Market research agencies strive to deliver the most insightful research findings for their clients and often go the extra mile and beyond to do so - yet, clients continue to be dissatisfied with providers’ ability to make market research relevant to their organisation (see GRIT Report 2014 Q4).
As few as 42% of clients are very or completely satisfied with how their insight providers understand their business. The stats looking at satisfaction with the reporting of research results in general is similarly low (38%). Even worse, only a meagre 27% are satisfied with recommendations given for business actions based on the research that’s been carried out - that’s heart-breaking. For both parties.
The key point here is that whilst research suppliers receive good marks on anything related to business processes such as implementing research plans, managing the scope or project changes, i.e. overall project management – ratings drop drastically when it comes to client-side business impact and the delivery of the research findings they’ve worked so hard to collate.
So, what’s going wrong here and which questions should your market research agency be asking you to resolve?
5 Questions Your Market Research Agency Should Be Asking You
Primarily, it’s essential that any market research agency working alongside you understand your business - that they take the time and make the effort in order to see where and how the research fits in; what the decisions stemming from outcomes are, as well as when and how these outcomes are best visualised, presented and delivered.
But what specifically should they be asking? To guide you, any agency asking you specific questions like the ones below aims at achieving a high level of engagement with you. These are the questions that should be asked in order to glean the depth of empathy necessary for the effective business actionable reporting so desperately required by insight buyers today.
1. What is your business situation and what materials would you suggest our team read in order to understand your business fully?
This information is at the core of all insight project success. It forms the basis of solid research through all project phases from the first brainstorming session to the final delivery of results and recommendations. It may seem obvious but only by including this immersion element at the project outset will an agency be able to provide the appropriate advice and interpretation of research results.
2. Are there copies of prior research reports relevant to this project? What is the broader context of this market research?
To get up to speed, it can prove utterly enlightening to see if there’s prior research that has been carried out which may be relevant to the current project. Further, very often an agency is handling just one part of a larger insight programme. In this instance a brief regarding the broader programme context would be highly beneficial to them. With complete intelligence they can ensure that their puzzle piece(s) slot into the correct places and that one, unified and coherent research results picture is formed - which is actionable, which leads us to the next question ...
3. What are the key insight objectives in relation to your business goal(s)? What exact decisions/actions are you seeking to take on the basis of this research? What’s the biggest challenge with regards to this project?
Fundamentally, the research agency needs to understand your primary insight objectives with respect to your business goals. But in order to ensure that the research method and plan, subsequent analysis and reporting of results is as focused and targeted as possible, it is also crucial that they understand your exact decision-making process including critical dates and any timeline implications. Iterative reporting/meetings may be required, for example, either in place of or in addition to a full debrief and report.
4. What are your expectations of our reporting and preferences for its format?
Your research agency should be looking to deliver an actionable debrief and report in a format most fitting to your organisation and any subsequent communication to your stakeholders. This may well involve different reports for different audiences, differing in style, complexity and language - so there should certainly be a, ‘let’s discuss how we can serve you best?’ discussion initiated.
5. Did it all slot into place?
Earlier, I was speaking about puzzle pieces and how all insight puzzle aspects need to slot into the right places at the right time and in the right way. After all the excitement of running the research project, with all of the aforementioned background research, figuring out timelines, determining key objectives, creating research designs, analysis, reporting and data visualisation … it can be all too easy for a research agency under pressure to consider the job well done and move on to the next. If questions 1. to 4. have been asked and equally as importantly, their answers acted upon the ‘job’ should have been well done but how will your agency know if they don’t ask? There’s always room for improvement so what they should be asking you after every project is, ‘let’s arrange a follow-up between the main parties and team members involved to have a post-project meeting. Let’s see how the puzzle pieces slotted into place - and if there’s any learnings to be taken away.’
From a market research agency perspective then, it’s about providing more than ‘just’ processes which allow for the delivery of research findings - it’s about going beyond that to understand you and your business from all angles and bring this together in one unified approach, leading to a tailored debrief and presentation of results and insight.
It might feel uncomfortable to be asked those questions – and from the agency side it might feel like ‘grilling’ the client. But this practice leads to a productive dialogue between equal partners at different ends of the spectrum. It improves relationships and enables the achievement of the common goals and objectives that you jointly identified and defined.
Personally, I greatly believe in the art of communication and its link to both quality service and dynamic, mutually beneficial relationships as big drivers for a successful collaboration – in the interest of both parties alike.