Conducting Effective Research in the Post-Pandemic Environment

In the recent webinar broadcasted by Informa Connect, “Embracing Change: Listening to the Voice of the Customer in a Post-Pandemic World”, AMS Principals Kristyn Corrigan and Carmel Dibner argue that fresh and robust customer insights are critical for companies to innovate, survive and thrive in a post-pandemic world. 

During the webinar, they presented the audience with a poll: “To what extent do you agree or disagree with the following statement: my customers’ needs have drastically changed as a result of the pandemic?” Nearly 65% of the innovation and research professionals agreed that their customers’ needs have drastically changed. 

Additionally, they asked: “What are the biggest challenges you face getting fresh insights in today’s environment?” In this blog, our researchers address these key challenges and discuss strategies for overcoming them.  

Challenge #1: Getting focused time with customers for Voice of the Customer research  

Several attendees were concerned about customers carving out time for Voice of the Customer interviews during this disruptive time. In reality, our team has found that many customers actually have more time and flexibility to accommodate interviews due to work-from-home mandates.  

If you’re having trouble with recruiting customers, we recommend clearly communicating the purpose of the research and how it will benefit the respondent. Explain why customers’ participation is vital to the research and how it will help improve their experience with future products and services. Offering an incentive can also increase customers’ motivation to participate in the study.  

Challenge #2: The lack of face-to-face interactions 

In addition, many participants wondered how the inability to meet face-to-face with customers would impact research outcomes. Our researchers have found that customers are more than willing to be on camera during interviews. This helps retain the “personal” element of in-person interviews.  

Virtual ethnographic research can also be a helpful tool for replicating the in-person experience. In virtual ethnography, customers submit pictures, videos, or diary entries regarding their usage of the product or service. This method offers rich, personal insights without compromising the “personal” element. 

While in-person research is starting to pick up again with consumers’ increased comfort levels, we anticipate a hybrid research model will be sustained. The flexibility of the hybrid model allows researchers to collect critical insights safely and efficiently while also removing costs associated with travel. 

Challenge #3: The lack of vulnerability and transparency 

Similarly, attendees were concerned about the lack of vulnerability and transparency associated with virtual meetings. With customers juggling additional challenges in their personal and professional lives, it is critical that researchers skillfully navigate these virtual conversations.  

We recommend clearly outlining the objectives of the research and the confidentiality policies you have in place. Emphasize that you will only be discussing needs related to the product or service. Explain that respondents have the ability to end the conversation or go off the record at any point within the interview. Skillful questioning by practitioners will help customers open up and share their true opinions, wants and needs. 

Challenge #4: The fast pace of change 

Attendees were most concerned about the fast pace of change in today’s world, and how long their customer research would hold up. In times of great change, we recommend frequent ‘refreshes’ of your customer research, whether this is Voice of the Customer research or another method. Consider conducting an updated research study if you are concerned that your insights are now out of date. 

Machine learning is an especially helpful tool during times of rapid change, as it is both fast and cost-effective. AMS’s machine learning algorithm mines user-generated data such as online reviews, forums, call logs, and social media posts to provide customer insights at the moment of truth.  

To learn more about conducting effective customer research in the post-pandemic world, watch Kristyn and Carmel’s webinar on-demand:

Watch the webinar

Tags: Ethnography , Machine Learning/AI , Voice of the Customer

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