Is Research Automation the Path to Superior Client Service?
Fall 2014 GRIT Report commentary by Karyn Hall, Vice President of Instant.ly, sharing her thoughts on the current state of the market research industry.
The results from this year's GRIT report show that for clients, customer service is top of mind when selecting a research supplier. Specifically, the data shows that clients need suppliers who are experienced, knowledgeable and committed to on-time delivery, and who are thoughtful listeners willing to invest time in building strong client relationships. To many of us this is not news.
What is interesting is that suppliers are still placing a disproportionate amount of importance on price. On a numerical scale, suppliers placed greater value on having a lower price versus the clients themselves. In my experience, cutting cost runs contrary to the delivery of superior customer service. Experienced, knowledgeable, committed, thoughtful relationship builders don’t come cheap.
While it may seem counter-intuitive, the key to providing superior service that addresses client needs (while considering cost) may be found in technology. We don't have to look far to understand why. In fields like accounting, human resources and sales, software-as-a-service has long been used to automate many of the redundant tasks that traditionally require manual support and attention. This is also becoming true in market research. If implemented correctly and by the right people, research automation can also accommodate sophisticated and complex tasks in a timely manner that would otherwise consume the attention of your most experienced and talented personnel.
It's tempting to assume that because automation reduces human touchpoints, it also negatively affects quality of service. In fact, our experience has been the opposite. When developing Instant.ly, our consumer insights platform provided by uSamp, the process began with identifying client needs. This was foundational to our design of an automated platform that provides greater consistency, high-utility value and customization to deliver on those needs.
With automation, every client universally benefits from the experience and knowledge of your most thoughtful researchers. These people can anticipate the needs of clients by calling upon their depth of experience and expertise, which is built into the tool itself. The result is a product that not only addresses stated and identified client needs, but that is flexible enough to adapt to changes in consumer behavior. Using technology to streamline as much of the research process as possible enables researchers to concentrate on what they do best—research.
Research automation has the potential to help our industry do more than simply keep the peace between clients and suppliers. Sophisticated tools, and the research models we build, make for vital partners in developing effective research products that meet business needs. More importantly, they enable a higher degree of expertise and support through anticipating client needs. Herein lies the path to superior client service, and with it strong, long-lasting client partnerships.