. I’ve taken up contact with the Editor of the HBR for starters.
Curious, as ever, as to others’ views.
Originally posted on Research & Reflect