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Customer research provides critical intelligence that companies simply cannot do without, and in-house research teams bring unique skills and domain expertise to the table. That said, in-house teams face a number of obstacles that challenge their ability to deliver consolidated, customer-centric insights to their business stakeholders.
The Advantages of In-house Customer Research Teams
In-house teams possess a deep understanding of their company, their competitors and their industry. They know the evolution of their businesses and customers, what has worked in the past (and what hasn’t) and have a robust knowledge of the competitive landscape.
Internally, they are steeped in the culture of their organization, including its strategic priorities and challenges. This cultural awareness means that in-house teams ‘speak the company language,’ allowing them to effectively message key insights across the organization.
Finally, most in-house teams have at least a high-level view into other ongoing research initiatives and hold relationships with the key players involved. This should offer the ability to coordinate and consolidate individual research efforts and connect the dots across various research initiatives. Unfortunately, it’s not as easy as it sounds.
The Challenges of In-house Customer Research Teams
Driving research programs is demanding, and in-house teams often face the following hurdles:
For example, performing data analysis is often an additional requirement, as is vendor management if the company employs outside research firms. Wearing these multiple hats can make the exacting work of conducting research even more difficult. These demands may also make it onerous for staff to invest in the updated training they may need to be fluent in the latest technical aspects of measurement and research design.
Especially in larger companies, separate research initiatives can create significant issues for the organization. These initiatives are usually driven by different teams or lines of business, often with diverging agendas and methodologies. Members of each team may not have a detailed understanding of the other research projects underway.
A deeper problem exists if there is no coordinated overall plan and no central point where all the research and analysis comes together. This can create a cacophony of results, with various stakeholders drawing their own conclusions (sometimes misleading conclusion), creating distinct strategies and executing non-aligned action plans all while expending resources on an insight that may or may not truly have an impact on the customer or business.
Three Solutions For In-house Customer Research Teams
#1. Coordinate research efforts
Where possible, research projects should have common design elements, and execution should be aligned. If every project is a one-off, then it’s difficult to tie research together operationally or analytically.
This presents an opportunity. By identifying common aspects of separate research programs and building that alignment into program design, companies can get more bang for their research buck. For example, a standard set of screening questions can be developed and utilized by various segments of the business. This can provide consistent cuts of data like demographics, customer segments, etc. that can be analyzed across studies
#2. Build a consolidated, customer-centric view
This goes beyond simply ensuring you’re not engaging the same customer too frequently. Invest the time to better understand the business challenges to provide insights and not just data dumps. An internal, consolidated customer view brings the sum total of your organization’s knowledge of that customer to your research, allowing for a more personalized interaction and potentially greater insights.
#3. Take a system-wide approach to managing all research
In-house teams should take a holistic view of all research initiatives. They need to gather all the insights from different research programs to understand not only their individual significance but more important, what do they mean collectively, what are the higher truths can be extracted from the combined research? A great place to start is with your customer journey. Step-by-step live the various touchpoints a customer has with your company and document the data points already being collected today. You’ll most likely find that there is no lack for data…but rather lack of people/systems bringing the data together in a usable way.
A Final Word
Customer research only truly matters when it drives action and improvements to the customer experience and therefore business profitability. The lack of an integrated view of research design and execution compromises the ability for companies to build a strategic, customer-centric view from their research initiatives.
Luckily companies can begin to overcome this challenge by driving a few key initiatives that will deliver a more holistic and valuable view of customer data.