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I have written before about how much I love market research. I’m a data geek.

Previously, I focused more on how to sort out the good research and how to look at more than one survey or study to help piece things together and try to get a better overall picture of the landscape.

This time I want to focus on how research can inform all part so a business, help trouble shoot both long-and short-term issues, help with SEO, improve products and services, give company’s insight into their customers, etc.

Let’s take something as simple as a customer satisfaction survey as an example. It’s great if a company conducts a survey to see how their customers feel about them as a company, the quality of their products and customer service. But if that data is simply used to confirm something – whether good or bad – then it’s useless.

Here’s a hypothetical example: A business that sells blue widgets online has noticed that sales are dipping this quarter and the average order size of products is down. They conduct a customer satisfaction survey and find that customers like the products, the general impression of their brand is high, and they are delivering quality service. That’s all good, but it’s not leading to much insight about the declines.

Of course, the company can also include questions (and usually do) about future purchase plans. Do you plan to increase your spending on blue widgets in the next six months, etc.?  But that’s not really going to the heart of the matter either.

Ok, let’s assume the survey is very thorough and covers things like areas where the blue widget maker could improve. Maybe questions asking customer how they would rate X, Y, and Z parts of their business.

Now, you’ve got a starting place, but even then, if there is no action taken on the data it’s still not that helpful.

Still, just using the data to conclude something like “people love our products but hate our call center interactions, so let’s fix that” isn’t looking broad enough. Companies need to look more holistically at the results and responses. Instead of just fixing the call center issues (which is a good start) maybe they want to examine why that customer had to call them in the first place – unclear instructions, poor product quality,  answers not on the website,  first-time user?

Now, the companies starting to get somewhere and can make website adjustments, involve the content people to create online tutorials about how to use the product; check with R&D and product development to talk about streamlining functions to be easier to use or access;  prep the call center with specific details about that product; offer additional tech support, etc.

You get the gist.

The same is true about gathering customer data. You can’t only gather demographics data (location, age, gender, income) you need psychographic and behavioral data to see how and why someone made a purchase and factors lead then along in the purchase path.  This data is enormously usefully in helping the marketing department, but it can also improve customer service, product development and other areas of the business. That why when using research, businesses should try and look at developing metrics, and surveys around things that can inform the entire company.

We have the technology to extract all this data, why not share it with others at the company? It will likely not only increase sales but keep customers happy.