One of the biggest challenges faced by a Customer Insight Team is often about getting stakeholders to really listen to and act upon the voice of the customer.
This can be true even in a very customer-focussed business. I’ve worked with quite a few senior managers who feel that the customer they’ve just spoken to is representative of all customers or that their products are too technical for customers to be able to contribute much. I’ve lost count of the number of times someone has said to me that they know the market and their customers and they don’t need any market research or analysis – they’ll make the decision on gut feel.
I’ve found that the best way to approach this is to be patient and take small steps at a time. Maybe start with a single finding from some recent market research that is both logical and high impact. They will not be able to argue against it and will start to realise that what they’re seeing may help them explain why things are happening or help with them with a business case. If you can also demonstrate that it will save money or increase sales, then even better. Workshop style debriefs also work well for this so there is discussion of findings and next steps are agreed there and then.
The key is to engage internal customers in the process and bring them with you. If you get their expectations of the project and talk to them about how the insight can be used they will understand it more clearly and buy into it. If they simply attend a debrief or receive a report they are much less likely to act on it. It can also be useful to talk them through the methodology when the project is commissioned to ensure you don’t have anyone questioning it at the debrief. Once this happens project credibility declines and is extremely hard to recover.
In my experience, qualitative research is questioned the most by stakeholders with limited knowledge of market research, with ‘sample size’ being an easy target. If you’re working with a sceptical internal client then a research project that’s at least partly quantitative will be harder to argue against. You also need to make sure you’ve considered all the angles with your quantitative sample so that it can’t be criticised. A good independent research agency will provide invaluable advice on this.
If you have an agency presenting the market research results it helps if they have as much background information as possible eg other, similar projects and their results, sales analysis, any buzzwords or acronyms commonly used, the hypotheses you are testing, how you plan to communicate the results following the debrief. With a large audience its also useful to understand any internal politics at play so that these can be addressed where possible within the insight.
Another aspect on communicating insight within a business is making the findings stick in the audience’s minds. Even if it all makes sense in the debrief or when they read the report it can be easily forgotten. With advertising it is said that a consumer needs to see something at least 6 times to remember it and it must be similar for research findings. You need to find a way to reiterate your point to your internal customers a number of times and in different ways. This obviously means being creative with your communications and research agencies can provide great support with this because they have a lot of experience across a broad range of clients. They can also check the communication is relevant, accurate and credible.
Clearly it depends on the scale of the project and its strategic importance but it can be worthwhile using some extra budget to produce materials which bring the insight to life for a major project such as a segmentation which will need to be embedded within a number of teams.
Obviously, the clearer and more succinct the findings are, the more they ‘stick’. The rule of ‘3 things’ works well and most people find it easy to remember three things, so if you can focus the findings and recommendations down to three key themes this will work better.
DEALING WITH NEGATIVE RESULTS
When the news is not too positive, it’s good to ensure that you’ve thought about the repercussions of this because this is when stakeholders tend to be the most dismissive.
Check for contradictions in ‘the story’ which can be points of argument to disprove the validity of the research. Try to understand why they are occurring and be up front about explaining them if necessary.
Finally, I would definitely recommend reading and, if time allows, running through the debrief presentation with the research agency before the debrief meeting to make sure you’re comfortable with the findings and conclusions.
Good luck, and if you need any support with stakeholder management, you know where we are.
Deborah Hall is a retail expert and Research Director at Marketing Sciences Unlimited. She has held senior insight roles at Tesco, B&Q, Groupama and T-Mobile.Subscribe