Lessons from Dilbert on the Perils of Research
We like this cartoon because it highlights the unrealized potential of really smart research, but also the potential perils of research gone bad.
The cartoon brings to mind three lessons worth pondering:
- Customer satisfaction research is often “not fun”—but it can be
- Internal data can be a goldmine of insight and there is often a lot of it lying around
- Ethical considerations dictate that just because research can be done does not mean it should be done
1. Customer satisfaction research is often “not fun.” Why? In our view it is because so many customer satisfaction surveys are done for the wrong reasons, focus on the wrong issues, and ask about the wrong people. What could be more boring—and more unenlightening—than tracking the percentage of customers who like (or dislike) you month after month and year after year?
To make customer satisfaction research far more interesting and useful, focus not on your products and not on you, but instead on your customers, what they need, and what will delight them. Then assemble a team that is committed to thinking hard and adding value to every report they deliver. Tracking studies can be fun if focused on the challenge of consistently providing an insightful story.
2. Internal data can be a goldmine of insight. Organizations often send out survey after survey without ever taking stock of what they have already learned, and without considering the wealth of data they have internally. Yet, the volume of useful, untapped internal data that most organizations have is astonishing. You can learn a great deal about your customers and satisfaction, for example, simply by analyzing historical data. Who are you losing or gaining as customers? What segments, industries, or geographies characterize them? You don’t always need surveys to answer these questions.
3. Ethical approaches to research are essential. Data should never be collected and archived without the people supplying that data knowing about it and knowing how it will be used. This is a fundamental ethical requirement all social scientific research, and it extends to all market research and public opinion polling as well. We recommend that research teams adhere strictly to the strictest standards of ethics and privacy as outlined by The Council of American Survey Research Organizations (CASRO) and the American Association of Public Opinion Research (AAPOR).
Need help on any or all of these fronts? Definitely stay away from Mordac the Preventer of Information Services, and give us a call instead.
—Joe Hopper, Ph.D.