Market research departments leverage every methodology to gain a deeper understanding of customers. They follow them on social media, invite them into online communities, and pay people like me to provide research-driven insights. Yet one of the richest sources of customer insights could be the call center. Consider these many reasons to encourage regular communication between market researchers and the people who speak with customers all of the time.
#1 They are on your front lines.
Often when we are trying to communicate that someone knows us well we will say that dude has “seen us at our worst.” Well, call centers interact every day with people who are having problems with your products or services. The people in customer support troubleshoot all issues and will know exactly what your company looks like “at its worst” — at least as far as the customers are concerned.
In the rare occurrence that someone actually calls customer service to share appreciation for a job well done — these individuals can also provide positive perspective as well.
#2 They will hear about it first.
If your marketing message is unclear, then customer service people will know it first. It makes sense to set up a reporting mechanism for customer service teams to flag for their friends in research any new trends they see. Call centers can help identify potential issues by sharing customer concerns.
#3 They actually talk to your customers.
Surveys are good, but they are given a preordained structure by the questions asked and, often, the reliance on quantitative data. Focus groups typically have a limited time frame and a particular objective researchers are trying to achieve. Customer service calls, on the other hand, are driven by the customer’s agenda. The people who are handling the calls or chat sessions react to that individual customers’ questions and needs.
Yes, there is an emphasis on being efficient and quickly managing customer cases. Still, encouraging the customer service team to pay attention to new ideas, fresh complaints, or problems that have not previously been identified could lead to breakthrough innovation or a new market opportunity.
Partnering Market Research and Customer Service
Regardless of your industry or business focus, if you have a customer call center then you have access to market research. It pays to develop a structured way for call center representatives to record the following about customer inquiries:
• What caused the customer’s concern? Don't just identify the problem, identify the cause of the problem.
• When did it happen? You want to react in a timely fashion.
• With what particular product or service? You want to be specific to best solve the problem.
• How was the issue resolved? Determine whether your company needs to provide an additional solution.
• How much time was spent resolving the concern? Ensure you can replicate the solution in a timely fashion with other customers.
Keeping in mind that the majority of customers will remain silent — whether they have a positive or negative experience with your brand — the conversations people have with the call center have real value. They aren’t half-heartedly filling out a survey to get $5 at Chili's. They have a real problem and willing to endure your hold music to get a solution.