Voice of the customer_crop

OPINION16 May 2018

Right-time research: from insight to action

Opinion UK

Yvonne O’Brien looks at how insight needs to evolve in the era of Voice of the Customer (VoC) and be available to more people across organisations.

Late last year, McKinsey published some new smart thinking on organisational agility and the keystrokes for success are. It claimed that agile business units are reporting better financial performance as well as better results overall. Conversely, bureaucratic teams are far behind on experimentation, technology and tools – all hallmarks of agility.

This comes at a time when more and more businesses have/are in the process of appointing chief customer officers. This is a positive step forward in integrating Voice of the Customer (VoC) into the business and boosting the ability to respond nimbly and quickly to important and timely feedback. For many, it presents a watershed moment and the opportunity to press the reset button on existing ways of working.  

With the right strategy, VoC programmes should ensure better prioritisation within businesses and boost customer experience and satisfaction for all.

But what does this mean for insight? Surely, it’s great news for ambitious, progressive and curious insight leaders? It not just about being fluent in multiple methodologies and story-telling but being the catalyst for customer responsiveness. While large scale segmentations and need-states studies are the backbone of most research ecosystems, there is an ever growing need to understand the ‘here and now’. It’s about having the right answers at the right time. Ultimately, offering useful and timely knowledge to influence and drive VoC programmes.

But this requires a different way of working – being ruthless about what gets done, what gets delegated and what gets binned. Here are some thoughts on how to make this a reality.

Let’s start by democratising insight. Let’s put research tools in the hands of more people. The emergence of smart and intuitive SAAS based research tools have reduced the need for skilled insight practitioners to commission all research within organisations. There is a great opportunity to train willing executives from different disciplines to commission and manage their own timely insight.

Does this reduce the value of insight and insight specialists? I think not… with more cross functional champions, we are really creating new evangelists for truly understanding the needs of the customer. Smart technology will support this, reduce bottlenecks and tick the agility box.  

The second step is to challenge the status quo. Much research is designed to validate existing organisational thinking and often doesn’t throw up new insight or perspectives. If an insight programme isn’t changing much over time, chances are you are missing something. Fresh thinking and renewed business engagement comes from testing new sources of insight continuously.

For example, emotional data sets offer an exciting perspective on how customers are truly feeling. Social data is maturing, and new vendors are offering better data sets all the time. Both of these data sets offer agile and responsive insight. They have the added benefit of reducing our reliance on surveys and crucially are available quickly.

The next step for senior insight bods is to shift their focus from practitioner to architect. Spend time where it matters most – with customers and those on the frontline. Create rigorous and agile feedback loops for customers that can be acted upon quickly. Integrate more machine learning and AI to reduce time from insight to action.

Measure your success in terms of insight that has led directly to business improvements. Be restless on trialling new techniques and affecting change, not just research undertaken.

But above all, this way of working requires a mind-shift from insight professionals to insight consultants. Think less about the research service we offer and more about being the source of smart and agile insight on customers that can positively impact the businesses.

Insight consultants who can orchestrate this will be pivotal to VoC endeavours and will naturally command a seat in the organisational command centre.

Yvonne O’Brien is data strategy director for The Specialist Works and consultant to OnePulse.


McKinsey – How to create an agile organisation October 2017