Client-Focused Research

Last updated on May 13th, 2019 at 02:35 pm

Over the last few years, I have had the opportunity to perform market research for a number of our clients. There are many types of market research, including client-focused, product trials, and demographic or psychographic profiling.

Today, I want to discuss client-focused research. This is performed in preparation for strategic planning and organizational change. Client-focused research is designed to generate candid responses that either reinforce existing perceptions or extinguish others.

In all cases, the respondents were given the option to identify themselves if they wished to further discuss their responses. In each case, upwards of 48.5 percent of the respondents agreed to discuss the results of their questionnaires with the researchers.

Client-focused or customer-oriented research is an integral step in the strategic planning process. Many companies do an internal SWOT Analysis, but they do not invest in an external one. SWOT stands for strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats. It is imperative that you match the vision of your company with that of your customers, suppliers, channel partners and strategic partners. You need to know how they view your key managers, your products and services.

It is possible that what you view as a strength, your clients view as a weakness. Your customers have the advantage of comparing your firm against your competitors, both current and future, and rating the level of service or quality you offer.

Here’s an example: A local manufacturing firm was considering centralizing their customer service function. Prior to making that decision, they reached out to their clients, channel members and strategic partners and asked them to complete a short questionnaire.

More than 24 percent responded to a mail questionnaire, far above the national average for such a tool. The questionnaire provided the respondents an opportunity to express their opinions and offer specific examples of what they felt the sponsoring firm had to do to improve their customer service. They also provided performance benchmarks by comparing the sponsoring firm’s service levels to their other suppliers. As a result of the market research findings, the manufacturing firm is in the process of centralizing their customer service function and has identified benchmarks, which they will use as a baseline to measure their department’s performance.

Another example of how effective this type of research can be is demonstrated by its impact on a local company’s strategic plan. A family-owned service company was in the process of transitioning its management from one generation to another. They wanted to measure the attitudes and opinions of their clients, their referral sources and strategic partners regarding their management strengths and weaknesses. The questionnaire asked the respondent to suggest one thing the client should change to improve the firm’s performance. They were also asked to identify the firm’s greatest strength.

These responses were used to augment the SWOT Analysis that was developed at the strategic planning retreat. The responses our client received exceeded their expectations. The CEOs who completed many of the questionnaires provided candid and focused responses. In addition, many of them agreed to speak further with the researcher. In one case, the researcher spent over an hour with a respondent while he drove to an appointment.

A final example of the impact of this type of data can be demonstrated by the results gathered for a local accounting firm. Their clients were asked to complete a detailed questionnaire regarding their service offerings and levels of service. Over 36 percent of the clients responded to the questionnaire, which is three times the national average. This research permitted the accounting firm to evaluate their current services and measure their client base’s interest in potential additions to their portfolio of services.

What do all of these examples have in common? These three firms gave their clients, channel members, strategic partners and referral sources the opportunity to provide input into their

planning processes.

This data expanded their vision of the marketplace and increased or challenged the validity of their business assumptions. It prevented errors in the planning process and provided an insight into the minds of their clients and business partners. It also strengthened the relationship between the parties who participated and the sponsoring firm. It also demonstrated that the customer wants to be heard and we need to give them a chance to express their opinions.

It’s time you listened to the voice of your customer. They will provide you with the information you need to chart a path that leads to continued success. If you don’t listen to your customer, you will lose them and the revenue they provide.

Cary Silverstein, MBA, is the president and CEO of Fox Point-based Strategic Management Associates LLC. He can be reached at (414) 352-5140.

Sign up for BizTimes Daily Alerts

Stay up-to-date on the people, companies and issues that impact business in Milwaukee and Southeast Wisconsin

No posts to display