Really know your customers

N°244b – Synopsis (8p.) – Customer Relationship
Really know your customers
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Surveys conducted by companies to know their customers better often result in failures in launching or improving their products and services. How can you make customer surveys more reliable?

In 2011, companies across the globe spent some $18 billion on research, software and tests to get to know their customers better. The stakes are high, considering that a detailed understanding of your customers, their expectations and behavior is critical to successfully launching new products and creating offerings that make a difference! That being said, companies regular call into question the return on these investments. Not infrequently, consumer research ends up being completely off the mark and leads to unfortunate business decisions.

We have all heard stories of catastrophic product launches despite promising studies. A particularly spectacular example is the 1996 McDonald’s Arch Deluxe fiasco. Market research was promising—there appeared to clearly be room for a top-of-the-range hamburger for older, urban customers. McDonald's consequently invested some $300 million in development, production and advertising—only to end up taking the burgers off the market for lack of demand.

In fact, the reliability of research findings turns out to be easily subject to many biases, which may occur when designing studies, when collecting and processing collected data, or when interpreting it. Even more problematic, it turns out that the answers of the respondents are often largely incorrect: the desire to please the facilitator and other participants distorts the views expressed in the focus groups; the reasons for their choices are without any real foundation; the intentions expressed have more to fantasy than a lucid projection of their future behavior; etc. Fortunately, our knowledge of perception and judgment biases is becoming more sophisticated, in particular thanks to the neurosciences and behavioral psychology experiments. We can now thus more accurately identify biases which are likely to distort research findings and devise strategies to minimize their impact in order to gather more reliable information on customer opinions and expectations.

In this synopsis:
- Understanding customers’ real expectations by reading between the lines
- Avoid the four most common customer research biases
- Which customer research methods should you use?

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