Recently, I had a discussion with my colleague Andrew McInnes about the role market insights (MI) can play for customer experience departments, and why so many customer experience (CX) teams are doing research themselves instead of collaborating with their MI counterparts. In this talk we came up with the term “shadow MI.”

Shadow MI: research commissioned or executed OUTSIDE of the MI department. It applies to all research done by a person or group inside the company without the approval or involvement of market insights.

Shadow MI is not good for the company or MI stakeholders. Key risks in shadow MI include:

  • Fragmented knowledge. Distributed research and insights can undermine the organization’s knowledgebase and understanding of customers, competitors, and markets.
  • Bad business decisions. Improper research techniques (sampling, surveys, fielding, analysis) can lead to the wrong conclusions and the wrong decisions.
  • Subpar solutions. Lack of robust data cross-analysis and comparison can result in blind spots and missing aspects of an optimal solution.
  • Higher costs. Individually negotiated purchases can undermine scale-related discounts.

There is also a huge risk for market insights professionals: Lack of involvement can reduce your value and influence and ultimately your budget and viability!

So what should market insights professionals do to ensure success with CX professionals and minimize shadow MI?

  • Market yourself. Often, CX professionals are not even aware of the MI department or its capabilities. Make sure you connect with these important stakeholders and show them how you can be the engine in their success.
  • Be agile. CX professionals need quick and continuous information feeds to tweak customer interfaces and programs. So transition your quarterly customer satisfaction (CSAT) reports to a more continual customer feedback program.
  • Be insightful. There’s little value for CX professionals in just a CSAT score. Make sure that you are querying drivers of positive/negative customer experience so CX stakeholders have a clear understanding of customer needs.
  • Look ahead. In the age of the customer, great customer experience is always evolving. Help CX professionals see where customer preferences are heading (e.g., mobile and social engagement) so they have time to build out the solutions.

Together, MI and CX can create strong win-win synergies. At Forrester’s Consumer Forum 2011 this week, I’ll be discussing “How To Become A Disruptive Market Insights Department.” Voice of the customer (VoC) research is a key component, so I’ve invited a CX manager to show MI professionals how to get budget for VoC and do successful VoC research.

As always, we would love to hear your thoughts.

For MI professionals: Is shadow MI an issue? Do you work with CX professionals and, if so, how do you best support them?

For CX professionals: Do you work with MI professionals and, if not, why not? What will it take for you to build MI in as your customer insights engine?

Richard Evensen is Senior Analyst at Forrester Research where she serves, and contributes to the Forrester blog for, Market Insights professionals  http://blogs.forrester.com/market_insights. This blog post is published with the permission of Forrester Research.

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