Knowing what your customers think of your business and its offerings is key to surviving in a market that has been drastically altered by the pandemic in terms of consumption patterns and consumer behavior. Having this knowledge in real time will bring competitive advantages.
Most companies hire outside agencies to perform such research. But it is far better to involve employees in the process to get closer to customers and reap rich benefits in terms of cost, data quality, trust and deliverable action plan.
Employers can achieve this in several ways. Interview consumers in front of a large group of employees. Then ask those employees to ask them questions. Another way is to take employees on ethnographic field trips where they actually observe the product being used at home, in the office, or in a retail store.
Employee involvement makes the brand experience real and tangible. Employees see things that senior managers often don’t. In our research, we found ways to connect what frontline employees hear with what the company stands for. By involving car dealership sales and service employees in focus groups with customers, they learned a lot about what was liked and disliked in the marketplace when it came to doing business with them.
Get employees to listen to customer experiences and stories instead of reading rules and regulations. This can make a huge difference in the approach to handling customers and their queries. It was also found that sales and service managers who participated in focus groups had consistently higher customer satisfaction ratings and did more business than those who did not.
When employees are involved in customer research, they often come up with insights, insights, and strategies to steer the brand in a new direction that might not have happened otherwise. An external research agency will not be able to provide this perspective. The information thus obtained through qualitative research with customers and employees could be used for a continuous improvement program in a company. For example, feedback from a service area on a shabby reception can go directly to the teams working on quality and hygiene aspects.
Many companies have begun to recognize that different levels of employees need to be fully in tune with what the brand stands for in order to drive results. In this respect, communicating seven different ways and seven times should be the rule. Recently, we conducted a series of interviews with a few independent insurance advisors representing the same company, to find out how best to serve their clients. We asked them about how their business was run and what motivated them. By understanding what motivates them, we were able to figure out how to best align that with customer motivations.
What is most striking is that qualitative research is something that cannot be used with certainty to make decisions, but can provide enough fuel to push new ideas forward. It can also have a very positive impact on observers and participants. Additionally, in such searches, what is often not recorded by the search agency can have the greatest impact on your decisions. Only an employee can see it. Money is well spent if you involve yourself or your team members to sit in focus groups as observers behind the one-way mirror.
As one leading researcher pointed out, analytically qualitative research with experienced interviewers can provide a synthesis of what customer-facing employees are telling you and help provide advice. It is indeed a great process to involve employees to be part of such work.
The most difficult question facing business leaders today is, “How can I distinguish my brand from others?” They want to come up with ideas that flow from consumer needs, wants, hopes and aspirations. And employees, as internal customers, can provide more valuable data than any research agency. And the difference between giving an employee a report on what a customer said about the brand and having them actually see and experience it is that the learning is usually more powerful with the latter: the experience is more impactful and employee engagement will be stronger. .
The writer is co-founder of the non-profit Medici Institute