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Eeny Meeny Miny Metric: Customer Satisfaction Measurement

Posted on  18 September 12  by 


Net Promoter Score®, Wallet Allocation Rule, Customer Effort: Just a few of the satisfaction and loyalty metrics commonly buzzed about. There are supporters and detractors for each of these metrics, and the many others that you could choose from. So, is there a right answer when it comes to satisfaction tracking? As with all multi-faceted decisions, the answer is, “it depends.”

Over the years we’ve spoken with many researchers about various satisfaction metrics, and have found that it isn’t the metric itself that determines the success of the tracking program; it’s how well the program addresses the needs of the organization.

Here are 5 success factors that enable a satisfaction metric to drive action within an organization:

  1. Organizational fit for the metric-successful programs require that the metric used fits from both a methodological and strategic perspective
  2. Executive buy-in-executive commitment to driving customer loyalty and the program itself cascades down through each level of the organization
  3. Persistent “selling” to the organization-constant communication helps to ingrain the importance of satisfactions and loyalty metrics in the organization
  4. Action-focused measurement-your metrics must inform strategic decisions that drive customer loyalty
  5. Thorough diagnostics-the satisfaction measurement program is more than a single number; competitive benchmarking, immediate responses mechanisms, and action planning are required to make the tracking actionable.

MREB members, learn more about effective satisfaction and loyalty measurement at our Customer Satisfaction and Loyalty resource center.

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Research: Supporting the Challenger Sale

Posted on  13 September 12  by 


Like many budget-conscious shoppers, when I am out shopping, I try to think about what I really need. I employ all the common strategies like making lists before I go out, avoiding grocery stores when I’m hungry, and looking for the best deal online before making a big purchase.

Companies behave similarly when shopping for their needed products and services—thinking about what they need, and looking for deals and value before approaching suppliers. In fact, CEB research shows that the customer is 57% through their purchase decision process before they even contact a supplier.

So, with customers doing so much shopping themselves, is the sales function obsolete? Definitely not—CEB research finds that the sales function owns more than half of the drivers of customer loyalty. But  not just any sales experience will lead to positive business outcomes – customers want to purchase products that speak to their needs, and offer unique benefits.

The Challenger Sale  describes a path to success that depends on a sales force that understands customers’ businesses, identifies their economic and business drivers, and can present products and services as uniquely solving highlighted challenges.

Challenger selling is not something that can be developed and put forth by the sales force exclusively—it depends on inputs and support from the entire company. In addition to great products and services to sell, the sales force needs to be equipped with commercial insights—insights about customers’  underlying unanticipated problems that leave them confident in your ability to deliver new solutions.

In an upcoming webinar, Supporting the Challenger Sale, we will define how commercial insight differs from traditional research insight and how market research can support the need for commercial insight at their organization.


For more information on how Research can partner with Sales, see our work on Supporting Sales: Embedding Insight into the Sales Process.  And join us on October 2 to learn more.

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Time to Change: Increase the Speed of Research

Posted on  10 September 12  by 


Sixteen-week research projects providing “perfect research” fail to inform decision-making if senior executives have only a week to make an informed decision. Research functions are beginning to realize that for issues that are urgent, but lower-risk, it’s better to provide “good-enough” information on time than “perfect research” too late.

Here are some lessons from our new research on Executing Fast-Turnaround Research to help you shorten timelines of research projects.

1. Select the right fast-turnaround research method based on business need: No two fast-turnaround research requests are alike: the relative importance of the “Golden Triangle” of speed, cost, and quality differs for each request.  Instead of always using the same tools in the research toolbox, select the best-fit method based on your business need.  

So, if you have only 24–48 hours to support high-value executive decisions, foundational knowledge portals can help provide the high-quality, quick answers you need without undertaking any new research. On the other hand, if you’d like to quickly test an ad-campaign, a method like online qualitative research (focus groups and interviews) can help gather voice of the customer in as little as 4 days, while ensuring “reasonable” quality. If cost is a significant constraint, consider using lower-cost methods like quick online surveys, omnibus, or social media.

2. Identify and remove inefficiencies throughout the research process:  While companies are increasingly adopting newer and faster research methods, method selection is only half the battle won.  An equally important, but underutilized technique of shortening research timelines is identifying and removing inefficiencies in the research process. Ask yourself what you can do differently before, during, or after the research to shorten timelines, specifically:

  • What steps can I take to cut time to launch?
  • How can I avoid rework and associated delays?
  • What methods can help me cut time to analyze and report findings?

Progressive companies we spoke with used strategies such as reusing the target group defined in earlier studies to quickly launch the new research, monitoring surveys in field to spot and address issues of low response rates early, and asking suppliers for high-level findings to speed up analyses and reporting.  

What research methods do you use when faced with a fast-turnaround research request? How have you chipped away at timelines to produce a timely research output, while maintaining “reasonable” quality?

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The Best Company for Service? The Answer will Surprise You

This week’s guest post comes from fellow CEB researcher Pete Slease of the Customer Contact Council, which serves customer service executives.  We think that these survey results are interesting, and also loved one of the comments to the original posting: It’s interesting to see the word cloud format (survey results in a format us non-numbers people can understand!)…”

Update: In response to a request from our readers, here is a breakdown of the most popular responses to the “best company for service” question.  CEB compiled responses from 996 consumers, and here were the top 10 responses:




Can’t Think of One















Direct TV



Bank of America



Time Warner Cable



American Express







During our research on Ending the Customer Expectations Race , CCC asked nearly 1,000 customers the question, “What is the best company for customer service?” and the most popular response was:


If you’re having trouble reading that response, it’s “Can’t think of one”.

CCC decided to take the verbatim responses from a recent customer survey and enter them into a program to create a word cloud.  If you’ve never seen a word cloud before it’s a pretty cool program that shows the frequency of the use of words by the size of the font of those words.  So, the more frequently a word or words are used, the bigger the font is in the word cloud.  And when CCC entered the verbatim into the word cloud machine the largest response was “Can’t think of one”.  Not Amazon or Zappos or Nordstrom.  It was, “You know, I can’t think of one”.

Think about that for a minute … when we asked nearly 1,000 customers to tell us who is the best company for providing customer service, the #1 answer on the board *by far* was “Can’t Think of One”.

Now this was really surprising to us … we expected to see a bunch of the companies that often get publicized for providing superior customer service.

Admittedly, Amazon gets a lot of buzz, and their name was fairly big in the word cloud … but “Can’t Think of One” absolutely crushes them in terms of size.  In fact, those companies that are often spoken about in the media & that we, as service executives, tend to think of as being the gold-standard, actually didn’t pop up very often at all.

And in a time when many service executives and their teams are developing strategy for the next year, I think this is a pretty heartening piece of data.  Instead of chasing some of those aforementioned companies’ approaches to service, we should focus our attention on creating a low-effort experience anytime a customer contacts service.

What do you think?  Is this good news, or troubling?  Would you rather know who the leader is, or set your own strategy?  Let us hear from you.

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Upskilling Consultative Team Members on Technical Research Skills

As Research migrates towards a more consultative role, companies are hiring researchers with business acumen and consultative skills. But these new hires often lack qualitative and quantitative research skills required to be effective technical researchers. Yet, most Research heads, facing the pressure to do more with smaller teams, want these “consultative” team members to take on core research responsibilities (which require technical research skills), in addition to their consultative responsibilities. 

In our new research on  “Technical Skills for the New Market Researcher” that is currently under way, we’re looking at identifying progressive practices in training design and delivery to help managers bring “consultative” new hires up to speed on baseline technical skills.

Here are some of our latest observations:

  • “Bionic researchers” don’t exist: Companies who’ve tried to either hire or train “Bionic researchers,” equally proficient at both consultative AND technical skills have found that it’s surprisingly difficult to find both skill-sets in the same person. But…many companies do not have specialized roles and do expect consultative team members to take up some core research responsibilities as well. The need of the hour is developing small-b “bionic researchers,” i.e., upskilling consultative team members on baseline technical skills, without expecting them to be expert technical researchers.
  • Organization structure influences technical skills required: In general, new hires in research functions without clearly demarcated “consultant” and “technical researcher” roles need a higher degree of technical skills to perform their mixed responsibilities than new team members hired as “pure consultants” in a split-structure research team.
  • Big Data is changing the required technical skills: Given the availability of Big Data, the focus for Research is shifting towards understanding the abundant data available, instead of collecting new data. As a result, technical skills needed to collect data (e.g., writing and administering surveys) are becoming less important than technical skills needed to understand the vast data available.
  • Matching training to technical skills required is key: While a vast majority of companies do offer some technical skills training, adjusting the training content for staff at different levels and in different roles and delivering it through best-fit channels will drive training effectiveness.

What are your ideas on this topic?

Do you believe that ALL staff on your team—even consultative team members—need at least baseline technical skills? If so, what are these technical skills? What is the training support you provide “consultative” new hires to bring them up to speed on technical skills?

Or do you believe that “pure consultants” don’t need technical research skills to be effective in their roles?

If you would like to speak with us further on this topic please email us— we’d love to hear about your experience in designing and executing technical skills training. If you’re currently considering a technical skills training program or are at the drawing board stage, we’d love to hear your thoughts too!

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Multicollinearity in Multiple Regression

MREB does a lot of thinking about major strategic issues facing Market Research functions: How do we proactively pursue opportunities for impact? Motivate higher supplier performance? Promote researcher creativity? Make knowledge accessible?

These big questions are important to answer, but our members and their teams also enjoy talking about their more day-to-day work. MREB’s Primary Research Forum and Supplier Feedback Forum are great places to network with your peers and get feedback on challenges you’re facing right now.

We recently had a particularly passionate exchange on the topic of controlling for multicollinearity in multiple regression. Below are a few highlights from the conversation:

  • “Try a Factor Analysis prior to the regression and then run a multiple regression on the Factors. You can then report the results into a quadrant chart showing the satisfaction on one axis and the importance on the other axis.”
  • “Use the Type II Sum of Squares (summed and indexed (by dividing the individual SS2 by the total of the SS2s) as a measure of an item’s individual (independent from the other items) contribution to the model.”
  • “Perhaps you can borrow the idea that highly correlated variables that don’t make the model could serve as KPIs (key performance indicators), provided that performance on them gives a clear indication of how to improve.”
  • “One approach is to group correlated variables, if they are similar, into a broader “theme”, kind of like principal components analysis. Another approach is to show all the variables to the client, grouping the ones that are highly correlated.”
  • “We start with the idea of a standard stepwise regression in which predictors are entered into the model until no additional improvement in predicting an outcome measure is obtained.”
  • “Partial Least Squares( PLS) Regression is one of the best approaches for variables that have inter-correlation(multicollinearity). Another solid approach is a Modified Kruskals method for understanding relative importance. Finally one new emerging method is one called a Shapley Value Analysis.”

Read more and participate in our active Discussions community here!

Television Viewing Habits, by Political Segment

Posted on  31 August 12  by 


Living near DC gets me up-too-close and personal with a topic that I’d rather know less about: politics.  Can’t avoid the chatter in a town where your local news is what the ladies and gents in the Capitol building are up to, so I try as hard as I can to filter this topic out.  But a political survey by Experian Simmons grabbed my attention earlier this week by combining two of my favorite topics: television viewing and market research.

I just had to share their most recent study, on the top TV shows by voter segment, because these lists are such an interesting demonstration of all the programming companies have to choose from when making media decisions, and just how different viewing habits can be by segment. 

Experian Simmons lists the top 20 program choices for 5 political affiliations: “super-dems,” “ultra-conservatives,” “mild republicans,” “green traditionalists,” and “on-the-fence liberals.”  And there is practically no overlap on the lists.  Some interesting differences:

  • Conservatives like football, democrats skew to hockey.
  • On-the-fence liberals spend a lot of time on BBC and Cartoon Network’s “Adult Swim,” while mild republicans prefer Discovery and HGTV reality programming
  • Ultra-conservatives and super-democrats seem to spend the most time with broadcast networks, but conservatives spend time on CBS, while the democrats prefer programming on NBC

MREB members, for more consumer trends check out the latest from CEB Iconoculture.  You can also access our perspective on embedding a segment focus in your organization at our segmentation resource center.

The Most Annoying Corporate Buzzwords

This is a guest post by Jeff Schott of the Communications Executive Council, MREB’s sister program for heads of PR and corporate communications.

Recently I stumbled across this post from Forbes about the Most Annoying, Pretentious And Useless Business Jargon. It’s a fun read for anyone who has spent time in the corporate world, particularly those of us who work in corporate communications and are bombarded by jargon everyday.

Like it or not, corporate meetings and conference calls have become infested with buzzwords. We’ve all experienced it (probably even today!)—the annoying and detrimental rambles of a speaker who wants to appear to being saying something relevant, but in fact has zero meaning behind his statement, like a hack magician fumbling to pull a rabbit out of a seemingly empty hat. But just as any sensible person knows that there is a false bottom in the “magical” hat, we communicators—and I’d like to think most competent business professionals—can spot a cheap trick a mile away and properly view jargon for what it really is—sloppy, imprecise, and lazy.

There are a handful of words that made Forbes’ list that would definitely find their way onto my list of top offenders: “reach out”, “leverage”, “learnings”. I would have added a couple more which consistently strike a dissonant chord with me — “align” and “synergies” are two words that, at a previous job, I’d hear at least three or four times per meeting…often crammed into the same sentence. For example:

“Reach out to So-And-So to align on the initiative to spot potential synergies and leverage best practices.”

Do what?? I surely don’t know and, I bet, neither do you!

The article got me thinking about words/phrases like “best practice” where there’s a specific meaning intended, but due to inaccurate (over)use have become toxic to the ear. It’s kind of like that great new song that finds its way onto every annoying commercial on television. You hear it five times a day–every single day– so that, after awhile, it becomes so overplayed that you grow to despise it.

But it’s not the word’s fault, right? Should we blame the corporate jargon or the person saying it?

So for all you corporate jargon-heads, here’s a solution to help you change your evil ways.  At CEC, we’ve done some work aimed at helping folks communicate more clearly and effectively. The key questions to ask: What words would our audience naturally use to talk about the topic?  Is what we are saying relevant and emotionally engaging? Is it unique and memorable? Is it motivational (i.e. does it lead to specific action being taken)? Keeping these questions in mind is an easy way to reduce the buzzword quotient in your next meeting.

What about you?  What words really vex you?

MREB members, learn how to effectively communicate so that you can drive engagement with knowledge.

Business Lessons from Leisure Moments: Movies and TV Informing Business

Posted on  28 August 12  by 


A piece from the Investor’s Business Daily recently outlined the business benefits of television- and movie-going: the fact that good business minds can turn leisure entertainment viewing into an “a-ha” executive moment

I am a huge proponent of never turning off the businessperson in your brain, and especially as a researcher I often find interesting business ties in the strangest of sources.  There are, of course, many “what not to do” examples out there (I avoid Bill Lumberg-type management strategies, as they didn’t end so well for his company in Office Space). 

But I think it’s more interesting (and a bit more challenging, perhaps), to look for positive business lessons in the pop-culture world around us.  Here are a few of my favorite business lessons from the entertainment industry:

  • Put the Focus on Customer Focus-if Brad Pitt can turn an underfunded, underappreciated team into a winning group in Moneyball, then research can for your company too!
  • Fictional Executive Dream Team-with Iron Man Tony Stark as CIO, Cinderella’s Fairy Godmother heading up customer service, and Scrooge McDuck in the CFO’s office, what could go wrong?
  • Stuff Our Customers Say-could Research use the popular Stuff* People Say YouTube meme to improve communication about customer insights?  Some have considered it!  
  • 4 Steps to Selling Synthesis Insight-this one may be cheating a bit, as it’s a business lesson learned from a business mistake movie marketers make: good content (entertainment or insights) don’t sell themselves: come up with a good plan or you could make the “10 best movies nobody watched” list too.
  • Personal Commercial:  30 Seconds to a Good Impression-if television ads teach us anything it’s that every “impression” you make on a colleague is an opportunity to convince, educate, and connect.

What do you think?  Have you found business inspiration in an unlikely entertainment source?  Share your favorite lessons in the comments section below.

Leadership Flaws: What Makes a Bad Boss so Bad?

Posted on  21 August 12  by 


What makes a good manager?  We’ve blogged about what not to say, how to be a better listener, and even how to work with teammates you don’t like, but here’s some pretty direct guidance from leadership development consultancy Zenger/Folkman.  They just released 10 fatal flaws for a team leader, and what I find most interesting is that most of these things aren’t bad things a manger does, but rather a list of inaction: things that they aren’t doing that they should. 

And there are a few things on Zenger and Folkman’s list that resonate particularly for market research departments:

  • A lack of clear vision and direction-research departments with a clear mission for insight far out-perform others in the quality of insights produced.  Everyone on the team needs to know what is expected of them and how their contribution benefits the company as a whole.   Effective Research leaders make sure that researchers’ personal roles in generating insight is clear and that insight is seen as a top priority at their organization.
  • An inability to lead change or innovate owing to a resistance to new ideas-resistance to the new is especially deadly in the Research department, where it’s your job to challenge conventional wisdom and identify new opportunities.  In fact, we have found that researchers who are rewarded for creativity and risk-taking throughout the research process will create more impactful insights for the entire organization. 
  • Inept interpersonal skills-here’s a great example of leader inaction being just as bad as taking the wrong action.  Because being a bully is definitely going to put you in this category, but so is being disengaged, asking the wrong questions, and not listening.  It’s a good thing that our research found that influencing skills can be trained on the research team!

What traits would you add to this list of deadly leader sins?  Leave your thoughts in the comments section below.

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