Tag Archives: Harvard Business Review

Whole Brain Thinking: The New Insights Mindset

By: Steve August
In the September 2016 issue of Harvard Business Review, there is a remarkable article titled
‘Building and Insights Engine.’ Its three co-authors, Frank van den Driest of
Kantar Vermeer, Stan Sthanunathan, and Keith Weed of Unilever, describe how the
results of a research study with over 350 businesses and nearly 10,000
practitioners show that the highest performing companies put the customer at
the center of their activities through an a dynamic insights and analytics
But what was even more fascinating, was how the the authors
laid out a blueprint for the optimal characteristics of what they term an
‘insights engine.’  

Ten Characteristics of an Effective Insights

According to the authors, the blueprint for an effective
insights engine consists of ten characteristics: seven operational
characteristics and three people characteristics. The seven operational characteristics

Data synthesis (ability to connect disparate data)
Integrated planning
Forward looking orientation
Affinity for action
The critical people characteristics as:
Whole-brain mindset
Business focus
It is easy to look to focus on the seven operational
characteristics, but actually it is first of the three people characteristics
that is especially important – as it underpins all of the other operational
aspects. As the authors state, ‘Whole-brain
thinking is at the core of the insights engine.’  
This is an extraordinarily important point. Historically,
insights teams are organized with left-brain quant and analytics people working
separately from the creative right-brain qualitative team members. However, the
research showed that a differentiating attribute of the high performing
organizations was their ability to integrated the two types of thinking: 71%
for the high performing organizations versus 42% for the underperforming ones.
In a sense, one of the key underpinnings of a successful organization is how
well its people can draw on both right and left brain thinking. Or to put it
another way, the degree in which an organization can have a whole-brain mindset
can very well determine how successful a company will be.
These findings send an important message to the insights
industry. So often quant and qual efforts work in parallel or in sequence, but
not truly together. We often treat our analytical thinking and our creative and
storytelling thinking as two separate efforts, when more than ever they need to
be truly integrated. We need to be able to make connections between what we
find in the voluminous amounts of data at our disposal and the first hand
observations of the ground truth of people’s behaviors – and then collaborate
with our stakeholders translate what we learn into compelling stories that
drive action.
Van den Driest, Sthanunathan, Weed summed it up brilliantly
at the close of their article:
Having troves of data
is of little value in and of itself. What increasingly separates the winners
from the losers is the ability to transform data into insights about consumers’
motivations and to turn those insights into strategy.’
The authors showed that a truly effective insights function
is as much about how people think as is it about operational capacity. It is
time for the insights industry to embrace whole-brain thinking.  
About the Author: Steve
August is the CMO of FocusVision, the global leader in market research
technology. A pioneer in online qualitative research, Steve created Revelation,
the industry leading platform for mobile diaries, insight communities and
bulletin boards. Apart from speaking and hosting an array of conferences, he is
fascinated with design, technology and smart methodology’and how they can be
fused to get to the heart of everyday moments that reveal people’s emotions and

This Week In Market Research: 11/16/15 – 11/20/15

The terrorist attacks in Paris seen late last week have shocked the world and completely rocked the situation in Paris. The fear of terrorism has never been higher and analysts are now saying that this environment of fear could have a high impact not only on policy, but also on the global economy. According to an article put out by Fox Business this week, the biggest economic impact from these devastating attacks will be on how much people spend on travel and tourism. ‘France’s tourism industry is likely to take the biggest immediate punch from Friday’s gruesome events. According to 2014 data from the International Monetary Fund, France is the world’s sixth-largest economy ‘ the second-biggest in the eurozone, and figures from the Paris Convention and Visitors Bureau show the tourism industry makes up nearly 7.4% of the country’s gross domestic product.’ The article also argues that the Paris tourism industry will not be the only area economically affected. Analysts say that given data of past attacks and consumer behavior in the aftermath, people will be less likely to spend money on going to restaurants, cafes, and or concerts (all three of which were targets during the November 13th attacks.) ‘Recent data show overall consumer confidence in the nation fell from an eight-year high in October as consumers were less sure of their ability to add to their savings or make large purchases. In the wake of such abhorrent attacks, it is clear that on top of the emotional stress and trauma France will face, economic stress will also follow. 

In an extremely compelling article on Harvard Business Review this week, the idea of combining thick data with big data is discussed. Now many people may wonder, ‘What is think data’? According to the article, thick data is the data that is generated by anthropologists and individuals trained in observing human behavior and what motivated people. Recently the large majority of businesses either specialize in one or the other. ‘To date, thick data and big data have been promoted and employed by very different people. Thick data has been handled by companies grounded in the social sciences. Big data has been promoted by people with analytics degrees, often sitting in corporate IT functions.’ As the article depicts, little dialogue has gone on between the two. The argument being made is that combining these two approaches can complete a full picture and real solution for some of the strategic problems that CMO’s face. ‘Thick data’s strength comes from its ability to establish hypotheses about why people behave as they do’Big Data has the advantage of being largely unassailable because it is generated by the entire customer population rather than a smaller sample size.’ The article discusses a case study of a European supermarket chain and the tactics their CMO used. The conclusion of the study is that more CMO’s need to ‘familiarize themselves with the strengths and weaknesses of the two data types. I highly recommend this article to anyone in the field of market research, as it illustrates the importance of both types of data. 

An article on Fast Company this week discusses the development and design of Samsung’s Gear VR as it was largely spurred on by consumer insights. According to the VP of Immersive Products and Virtual Reality, Nick DiCarlo, ”Consumer and developer feedback is critical and all of the tweaks we’ve made to the device have been as a result of what we hear from the community. We are committed to continuously improving and bringing this amazing new technology to millions, and that takes a careful ear to listen and learn from the passionate VR community and developers we work with every day.” Many consumers had comments from the previous version that centered around the touchpad which is located on the right side of the headset. In its newest version, Samsung changed the touchpad from being flat and squarish, to a cross-shaped groove that is more conducive to swiping up and down. This article is great example of how consumer insights and market research can impact the design of a product and its evolution thereafter. 

Nichole Dicharry, is a Digital Marketing Assistant at IIR USA, Marketing and Finance Divisions, who works on various aspects of the industry including social media, marketing analysis and media. She can be reached at Ndicharry@iirusa.com

Is Market Research Slowly Getting Out of Our Control?

In the past, customers struggled to evaluate potential
products that they wanted to purchase. The only information we as customers had
was what the seller was giving us. We were all vulnerable to great advertising
and marketing, which meant big name brands had the resources and the reputation
to continue to sell, despite potentially there being better products by lesser
known entities.
Back then, predicting consumer preferences and gaining
customer loyalty was a lot easier. I, myself and I’m sure the majority of
people reading this, will have in the past chosen a product simply because we
had something from that brand already and liked it. However in today’s socially
intensive environment everything has changed.
Now, there is such a multitude of information available to
customers, so purchasing new items is no longer solely reliant on what the
brand advertises. Consumers are now far more dependent on what has been dubbed
‘other’ information. Today, people purchasing new items or goods get knowledge
on the different products available from user reviews, friend’s thoughts on
social media, expert opinions, price comparison sites and other in time
information. The influence of ‘other’ is very unpredictable; factors such as
‘coolness’ are very reliant on current fashion and social trends. And, aids
such as Yelp or Google reviews get a lot of traffic and so people can look at
the feedback in order to make a decision.
This has its advantages for small startup companies as they may
not have the finances or resources to embark on large advertising campaigns and
so word of mouth is vital for the growth of their products. However, for market
research purposes, the rise of ‘other’ information means that traditional forms
of marketing such as positioning and persuasion techniques are less effective.
Market research needs to evolve with the change in
information that is available as prediction and forecasting methods are
steadily becoming more difficult to do. Consumers are becoming less loyal as if
they see a poor review or if a product is not following current trends then
they are more likely to move to a new brand. There needs to be a higher
understanding of the new sources of knowledge that are available to customers.
By tracking the readily available customer preferences, reviews and trends on
forums, social media sites and review sites can give an opportunity to respond
quickly to market changes.
The question for the future is how will companies evolve
with the times and develop market research strategies that are more customer-focused?
There needs to be much more awareness of what consumers are
interested in at that exact moment in time. This could be at a huge corporate
level where the research has to focus on the exact aim and goal of a large
client. Or it could focus individual reviews from day to day consumers that
could shape and influence future products. Market research could get out of
control to businesses who continue to live in the past instead of modernizing
strategies and keeping up with what the customer wants and needs.

About the Author:
Harry Kempe, a marketing intern at IIR USA, who works on various aspects of the
industry including social media, marketing analysis and media. He is a recent
graduate of Newcastle University who previously worked for EMAP Ltd. and WGSN as
a marketing assistant on events such as the World Architecture Festival, World
Retail Congress and Global Fashion Awards. He can be reached at hkempe@IIRUSA.com

Measuring Customer Experience: Where do we go from here?

There has been a dramatic rejuvenation in the measurement
and usage of customer experience data in the past decade. Frederick Reichheld’s
2003 Harvard Business Review article, ‘The OneNumber You Need to Grow,’ sparked a resurgence in the assessment
and importance placed on customer feedback.
For better or worse, Reichheld’s Net Promoter Score (NPS)
grabbed the attention of senior management in ways that customer
satisfaction/loyalty research has struggled to do. Overall, this attention has
been good for our clients and for us as researchers, but NPS isn’t the panacea
that it is sometimes made out to be. There are several material
methodological issues that need to be considered:
  1. The
    scores can be unstable due to using only portions of the scale, and the
    mathematical operation on them. For example, the American Customer
    Satisfaction Index (ACSI) has a margin of error of +/- 3.3%, while the NPS
    score on the same data has a margin of error of +/- 10%.
  2. Consistently,
    NPS is closely linked to customer satisfaction and overall quality; if
    your business is more driven by value and price, NPS may not fare as well.
  3. Differences
    in likelihood to recommend don’t automatically mean differences in
    • Levels
      of involvement with product are a mitigating factor.
    • ‘Promoters’
      are not equally loyal.
In particular, B2B researchers have struggled to see
the relevance of recommendation as the key measure of
success. Fortunately, there are others to consider, including the
recent emergence of the Customer
Effort Score 
as an alternative to NPS and other more established
metrics such as the Commitment
While the methodological issues with NPS are real and
persistent, there is a portion of the approach that can be adopted
regardless of the key metric used. Specifically, I am referring to
the identification of individual customers who have had a negative
experience (detractors, in NPS-speak) and efforts to address the
individual customer’s issue directly. In my work, it’s this closed-loop
feedback mechanism that drives the success or failure of a program. 
The direct linkage to actual customers allows the
organization to identify and address problems one customer at a
time. Extracting insights from these experiences that can then
be incorporated into the structure of the customer experience is vital,
but, perhaps more importantly, the business is fixing/improving/evolving the
customer experience as it addresses these individual issues. Delivering a
differentiated customer experience is, in many ways, a learned behavior that
requires practice to make perfect.
In the end, what really matters is how you use the
feedback you obtain about the customer experience to truly provide a
differentiated customer experience. There are many ways to inculcate
customer feedback into your organization, but successful efforts seem to share
the following characteristics:
1.       A
top-to-bottom cultural embrace of the importance of improving the customer
experience and buy-in on the measurement program and metrics used.
2.       A
coordinated effort between tactical (interaction) and strategic
(relationship) customer experience measurements.
3.       Clear
linkage between feedback results and other key company metrics and goals.
4.       A
research design that includes sufficient granularity to support tactical
decisions and line-level accountability.
5.  A
flexible measurement system and strategy that stands up to business
changes and evolving needs.
       Mark Willard, Managing Director, Market
Strategies International


Mark has more than 20 years of experience in research. A specialist in financial services, Mark most recently held the executive vice president position at Research International, where he led the Financial Services practice and served as general manager of their East Coast offices.

Prior to Research International, Mark was the managing director and founding partner of The Willard and Shullman Group, a full-service research and consulting firm. At Willard and Shullman, Mark managed all consulting and project-related activities and was also the firm’s chief methodologist. Before Willard and Shullman, Mark was an internal consultant for Citicorp, where he was involved in the development of virtually all of its customer satisfaction measurement programs worldwide.

Mark has an undergraduate degree in psychology from Hofstra University and has completed coursework toward his Ph.D. in applied psychological research, also at Hofstra.

Join me and Mary Lee of AAA
for ‘
Revolutionizing CX: How AAA Turned Satisfied
Customers into Loyal Advocates

at TMRE 2014 in Boca Raton (2:30 p.m. on Tuesday, October 21). We’ll share how
a new measurement program and a built-in, closed-loop system revolutionized
AAA’s member experience program and empowered employees across the organization
to make immediate and lasting improvements in customer experience. 

Defining the Customer Experience

Over the last few years, ‘customer experience’ has become a commonly used phrase, but like ‘innovation’ it is difficult to find a clear, common definition. Of customer experience (CX). So, how we can really improve something if we can’t even define it? What encompasses CX? How do we structure it? And, how do we improve it?
People have been grappling with a definition of CX for several years. Sometimes it’s defined as digital experiences and interactions, such as on a website or a smartphone. In other cases, it is focused on retail or customer service, or the speed at which problems are solved in a call center.
According to the Harvard Business Review, CX is the sum-totality of how customers engage with your company and brand, not just in a snapshot in time, but throughout the entire arc of being a customer.
Every company provides a CX. Your company provides a one too, even if you aren’t aware of it or create it consciously. That experience may be good, bad or indifferent, but the fact that you have customers, you interact with those customers in some way, and provide them products, means that they have an experience with you and your brand. Now it is up to you whether it’s fantastic, awful or average.
There is a strong case to be made that companies cannot completely control experiences, because experiences inevitably involve perception, emotion, and unexpected behaviors on the parts of customers. No matter how well we craft an experience, people will not perceive exactly as we anticipate. So, companies cannot afford to throw up their hands and give up in the face of unpredictably. Instead, they need to plan for the worst and aim for the ideal when considering the experiences they want to create.
CX may sometimes seem like something which appears as if by magic, and only certain companies are able to create it regularly. The good news is that creating a great CX does not require knowledge of magical incantations, instead, it springs from controllable elements ‘ the touchpoints. These can be numerous and diverse, but they can be identified, crafted, and integrated.
If this is the case, why are their only a few companies we think of when it comes to great CX? Crafting a great CX requires enormous amounts of collaboration across groups in a company that often work independently and at different stages of product development. In many cases marketing, product design, customer services, sales, advertising agency, retail partners must all be working in concert to create even one single touchpoint.

About the Author: Amanda Ciccatelli, Social Media Strategist of the Marketing Divisionat IIR USA, has a background in digital and print journalism, covering a variety of topics in business strategy, marketing, and technology. Amanda is a regular contributor to several of IIR’s blogs including Front End of Innovation, The Market Research Event, Next Big Design, Digital Impact, Customers 1st, and ProjectWorld and World Congress for Business Analysts. She previously worked at Technology Marketing Corporation as a Web Editor where she covered breaking news and feature stories in the technology industry. She can be reached at aciccatelli@iirusa.com. Follow her at @AmandaCicc.