The ability to define, describe, and even predict customer behavior is of vital importance to business growth. Researchers are tasked with being the “voice of the customer,” acting as both representatives and advocates of the customer’s perspective. But the customer perspective is more than a light at the end of the research-tunnel: it must be built into the process to yield the most illuminating results.
Customer-centricity in research requires equal doses of purpose, empathy, and respect. That’s where keeping the brand at the forefront can help: it becomes the embodiment of these characteristics and the thing that people connect to. While emotional concepts may seem somewhat tangential to the functional processes of data collection and analysis, they are, in fact, guiding principals that have real and measurable impact.
Proceed with purpose
First of all, make sure there is a strong purpose to guide your exploration. Let the insights process reflect the right combination of objectives, methodological rigor, and actionable outcomes. Points to remember:
Make empathy an input
An exceptional customer experience isn’t just an outcome of brand insights, it can be an input to enhance the research process.
Empathy is defined as “the ability to understand and share the feelings of another.” To yield the most honest results, researchers need to understand and share the feelings that respondents experience at every interaction. What is their experience as customers of the brand? How do they experience the research process?
Here are some techniques for embedding empathy into insights-gathering:
Reap respect—on both sides
Respect is a natural outcome of empathy. One must first understand others in order to value their opinions and perspectives. As the “voice of the customer,” we implicitly value customers’ opinions, but this must be reflected in our behaviors throughout the process: Respect what they say, respect their time, and respect their expectations.
The researcher’s mantra should be “value given for value received.” Participants are offering value in the form of their time, opinions, thoughts, feelings, and perceptions—these are gold to marketers. Recognizing that what you obtain from customers is valuable should enhance your approach. In order to get the best results, work to create a better experience.
The business benefits of a human approach
Tactically, the insights process becomes more efficient with higher cooperation and participation rates and higher quality results lowering overall research costs. Strategically stronger and more meaningful insights mean greater business impact for clients.
This approach has even broader implications in terms of brand perception. An organization that listens, respects the speaker, and acts on what they’ve heard earns mutual respect from customers and becomes a stronger brand. Approaching customer-centricity as not just the output, but an input to the research and analytics process has a reverberating effect: it strengthens the brand, improves customer experiences, and earns respect and loyalty, ultimately driving business growth over time.