The Shifting Landscape
In the not-so-distant past, market research teams were perceived only as information providers, distanced from the whirlwind of business-generating processes. Generating data and offering recommendations was their main job; the responsibility of actively driving change was outside of their scope. Whether core business would decide to act on the data or not, didn’t impact the KPIs of the ones who delivered the reports.
Yet this is rarely the case any more. First, businesses started asking for actionable insights rather than just data: a new role that the researchers performed well, turning from number crunchers into consultative teams. But the change didn’t stop there. Customer data has transitioned from a scarce commodity to an overwhelming flood of information. Organizations now find themselves grappling with a data overload, struggling to sift through the noise, derive meaningful actions, and prioritise workflows. The new challenge lies not in acquiring insights, but in leveraging them effectively.
And the need for faster customer action is growing as well. Thus, the CEOs start turning to their data-savvy employees with a new directive: “We need to improve our Customer Experience, and you seem to know what the customers want.” Some smaller companies skipped creating any kind of CX positions on the premise that “Market research already has all the info, there is no need for more people.” This is why some research and insight teams are suddenly facing a need to evolve from observers to active participants in customer experience (CX) design and delivery.
The Skill Gap
Such demands cannot be met quickly, primarily because they come from the position of misunderstanding. Knowing what the problem is and being able to do something with it are not the same tasks. Surely, both CX and Voice of the Customer processes have a strong customer survey element to them. But while a distilled insight often marks the conclusion of the task for a researcher, it is still only the inception point of a long transformative process for a CX manager. Experience delivery is, after all, a job of generating and retaining customer business. Research and insight teams are rarely equipped with the skills or tools to perform it.
This misalignment creates unrealistic expectations for these teams, pushing them to deliver results beyond their mandate. The reality is, that despite sharing a common foundation, CX demands different skills and capabilities. Here are just a few of them, that are not related to data collection and analysis or knowledge management:
- Business case creation and ROI calculation
- Change management, cultural change
- Cross-functional team management
- Continuous improvement
- Effective communication, crisis communication, and conflict resolution
- Project planning, prioritisation, and budgeting
It’s obvious that to succeed at the new task, insights managers and market researchers need to broaden the scope. But siloed mentality, prevalent in traditional functions, is not helping. CX requires primarily a cross-disciplined view of things, which is both broad and deep. This transformation isn’t just about the skills, it is about adopting a new mindset; a shift from being purely informative to being a catalyst for change. At Futurelab, we often joke that a Customer Experience manager is a shadow CEO—equipped with extensive knowledge of many business aspects, but often lacking the requisite mandate. Growing their expertise beyond data analysis; researchers and insight owners need to grasp how all facets of the organization interconnect, understanding the flow of responsibilities between departments.
Here are several major steps that are required for a successful transition:
1. Change the mandate:
Initiate discussions with your leadership to request a managerial mandate that covers your proactive involvement in CX strategy and decision-making. Emphasize the potential positive impact on business growth when bridging the gap between research and action by showcasing the ROI of individual customer initiatives.
2. Understand the operations:
Dedicate time to gain a comprehensive understanding of the entire business operation, extending beyond research responsibilities. Actively engage in shadowing colleagues from different departments, attend cross-functional meetings, and proactively seek insights into the organization’s inner workings.
3. Engage with stakeholders:
Identify key stakeholders across the company, including department heads, managers, and executives who are crucial to delivering customer experiences. Ask what they expect from insight, and how they are going to use it. Learn about their objectives, challenges, and how CX improvements can align with and support their goals.
4. Pilot fast, generate quick wins:
Start the transition by proposing and implementing small-scale CX pilot projects that can deliver immediate benefits. Prioritize quick wins that effectively demonstrate the value of a collaborative CX approach, gaining support and buy-in for broader, longer-term CX initiatives.
5. Fervently measure outcomes:
Collaborate closely with stakeholders to define clear, measurable outcomes and key performance indicators (KPIs) that directly link CX initiatives and the organization’s overall success. Ensure that every CX effort is closely tied to specific business objectives, such as increasing revenue, reducing customer churn, or growing share of wallet.
6. Stay rooted in data:
Leverage your research background to advocate for and foster a culture of data-driven decision-making within the CX function. Utilize customer data and insights to guide CX projects, ensuring they are rooted in a deep understanding of customer behaviours and needs.
7. Learn to tell a story:
Step out of dashboards and charts and start using actual customer voice instead, creating stories appealing to everyone within the organisation. Incorporate these stories into training and internal communications to create a more human and relatable approach and create a movement around the customer.
Reach out to all internal stakeholders with regular updates on successful CX initiatives, driving positive customer change with learnings, stories, and future vision. Emphasize the significance of a collaborative approach, ensuring that everyone involved feels rewarded for meeting common CX goals.
Navigating the Road to Success
As market researchers and customer insight managers evolve, they become integral in turning insights into operational reality and fostering a culture of change and improvement across the organization. Embracing this transformative process ensures their continuing relevance in the evolving business landscape. If you’re ambitious and seek to make a meaningful impact on your organization, this journey presents a pathway outside of the specialist position and into higher levels of management. Whether it’s personal ambition, corporate progress, or societal betterment that drives you, there’s something in it for everyone.
But the lonely swallow cannot make the spring. In our age of lean organisations and agile processes, you may need assistance in achieving your results and getting to the next level. For this reason, we at Futurelab have several easy-to-step-in, quick-to-launch initiatives to support insight managers and researchers on their path. As a leading customer experience consultancy, we can help you break the siloes, bridge the gap between research and action, and empower you to transition seamlessly into proactive CX roles. Some of our solutions include:
- Customer Centricity Maturity Assessment: a comprehensive tool for checking how developed the CX of your organisation is and creating projects to take it up one notch
- CX Toolkit: practical tools for anyone who needs full alignment on customer topics, such as Value Proposition, Customer Lifecycle, and CX Standards and KPIs.
- Training and coaching: helping individuals and organizations reach the next level of customer-centricity
In my talk on 10/26 at 13:45 at Succeet, I will further elaborate on these topics, and I will also be at the panel discussion on 10/25 at 12:15 to jointly discuss collaboration between MR and CX. I look forward to discussing these issues with you!
Stefan Kolle, Founder
Marina Natanova, Head of Research