Catch & Release: Elevating the Researcher/Customer Relationship

By: Kevin Lonnie, Founder,
KL Communications

I would argue that market research has not lived up to its
reciprocal relationship with the customer. 
In theory, we are the conduit that allows their voice to be heard so our
clients can make better decisions.
But this is a one-way relationship where we hold all the
cards.  That’s why we get to ask all the
questions.  In fact, the customer is
afforded few opportunities to change the nature of the conversation. 
And speaking from years of perspective (oh man, it’s been a
bunch of years), we’ve done little to elevate the nature of the relationship.
We still refer to questionnaire input as data capture.  We still fall back on grid questions and
often underestimate the length of the primary survey experience.  We still rely on paltry economic incentivizing.  Well into the 21st Century, we continue with
our ‘catch & release’ approach to customer feedback.  Of course, over time, the customer has become
leery of our ‘hooks’ and passes on future attempts to have their opinions
heard.  The net effect is we’re left with
the limited, non-representative segment of the population still willing to
respond.
OK, what can we do to elevate the nature of the client/customer
relationship?  After all, there’s no
association or code of conduct that requires researchers to actually make the
customer experience ‘enjoyable’.
To our credit, there has been a decade’s worth of
conversation on the need to add gamification and social incentives to our repertoire.  Unfortunately, little progress has been made
as this is counterproductive to the budget. 
Elevating the researcher/customer relationship is not going
to happen overnight.   Heck, we’ve spent
the past 70 years doing our best to wreck it. 
Despite all that, I can envision a gradual migration away from traditional
data collection tools to customer empowerment tools.   As millennials begin to take on senior
positions, I think there will be a natural desire to bring social reciprocity
to the world of market research.
As for myself, I think the fundamental questions become;
Do we wish to empower or capture our customers? 
What are the terms of the new marketplace relationship? 
Is it based on mutual empowerment or are we to view
customers as acquired goods? 
If we choose the latter, it surely doesn’t promote a common
or sustainable purpose. 
The smart organizations will choose an empowered
relationship with their customers for the simple reasons that it represents the
best value (far greater understanding of unmet needs/new product opportunities)
and because it represents the only sustainable option. 
  
KL Communications is a
research agency with a specialty in collaborative online communities. While
traditional online communities capture the opinion of crowds, only KLC delivers
the wisdom of crowds via our proprietary CrowdWeaving’ platform!