As users of marketing research intelligence, we recognize the merits of custom marketing research clearly outweigh a one-size-fits-all approach. Studies designed around precise objectives yield outcomes specifically addressable to those objectives. With all that said, a recent experience as a survey participant prompted me to think of opportunities to take our customization even further. This began thanks to a restaurant that I visit frequently sending me a questionnaire where I became a highly involved participant. Little did I know that the information I was about to provide would be leveraged into action for my INDIVIDUAL benefit. Following is how the process played out as well as ideas going forward on how you can personalize marketing research to your customers’ benefit.
A couple of weeks ago, I went to lunch at one of my favorite restaurants, Seasons 52. As the name implies, Seasons 52 is a dining experience centered on a menu of seasonally inspired fresh foods that take advantage of natural cooking techniques. This process allows flavors to fuse in a healthy yet delectable manner while the caloric intake of each menu item remains under 475 calories. Imagine that – a restaurant where one can eat healthy yet not sacrifice being a foodie.
Following my lunch visit, I was contacted by Seasons 52 to fill out an online survey. The questionnaire took no more than 10 minutes to complete and was a typical scorecard of ratings. Towards the end of the survey I was asked to provide comments. In the comment section I indicated that my entrée, which I have ordered on past visits, was prepared differently this time. I expressed that the entrée was not as incredible as in past visits due to the way it had been modified. The menu did not indicate that this menu staple had been changed from the way it had been originally prepared.
The following day, while at work, I received a phone call from the Seasons 52 Executive Chef. The gentleman was respectful of my time and asked if I had a few minutes to chat. In a non-defensive and attentive way he asked what specifically disappointed me on my last visit. He had read my comments on the survey form. I explained that my entrée was prepared well but differently and, in my opinion, not nearly as enjoyable as in past visits. The chef replied that I was not the only one to have mentioned the change, and they would be considering changing the recipe back. He continued to express that he and Seasons 52 appreciated that I took time to provide such feedback. The chef reassured me that I can always order the entrée as Seasons 52 had originally prepared it by simply referring to it as original. Also, he wanted me to know that I can customize any item on the menu to my liking. Moreover, he told me that I have a direct line into him if another situation were to require special attention.
As a customer of the restaurant, how would you think this left me feeling? Words that come to mind are empowered, engaged, valued and loyal. Not only did Seasons 52 want my opinion, but they also cared enough to have an Executive Chef follow up with me so that they could do better for me. What a feeling!
Since I am a marketing research professional, this experience had me thinking that we ought to be more cognizant of the virtues in developing surveys where we have opportunities to reengage with customers in order to provide solutions tailored to meet their individual needs. In essence, the reengagement became an opportunity for the restaurant to touch base and create an even stronger relationship with me. My feelings transformed from neutral to delight.
Therefore, I began to think of ways to individualize research to the betterment of customers while maintaining courtesy towards them, especially with respect to their right to privacy. Some tips are:
- Ask customers permission for follow-up. If not granted, do not follow up.
- When a customer permits follow-up, be conscious of their time.
- If changes are going to be made to a product or service, ask customers if they would like to be informed of the update.
- In the event there will be changes to a product or service that requires testing, consider asking customers to partake in the testing stage in order to provide feedback.
- For the more forward-thinking and highly engaged customers, ask if they would like to be part of a special test group.
- Do not over-reach by going back to these customers too often. They have lives too.
When individualizing a study, keep in mind these tend to contain more qualitative findings. In other words, one person’s opinion is not a substitute for quantitative analysis based on aggregated results. Nonetheless, these findings are an ideal complement to a quantitative undertaking in order to provide a more holistic and contextual outcome.
As we consider situations where it is appropriate to personalize research, MSI International remains mindful that our research designs comply with the guidelines set forth in CASRO; thus, placing priority on customer privacy. Therefore, we bake into designs the abilities for customers to not be identified or to disallow follow-up contact. In the end, by individualizing research we wind up with:
- Custom methodologies designed to meet specific objectives
- Clients empowered with highly actionable findings
- Customers of clients more empowered in providing input
- Customers of clients feeling valued by having been provided with individual solutions pertinent to their voiced situation