Can you read your customers’ minds? I didn’t think so — which is why you’re reading about customer experience research firms. Pick the right firm, and you’ll understand your customers and get inside their heads!

henry ford sitting at a desk thinking about customer success

Over 100 years ago, Ford Motor Company founder Henry Ford advised, “If there is any one secret of success, it lies in the ability to get the other person’s point of view and see things from his angle.” This observation ignited the auto industry and applies to the customer experience (CX) industry today.

If you are looking at customer experience research firms, you are probably trying to ‘get the other person’s point of view’ about things like:

  • How do our customers perceive our frontline staff – and how do those interactions compare with those of our peers?
  • Do we have friction points that frustrate our customers?
  • What can we learn about how to sustain (or even amplify) our customers’ loyalty?
  • What specific details could help us grow our customer base profitably?
  • Is the feedback we currently get from our customers truly objective and representative of our customer base?

The point of working with customer experience research firms is to get to the heart of how customers feel and think—and tied to that are myriad questions to pursue. So, an excellent place to start is to gather your team and rank order your priorities and customer questions.

 

What Are Customer Experience Research Firms?

Customer experience research firms are a subcategory of market research companies. While market research examines everything from political polling to product price points, CX research firms focus on customer, employee, and company relationships.

Interaction Metrics is a customer experience research firm. We combine the principles of science with cutting-edge technology to deliver specific, actionable insights. Our methods include workshops, customer service evaluations, and a wide range of surveys.

person pointing at a whiteboard showing the 3 phases of customer experience research firms

 

A Phased Approach

Every customer experience research company will have its own process; ours comprises three phases.

Phase  #1:

Before you spend a dime, we find out what you are looking to learn and what you’ve already tried in the past – this step is critical because it’s how we identify the right method or system of methods for your objectives.

Sometimes, clients come to us saying they only need two-question Net Promoter Surveys, which could be true. However, it’s not uncommon that when we dive in and learn about a company’s goals, it becomes clear that more questions, a different method, or a complete NPS strategy is better. Basically, it pays to spend time upfront to align methods with objectives.

Phase #2:

Next, we build a detailed research plan with questions, logic gating, probes, metrics, and more. In this phase, we create a portal so you can see your data as it comes in in real-time.

Depending on your needs, we might also develop a dashboard so that you have agency over your data and can filter it on demand.

example of a verbatims dashboard provided by customer experience research firms

Phase #3:

The purpose of this third phase is to present your data with insights you can use to grow your business, capture more customers, build a more engaged employee base, etc.

Open-ended Text Analysis, correlation analysis, and statistical segmentations are all part of this phase, where we unpack the data to uncover focal areas, what to improve, and for whom.

 

Customer Experience Research Firms Use a Variety of Methods

Unlike software companies devoted solely to providing the means for doing surveys, you’ll find that research firms use a variety of methods:
  • Customer Satisfaction Surveys: This is where we measure your customers’ thoughts and feelings, and usually, this is set up as a tracking study so that you can monitor progress over time.
  • Customer Service Evaluations: Based on call, chat, and email recordings, this method involves scoring interactions for insight into the dynamic between customers and employees. Sometimes, mystery shopping is part of customer service evaluations, especially when exploring how competitors handle conversations similar to yours is relevant.
  • Text Analysis: Text comes in the form of answers to open-ended questions, reviews, feedback fields on your website, and really any place where customers are putting forward their opinions in their own words. Often, it is only through customers’ text that we can uncover areas of concern that were not covered in the survey.
  • Customer Interviews: This one-on-one format is best when conducted journalistically in an open, conceptual If rating questions are used, they should be simple and kept to no more than two. Interviews are a chance to hear how your customers think – but again, only if they are conducted journalistically and not like a survey recited over the phone.
  • Employee Engagement: This method uses focus groups, interviews, and engagement surveys to find out where your staff thinks there’s room for improvement and what they would like to see from the customer experience.
  • Net Promoter Surveys and Strategies: Net Promoter Surveys are well known and, as alluded to earlier, part of any research firm’s repertoire, but a complete NPS Strategy includes Text Analysis and 3rd-party follow-up to learn in more granular detail about the experiences of your detractors, promoters, and sometimes your passives too.

If you’d like a free customer experience consulting session, get in touch. We’re happy to share examples that will fuel your thinking about surveys, the science of CX, and more. Read about this and register for a consulting session here.

 

Customer Experience Agencies: Three Types

Google the phrase’ customer experience agencies’ and you are bound to come up with an extensive list that falls into three main types:

  1. Survey software providers like Qualtrics, Medallia, SurveyMonkey, etc. Technically, these are not research companies but rather the tools that facilitate research.
  2. Consulting companies that focus on journey mapping, personas, and how to build a customer experience culture, along with getting executive buy-in. Often, consulting companies partner with research firms or rely on qualitative evidence to guide their recommendations. Mark Slatin’s company, EmpoweredCX provides a masterclass devoted specifically to getting the C-Suite on board, which is critical to getting a solid program underway.
  3. Research firms (like us) where the focus is uncovering statistically valid facts and emergent themes, usually applying a full range of methods and analytical techniques.

 

Vetting CX Firms: Questions to Ask

What software do you license?

Consulting and research firms often include all the software you need with their services, giving you cost savings immediately.

How do you approach the customer experience?

The best agencies take a comprehensive, contextual approach to CX because no company is an island, and your customers view you within the milieus of your advertised values, the performance of other companies, emergent technologies, and more. Understanding your customers’ opinions contextually—and not just intrinsically– is key.

How do you ensure an evidence-based, scientific approach to the research process?

The point of research is to gather facts, so you want to ensure that your customer experience research company has processes to ensure objectivity and reliable measurement. Drill-down questions here could include asking about:

  • What are the most common biases you see in surveys?
  • How much logic do you typically build into surveys?
  • What’s your process to ensure that logic flow is correct?
  • What kinds of analyses do you provide? What kinds do you suggest?

 

Where Do Net Promoter Surveys Fit In?

For good reason, the Net Promoter Score holds a prominent position in CX:  its introduction in 2003 by Fred Reichheld helped shape the Customer Experience industry into what it’s become today. However, the Net Promoter Score is often misused and misapplied, leading to metrics that don’t improve experiences or create more loyal customers. Reality Check: Almost any customer experience research firm will offer to send Net Promoter Surveys – but that’s the easy part!

The key to improving the customer experience and your Net Promoter Score is understanding the core principles of Net Promoter and when NPS is — and isn’t — the right fit for your objectives. Certainly, one reason to work with a customer experience research firm is to help you apply Net Promoter strategically and as part of a complete customer program.

net promoter score calculation used by customer experience consulting firms

Some of the components of a Net Promoter Strategy include:

  • Analyzing your touchpoints to determine which ones make sense for the NPS question.
  • Tweaking the Net Promoter question to make it relevant to your customers.
  • Segmenting your Net Promoter Score by persona, touchpoint, and scenario.
  • Running correlation analysis to help you understand what’s driving your Net Promoter Score.
  • Analyzing customers’ text answers to your open-ended questions that follow the “How likely are you to recommend…?” question
  • Following up with your advocates and detractors — and sometimes your passives, too.

Buying a Photoshop subscription doesn’t make you a graphic designer. Likewise, just because someone asks the Net Promoter question doesn’t mean they are an NPS expert.

 

Seeing from Your Customer’s Perspective with the Right Research Firm

A research firm’s toolbox includes employee surveys, satisfaction surveys, and customer service evaluations, but CX research is so much more than that.

Depending on your company and industry, customers interact with accounting, warranties, repairs, tech support, sales, field service, products, delivery, and other departments. A customer experience company should consider how to assess the experience from each of those angles. In addition, they should be a strategic partner in your journey to excellence. Customer insight research recognizes the complexities of customer interactions and will help steer your company with factual data and solid analysis.

Customers today have higher expectations than ever before. A seasoned customer experience research firm can be the catalyst that guides your business to success.

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Need a customer experience research firm that delivers actionable insights? Get in touch!

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Categories: Customer Experience Strategy
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