It is time to “Marie Kondo” your approach to Customer Research

It is time to “Marie Kondo” your approach to Customer Research

As many people have been confined to their homes during the COVID-19 Pandemic, I recently dedicated some time to declutter our house.

If you are reading this from Mars or another galaxy and are not familiar yet with the Marie Kondo philosophy, in a nutshell it highlights a series of techniques that will help you to realize that you do not need the vast majority of possessions that you normally keep around you.

The key concept is that every single item should spark joy, either because the item is a pair of shoes (or 20) that look good on you, is a paper that you might need in the future, is a collection that you cherish or is an old picture of happy memories: Every item has a purpose and place. In that context:

  • “Just in case” items should be kept to a minimum.
  • Don’t keep an item you do not like / use just because it was a gift.
  •  Don’t keep an item you do not like / use just because it was expensive.
  • If you are not using an item, you will not use it more once you store it somewhere deep inside your closet.
  • All that clutter used to be money (and all that money used to be time).
  • Ask yourself: Do I really need to own 38 black dresses?
  • Understand that space is limited and time is precious.
  • Simplify, simplify, simplify.

So how is that related to customer research? I only discovered Marie Kondo last year, but now I realize that in the past 20 years I have been working with marketing research and mystery shopping studies, one of my challenges has always been to convince my clients to declutter their customer research programs. Here is a list of the most common mistakes organisations make and how I propose to declutter their customer research projects in future:

  • “Just in case” questions should be kept to a minimum.
  • Customers’ attention is limited: Do not overwhelm them with 60 questions.
  • Historical data: Just because your organisation always had a survey with a particular set of questions or scales, it does not mean they are still relevant. Let it go! As the song from Frozen says: “The past is in the past”. Customer behaviour is always changing, so your research needs to be updated constantly, even if that means you will not be able to compare the results with previous years.
  • Processes over people: So many times I see organisations where managers want to assess only how their processes work and not how their customers experience the same processes. Just because you designed that customer journey, it does not mean it sparks joy to your customers!
  • Be careful with new trends. When it comes to research, there is no “one size fits all”. It is the same as owning 100 beautiful pieces of clothing that only Gisele Bündchen would look fabulous in. 
  • Avoiding the tough results. Unfortunately dealing with conflict of interest is very common, as many organisations (or, more specifically, managers) do not want to receive reports that will make them look bad. I have lost track of the number of times I was asked to not assess service quality on weekends, because it is known that customer service is better during the week. It has also been suggested that it would be a good idea to filter the customer database to avoid customers that have filed a complaint recently… It is the same as when we need to deal with the pile of financial papers – sometimes we will not like the truth, but the truth is right there and needs to be confronted.
  • I love Data Science and understand that working with Big Data is wonderful, but when it comes to research, not all projects are rocket science: Get to the point! It is very easy to lose focus (maybe it is not the best idea to start by decluttering your junk drawer).
  • Simplify, simplify, simplify…You may love your 30 pairs of stilettos, but if you only wear flats everyday… You may love shiny infographics, but sometimes the boring data will be more useful.

Finally: A study is only useful if you do something with the results. Reading a report is interesting, but it is not enough! Action plan to correct any issues that are uncovered (By the way, as a researcher I like to think it is my responsibility to present results with actionable insights).

Best Regards,
Cristiani Cruz de Oliveira

Board Director MSPA EA
Mystery Shopping Director at Intercampus, Portugal

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