OPINION8 April 2015

MR and VoC: two sides of the same strategic coin

Opinion UK

There has been a great deal of discussion about the challenges that newer voice of the customer (VoC) players are setting for the long-established MR community. Much of the debate focuses on the incompatibility that exists between the two camps, entirely missing the many similarities between the functions of VoC and MR.

From our perspective, MR and VoC are, for the most part, two sides of the same coin, complementing rather than threatening each other. In fact, the forward-thinking MR agencies and research departments that we work with see VoC as a natural evolutionary step for MR, not its replacement, which brings new skills and capabilities to an already powerful offering.

Agents of change

The future of MR lies not in providing data from surveys at regular intervals, but in acting as agents of change, delivering business insight in a format that the boardroom can act upon. Instead of working in silos, the challenge is to adopt the language of customer-centric businesses, working in partnership with all departments. It’s about leveraging the voice of the customer in order to provide decision-makers with a depth of knowledge that others simply cannot deliver.

MR agencies and departments can increase the value they provide to clients by taking a more strategic, customer-led approach to gathering and sharing insight. The days of sending a stack of tables to a client and leaving them to digest the results are long gone – they simply do not give the ‘instant’ access to insight that today’s end users demand. At the same time, solutions providers are moving away from traditional MR tools and focusing their investment on more holistic solutions that are able to capture and analyse in-the-moment feedback alongside data gathered from a wide variety of direct and indirect channels.

This shift in technology and approach is driving a rethink for MR agencies delivering research data to their clients. Newer market entrants, particularly those in the voice of the customer arena, have leapfrogged some MR organisations, having quickly developed the capabilities to deliver feedback in ways that enable businesses to make faster, smarter decisions. If traditional MR players are to secure long term, value-based partnerships in the future, it’s essential that they learn some lessons from these new entrants and adopt relevant reporting strategies.

Decision insights

This move away from ‘market research’ towards ‘decision insights’ much more accurately reflects the role that research should play in the decision-making process for businesses. Dashboards, for example, are putting clients back in control of understanding and manipulating data themselves, bringing them closer to the nuances of their business and giving them more targeted information for decision making.

It’s true to say that traditional MR provides statistically reliable data that can be aggregated to provide a macro level view of market trends but it doesn’t necessarily provide the ‘micro’ level detail about a customer’s experience that can make a difference to future sales or repeat business.

It’s also fair to say that ‘moment of truth’ feedback might not provide the same strategic insight as that of a compressive panel but it does provide valuable insight that can be used immediately to generate demonstrable ROI. And when it’s combined with other data; operational, financial, and information from wider MR studies, it delivers even more value.

MR always aims to deliver the insight that businesses need, but the next step has to be the ability to deliver real understanding that can be digested, manipulated and acted upon more quickly in order to drive strategic change.

This necessary evolution may mean that by 2020 the research landscape is represented by a true mix of traditional MR players who have evolved their offerings, newer VoC entrants taking advantage of the many ways of ‘listening’ to the voices of customers, and a seam of newly created ‘blended’ players who effectively combine the ways of MR and VoC into a single offering. This evolutionary path will be challenging and exciting at the same time but it’s where we believe the balance between MR and VoC truly lies.

Wale Omiyale is SVP of market research at Confirmit