Traditional market research is coming under pressure from two sides. Big Data companies such as Google are collecting huge amounts of data at low cost and generating algorithms to predict general and individual customer behavior. They are increasingly replacing classic mass surveys.
The major market research companies are trying in vain to counter this trend by cutting costs by relocating to low-wage countries.
Recent mishaps in election research have also raised general doubts about the predictive power of surveys. Simple data collection through surveys in computerized matrices apparently lead to significant mismeasurement in a larger group of the population. All variants of this type of election or market research, unfortunately, often have dangerous blind spots.
However, Big Data also seems to have a credibility problem – according to a study, the majority of German executives do not want to rely fully on Big Data when making decisions. With Big Data, you have to rely on the relevance of the algorithms, i.e., on the market understanding of those who programmed these algorithms. These algorithms provide new data – deeper reasons or even emotions as an explanation for customer behavior are naturally missing.
Hardly anyone will question the fundamental value of either surveys or Big Data, but it’s not enough for a deeper understanding – which is why many executives feel uncomfortable relying fully on this data. In politics, you now often hear, “We need to talk to people more,” a value that has an age-old tradition among companies: Customer conversations.
While it was easy for the craftsman to talk to his customers in detail, it is hardly possible for executives of large companies to do it in large numbers and in a way that is representative of all relevant customer groups. The misconceptions that may arise in the course of casual, unstructured customer conversation can thus be avoided.
A manager will prepare for a customer conversation by thinking about topics and questions and try to work through these in a structured way during the conversation, while leaving the customer enough freedom to address his or her concerns. Customer conversations can now be conducted vicariously by especially trained personnel in larger numbers. As in the original, the deputy conversations are carefully prepared and then computer-assisted. The telephone has proven itself as a medium, as it provides the interviewer with the thread of the conversation and at the same time is technically ideal for recording. In addition, the distance makes it easier for the customer to speak openly. In this way, enough conversations can be obtained for a representative and structured evaluation. However, our memory is by nature not a reliable neutral storage like a hard disk.
The computer provides a remedy here; it stores practically unlimited amounts of data in terms of time and quantity – we just have to feed it accordingly. In order to obtain usable results, we separate statements and evaluations during the interview, which we then store.
Ratings are relatively easy to record in numbers, which is why common surveys are limited to them. Statements, on the other hand, are difficult to record and evaluate, but they have a special significance for a deeper understanding of the customer.
Statements must therefore be transcribed verbatim for evaluation, in order to be able to store them meaningfully in special databases.
What kind of information can the calculator provide? It can summarize content, it can present a structure of evaluations and statements, and it can compare time periods, regions, products, competitors and the like. All of this is common practice for evaluating anonymous, large amounts of data as it is used to support decision-making.
However, the recording of conversations opens up a decisive further possibility: the networking of customers and employees. With suitable special software, the database makes it possible for each employee to pick out exactly those conversations whose information he needs for his tasks.
The software is called ClaralytiX and was especially developed by TEMA-Q GmbH. Imagine, the shipping manager can directly access all conversations concerning shipping, where customers have, for example, requests for packaging or transport; the design engineer directly learns all opinions about an innovative design of the products or all problem descriptions from customers about a certain design; the sales manager learns the customer’s true opinion of his sales force and the strengths and weaknesses of his salesmen. Everyone can access the information that interests them in their job.
For this to be possible, the statements must be specifically assigned to key terms, which are then stored in a database structure especially developed for this purpose. These are not easy tasks and require both long experience and intensive cooperation between the service provider and the client. If these requirements are met, however, then extraordinary things can be achieved, as a few examples from practice are intended to show.
Founder of TEMA-Q GmbH