Anytime anyone asks me about the biggest risk associated with his or her corporate marketing plan, I always tell them that most vulnerability comes from within the market research. It’s either faulty, missing, or disregarded each of these can yield a very frustrating situation. There are several key ways to gain market research data but the most basic is via customer satisfaction.
Several months ago, I added a meme to my Facebook business page that read: Your most unhappy customer is your greatest source of learning. And I genuinely believe this is true. So much so that when I sit down with you as a client I generally tend to focus my questions and my curiosity on your least satisfied customers. Even if the number of dissatisfied customers is relatively low, looking for trends in them can help you understand where to focus your process or product improvements.
How to Gather Customer Information
There are several ways that you’re probably already gathering customer information:
1. Primary Research Customer satisfaction surveys are a very easy ways to quickly get to metrics because they generally are done on a numerical scale they easily convert to averages and trends. You can also apply weighting to the questions because it may be more important that a customer is satisfied with her product’s installation process than she was with the advertising. An experienced market researcher can help make sure your surveys are worded in a way that doesn’t steer or create bias within your survey. Surveys should also include potential customers when you were unable to convert a sale.
2. Listen to your customers Chances are your customers are talking to you about your products and services. Listen to them and dig into their concerns or observations. It’s easy to try to jump to resolution, but understanding how a customer didn’t get their membership card or didn’t understand the invoicing process can help you begin to identify a trend that may need larger attention. You may have to talk to your customer service representatives to get this level of information.
3. Secondary research There is probably a company out there that you can learn from — for free. Research white papers and articles about your industry and some of the customer satisfaction measures out there. Marketing and consulting agencies love to publish their success stories. They’re generally available online and easily can be extracted to your specific situations.
How to Improve your Processes using your Findings
1. Reduce inbound calls. If you see trends in your research about why your customers are making (expensive) inbound calls, after receiving a monthly statement like an explanation of benefits, it may be an indicator that your communication materials aren’t clear. It could also be that they are in appropriately timed. So not only are you paying printing and postage to mail a piece to a member but then you’re causing them to make a call in to a representative.
2. Improve your personas. Using market research will automatically help you understand your customer better. You’ll know if they look for your products at certain places, or that if, you rely on distributors, how they feel about those partners. For example, in the Medicare space a member can actually open a grievance with a plan based on a retail pharmacies cleanliness. This obviously isn’t anything a health plan can control, other than their overall relationship with the distributor.
3. Product Development. This is where you’ll get the most bang for your market research dollar. When it comes time to upgrade your product or introduce complementary products, you’ll know exactly what your best customer are looking for. This should save you time to market.
Market research can seem daunting and cumbersome but it doesn’t have to be, there are easy ways to constantly listen to your customers and use their feedback to drive process improvements throughout your company.