“Don’t give me data, give me answers”

Clients don’t want data, they want solutions to their business challenges.  That point has come up repeatedly in interviews I’ve conducted with research buyers, and was mentioned again last week by a research buyer who attended my presentation in Vancouver, “How Market Research Can Take Back Customer Experience.”

In the discussion that followed the presentation, we talked about the fact that the information that can lead to answers can come from different areas in a company: website analytics from the website team, the sales people interacting with prospects and customers, data from the customer experience team and qualitative and quantitative research from the market research department, to name a few.

But those of us in the market research function (or “customer insights” or “voice of the customer”) are in the best position to take the data from all those sources and figure out how to use them most effectively.  Unfortunately, we can easily slip into the habit of just reporting the results, as in “that’s what people said,” and leave it at that.  I mean, isn’t that our job?

Maybe it used to be, but to be truly valuable to our clients (or internal clients) we have to go beyond just reporting results.  But here’s the catch: at the beginning of the project, clients frequently are focused on the logistics of collecting information; it’s only at the end that they say “OK, now what do we do with all this information?”

Here’s what we can do to make sure that both we and our clients don’t forget to focus on how the company will benefit from the information we collect:

  • When starting the project, remember to ask how the resulting information will be used.
  • Based on that answer, consider whether the research approach should be revised. For example, your client might be asking for focus groups and a survey, but perhaps interviews with sales people should be added.
  • Ask which stakeholders and departments are involved. Do they already have relevant information?  In the research proposal, consider ways to involve those other stakeholders during the project or even before it starts.
  • At the end of the project, propose a workshop with your clients and other stakeholders to figure out the best way to utilize the findings.

Of course, clients won’t always take this kind of advice.  They might say “no, we just want focus groups and a survey.”  But they’ll think more highly of you and you will have planted the seed of those ideas in their minds… and perhaps it will happen on the next project!

Let’s discuss how to best find answers to your business challenges.  Call me at 760-345-0005 or email info at bureauwest.com.