Traditionally, Customer Experience Research falls into two main categories.
In the first category, there are market research firms that take an academic or scientific approach to collecting data and presenting the findings. These providers emphasize the purity of their data and the rigor of their methods and processes for collecting that information.
In the second category, there are data collection firms that specialize in gathering, storing, and organizing vast amounts of data from a variety of sources. Through their proprietary systems and tools, they make their findings accessible and digestible to the end user.
What does customer experience research capture?
The two metrics most important to customer experience management are customer satisfaction and customer engagement, which exist on a continuum and influence each other in both directions.
Customer satisfaction is an immediate measurement of an experience, from something as small as an interaction with a customer service representative to the overall feeling a customer has that his or her expectations and needs are being met. This is arguably the starting point for all customer research.
Customer engagement is what keeps customers coming back. It captures the long-term equity that is built on satisfying experiences by measuring things like loyalty and how likely a customer is to refer others to their preferred brands and businesses. In this way, it’s a more useful measurement than simple satisfaction: customers who are strongly engaged over time are more willing to overlook or tolerate the occasional less-than-satisfying experience.
A great example of this comes from the consumer technology industry. Brands like Apple and Google each have dedicated, loyal audiences that will continue to buy their products and tout their benefits to friends and family, even when the products themselves fall short of 100% satisfaction (think: buggy software releases or smartphones so thin they bend in your back pocket). This is the kind of engagement every brand dreams of.
The Journey From Data to Information to Knowledge
Both the academic and data-collection approaches to customer experience research have value. Market research can reveal trends, insights, and patterns across large populations and broader spans of time. Data collection, meanwhile, has grown so sophisticated as to merit its own industry, aimed at helping the everyday business manager access intelligence about their customer – because it’s unlikely they have the expertise or time to sift through it all themselves.
Both methods also have their limits. Statistical research may be useful in an ideal world where all customers have the same expectations and needs, and all businesses face the same challenges in meeting those expectations. But in a real-world setting, the insights garnered from this research often ends up “watered down” and are unlikely to apply to each unique business or brand the same way.
It’s not unlike the idea of the self-help book, which can be a useful way to talk about people in general, but won’t always apply on an individual level. You can do everything “by the book” and still fall short of your goals if the book you’re going by doesn’t account for the nuances of your business or your customers.
In turn, data collection is exactly what it sounds like: collecting data and presenting it as information. But turning that into knowledge that you can act on? That part is up to you. These firms often step out of the picture at that point, leaving you to figure out how that information factors into your strategies and tactics, what merits your attention and what doesn’t, and what steps come next.
Bridging the Gap Between Research and Reality
The shortfalls of traditional customer experience research are how businesses end up thinking they know their customers, without actually knowing them. There’s a break in the process that prevents them from getting to that next level of knowledge and using that knowledge to improve their customer experience.
In our 20+ years of customer experience research, CSP’s guiding principle has been to not only gather and present the information, but to then guide our clients in creating the roadmap to a better customer experience based on a thorough understanding of their unique customers.
Why should anyone have to figure this out from scratch? CSP has seen it all before, and we know what works and what doesn’t. Our experts are flexible enough to adapt to any given brand or business with a methodology that’s personalized every step of the way. Your specific questions about your customers, your market, and your competition are built right into the program, along with ongoing support, tools, and coaching to help you define and achieve your goals.
This level of customization and personal attention is hard to come by with traditional research models, but we believe it’s the key ingredient to successful customer experience management. We’re not passionate about data – we’re passionate about improving the customer experience, full stop.
For more information about CSP’s customer experience research methodologies and the programs we build to support them, contact us today by phone at (402) 399-8790 ext:101, via our website, or on Twitter @csprofiles.