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Guest Post: How To Collect Marketing Insights That Can Improve Customer Service

This week we feature an article from Michael Magnus, a Strategic Communication lecturer and marketing consultant at Magnus Opus. He shares the process of conducting consumer research and how to implement your findings into the customer experience. Have you ever been inside a Whole Foods that sells Louis Vuitton bags? Most likely no. Whole Foods […]

This week we feature an article from Michael Magnus, a Strategic Communication lecturer and marketing consultant at Magnus Opus. He shares the process of conducting consumer research and how to implement your findings into the customer experience.

Have you ever been inside a Whole Foods that sells Louis Vuitton bags? Most likely no. Whole Foods understands what drives their customers’ purchase behavior. Their customers go to Whole Foods for organic grocery items and not a whole lot else, which allows them to own their niche. Whole Foods analyzes their consumer’s purchase behaviors to arrange the store for the optimal (while most lucrative) customer experience.

Understanding your consumer is a key piece of customer service and developing loyalty to your brand. If Whole Foods suddenly prioritized selling luxury leather handbags, their customers might feel betrayed and start going elsewhere for their produce. Though an unlikely scenario, investing time and resources into understanding your consumer is essential for perfecting the customer service experience.

Consumer research helps businesses or organizations understand customer psychology and insights, which in turn allows businesses to learn what they can change, implement or improve.

How Do We Conduct Consumer Research?

Consumer Research is not merely asking your customers what they want; although there are some valuable insights here, they may also falsify the results because they often provide feedback on what they think they want, which doesn’t always correlate to how they spend their dollars. In order to receive the full benefits of consumer research, one must be methodical about how to approach their inquiries.

This discussion goes a little bit more in-depth than your third grade “scientific method” lessons however, the principles are similar. By following the process, you can use the results given to improve customer service.

1.  Mission Statement

Most businesses have mission statements, a mantra, credo, or M.O. of some description, and if not, it’s high time you fix that. Your business’ mission statement provides direction for your team, and also directs what decisions are important for your business to prioritize. It’s hard to create goals for your company without having a vision or direction.

2.  Develop Objectives

Before any research, we need to clearly define our research’s purpose- what is your objective? What are your goals? What are we trying to change or improve upon? Why are you doing the research in the first place?

Research for the sake of research can be time-consuming and costly, so make sure you have an understanding of why you need the insights and a clear idea of what action having this information will help you take. With the objective in mind, we can ask directed questions and perform tests that will help us find answers to the problem.

Objectives, in this case, might include learning about consumer habits in your stores, understanding user navigation trends on your website, or learning more about if the names of your brand, products or services are intuitive to the consumer experience.

3.  Secondary Data

Secondary data includes any research from other organizations, consumer insight studies, data previously collected, or customer information. Simply, secondary data has already been collected. Broad insights, such as social media usage habits by generation, may be available for free from reputable research sources, however industry-specific information is likely guarded behind a paywall.

Some of these research institutions may give you a bit of sticker shock, but the cost to replicate their findings independently is arguably substantially more expensive. If you discover a study that has valuable insights, you’ll likely find value in investing in some secondary data to better guide your more extensive proprietary, primary research.

4.  Primary Research

In 2008, consumer research helped customer service at the world’s largest coffee chain. Starbucks released its “My Idea Platform” within its app, where employers, customers, and potential consumers can submit ideas on what needs to change as well as ideas about new editions. Starbucks uses this as primary research to find out what their customers want and boosted its brand when dairy-free milk alternatives were added to their line of products, making its customers happy by catering to their needs.

Maybe you don’t have an app, but you are likely already collecting data and a little bit of training in database systems makes these spreadsheets much more manageable. Through this, you can pull together insights to discover what items, products or services to package together for a better customer experience while yielding increased purchase patterns.

The key is, find what works best for you. For instance, if you are changing something major, like product packaging, the offerings of a service, or your website’s domain name for better usability, ask the people that actually use it what works best for them. Whether that’s a survey on what they like best or an interview to receive the optimal level of feedback is for you to figure out with your unique business challenge.

5.  Analyze Data

A lot of companies collect data, not everyone does something with it.

Too often, brands will take their data and look for specific trends to confirm their own biases about what customers want. This isn’t really analysis and can be potentially detrimental to the customer experience by making uninformed decisions. It also means that the research was pretty useless to have done in the first place.

We need to try to prove ourselves wrong as much as proving ourselves right. When analyzing data, find the trends and patterns from your research. Again, having a team member or consultant who understands at least the fundamentals of Excel or SQL is vital for making sense of your results.

6.   Prepare Report

The last step in the process is to create a report about your consumer research. Reporting is also often an afterthought when developing research, but it’s usually not enough for only one person to understand the findings. Reporting your findings will help make important decisions about when to change, or perhaps when not to. Using the consumer research process, we can find out what exactly our customers want or need.

Once you have tangible results, you can potentially even take it a step further to create graphs and charts, which help visualize the data for key stakeholders on your team, particularly the number crunchers. If you can show them why customer service is profitable, you’re more likely to be able to champion your services initiatives.

Michael Magnus is a Strategic Communication lecturer and marketing consultant at Magnus Opus. Throughout his career, he’s found the most direct methods of success are to understand your customer and then reach them with impactful, measurable storytelling.

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