The Power of Research in a Changing World
January 28, 2021 12:59 PM

The World is changing. The needs and aspirations of your customers (and potential customers) and your people have changed and they are likely to be different post-pandemic. Now more than ever, it’s vital to understand how they are thinking, and how it will affect your business when the lock downs are over.

Those of us who run businesses have to make frequent decisions on a wide variety of matters. It could be whether we should change our prices, spend more on social media, target different customers, change our product, offer supporting services or change our route to market. Or our decisions may concern our staff – is our pay structure competitive, are our people loyal, are they proud to work for us?

This is getting more difficult as we cannot rely on people returning to their pre-pandemic behaviour once this disaster has passed. Most of the time we make decisions based on experience or gut feel. Sometimes we make decisions based on something we heard, or something that came up in a conversation with someone who spoke to someone else, who said… In other words, many of us make decisions - and hence run our businesses – based on anecdote, hearsay and guesswork.

This isn’t good enough, even in normal times. Counting on unsolicited feedback from customers, or from your sales people is not a reliable way of measuring customer satisfaction. Do not rely on your customers telling you if you’re doing anything wrong (or not doing quite enough, or even doing things you don’t need to do) – most of them won’t bother and will simply wander over to one of your competitors and buy from them instead.

Right now our environment is changing rapidly and we don’t know how things will look as the pandemic eases. It is quite likely that many people’s everyday life will be changed in some manner. Whether it’s working from home, buying different products, shopping online or keeping fit at home rather than the gym, habits will change. How will that affect your business? Do you know to what extent your customers will return to their earlier buying behaviour? You can make an educated guess but it’s a brave soul who relies on their own intuition rather than facts.

Running simple surveys can give you a wealth of information and can often transform your business – almost overnight.

The author once ran a simple survey to understand why high numbers of customers were leaving a company he had just joined. The company had been asking, but in the wrong way. It became clear – within days – that the problem was simply one of communication with the customers. The problem was fixed (at no cost) and within 3 months customer churn was reduced from 28% to 10%. This action put £500,000 on the bottom line of a £10 million company. That survey generated half a million pounds of free money in the first year alone.

Other research has shown that “loyal” customers can be anything but. You need to know your share of their spending. One or two of my clients have had unpleasant surprises over the years, including a case where “loyal” customers were only spending around 10% of their budget with the client, and another where the client wasn’t even being included on the tender list (in competition with only one other supplier!).

And do you know why you’re not winning more business from your prospects? Don’t assume it’s price – this assumption can be disastrous if you’re not winning the business because you’re too cheap to be credible (personal experience again – in this case, putting prices up resulted in an increase in business!). It may be something else that can easily be fixed. Remember – you only need to be a little better than your competitor, and they may not be doing the research you’re doing to understand their customers’ needs.

Right now, you need to know how your customers are feeling. A few lucky businesses are currently doing well – for example home deliveries, supplying home fitness equipment and subscriptions to online personal training - but is this sustainable when “normality” arrives, or will people be flocking back to the gym? Conversely, if you’re in hospitality, leisure or entertainment, do you know that your customers will come back to enjoy your offer as it was before, or will they want something different?

Now, more than ever, is not the time to rely on crossing your fingers and guessing you’ll be OK – find out what your customers think. It’s easy, inexpensive and quick, and it might just make the difference between success and failure. If you’re not sure how to do it, Survey Mechanics can help, with ready made surveys, and an easy to use and affordable survey platform, and loads of advice and support.