Market research vs customer insight
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What’s The Difference Between Market Research & Customer Insight?

best kind of feedback

We often hear the words “So, you manage customer feedback therefore you are a market research company?” No, Feedback Ferret is not in the business of providing market research. We are providers of customer insight. But what is the difference between the two?

Let’s start with some basic definitions:

market research & market insight definition

To better demonstrate the difference, below are two very similar looking surveys but you can see from the questions, the market research survey asks the “WHAT” and the customer insight surveys asks the WHY?

Sample market research survey:

Roller coaster city market research

Sample customer insight survey:

Roller coaster city customer insight

Let us give an example of how customer insights work in practice:

One of Feedback Ferret’s automotive clients undertakes regular customer surveys with their Service clients and was keen to dig deeper into the reasons behind the lower Net Promoter Scores (NPS). By diving deep into the survey results, Feedback Ferret found that surveys containing comments about “oil change” were often from customers very ready to defect from either the brand or dealer, and the customer’s propensity to recommend the dealer.

So why was this? Further customer insight was required. It was only by digging deeper into the verbatim comments that the following issues were uncovered:

  • Unreasonable wait times: “The “express” oil change took over 1 hour from the time the vehicle drove off to be serviced until I checked out. I will be going elsewhere for my oil changes.”
  • Appointment times were not always honoured: “How is it acceptable for an “appointment scheduled” oil change to take over 2 hours? The vehicle was in the service bay for less than 20 minutes, so 2 hours to write up the order, wash vehicle, and deliver vehicle. REALLY? Don’t overbook appointments! Get more car wash employees.”
  • The oil change was too expensive: “Very, very expensive for an oil change and tire rotation. Will go to other service center for oil changes from now on + most service centers now offer free tire rotation.”
  • Customers were being quoted one price but being charged another: “I was disappointed in the fact that I was told on the phone my cost for the oil change would be 95 and then it ended up being $40. That was a disappointing blow.”
  • The details of the service were poorly explained or not explained at all: “They did not go over the paperwork with me at the end either. They were hardly busy at this time.”
  • Upselling was putting customers off: “Went in for an oil change and 400.00 of services were recommended. I have only had the car for a few months. Do not like the pressure to get additional expensive services.”
  • Services have not been performed correctly: “I would like to point out that this is the second time in a row that I have come into the same locations to have my oil changed & the tires rotated however both time when it comes to rotating my tires your tech has decided not to preform that task as required”
  • The car was not washed as promised: “’Complimentary car wash’ was not given, even though promised. For a $300, I believe the car wash was more than complimentary.”

As a result of this customer insight and analysis, the following recommendations were made to our client:

  • Commence work at scheduled appointment time
  • Manage customer expectations when services cannot be completed in timely manner… Tell them!
  • Charge only quoted service price, unless customer is informed and consents to additional services and costs
  • Explain services upon returning vehicle to customer
  • Recommend additional services tactfully.
  • Provide all services requested in timely manner
  • Perform work correctly, the first time
  • Wash the car if promised/complimentary by dealer or requested by customer
  • Honestly advise on upcoming necessary, high priority maintenance needs
  • Evaluate high prices for routine maintenance services.

This is real customer insight, not market research. And it’s insight that, if acted upon, can really make a positive difference to the customer experience.

Here are some further differences between market research and market insight – all food for thought:

  • There is shed-loads of research out there. There is much less actionable insight.
  • Research delivers facts, knowledge and statistics. Insight delivers this as well, but also delivers an additional layer of recommended actions that can help improve the bottom line.
  • Research departments deliver to the marketing function. Insight departments work in partnership with the marketing function.
  • Research departments deliver data and statistics. Insight departments deliver data plus narrative.
  • Insights are more sought after and prolific in Anglo and American markets, less so in Europe. Translation challenges of narratives appear to be the main obstacles (although here at Feedback Ferret, we are able to manage this very successfully).

In conclusion, research tells us WHAT is happening whereas insight tells us WHY it is happening. More importantly, insight helps us understand what to do about it to increase customer satisfaction, customer loyalty and help boost the bottom line.

Both are equally important elements of any business but if we are to create solutions to problems, we need deeper and more actionable customer insight.


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