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Bad Research, Bad Customer Service Everywhere

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What You Absolutely Need To Know About Customer Service Research So You Won’t Make Bad, Costly Decisions

There’s a huge and lucrative research industry that examines customer and consumer behavior. There are probably several hundred companies that do this kind of research, both large and small. Perhaps the one you’re most familiar with is Gallup, since it’s been in existence for over seventy five years, and is often associated with other research — conducting pre-election polls, for example, or more recently, researching topics like the effects of employee and customer engagement. Other companies in this field specialize a bit more. Zendesk, specializes in customer service issues. They author whitepapers and produce infographics such as:

Best In Practice: What Works In Customer Service

The Good, The Bad, And The Ugly: The Impact Of Customer Service

Increase Customer Service, Increase Profits

Zendesk is not a research company per se, but a company that sells products and services to help companies improve their customer service.

Zendesk is pretty typical of the many companies out there authoring commissioning and popularizing customer service research.

Similar names you might have come across include: The Temkin Group, Forrester Research, Genesys, J.D. Power, The American Satisfaction Index and many many more. Some focus on research, but many also provide consulting advice, and vend products and other services to businesses.

As you’ll see later in this section, companies that research and provide results on issues like customer service are perceived as having high credibility, and providing good, verified, factual information. There are some problems though with how the information flows from these companies, and into the hands of business decision-makers. Some of those problems have to do with the methodologies companies use to collect data, but more importantly, the methods they use to disseminate their information. It’s not that those research industry intentionally try to deceive, but there can be a long path from the research reports to the desks of business decision makers. Like the game “broken telephone”, the more steps, the more garbled, and misinterpreted the conclusions can get.

So, what if, for whatever reason, the conclusions that get into the hands of business decision makers, customer service consultants, and influencers aren’t quite so reliable. Or, well. Wrong? The risk of course is that even if businesses want to improve customer service, they need to have accurate information from the data. If they rely on industry reports, and those reports are skewed, companies risk investing in the WRONG things.

That’s probably what IS happening.

Before we can address the influence of these research firms, and how they may be accidentally misleading business decision makers, we need to understand a bit about how research is “supposed to work”. So, let’s look at traditional research, the stuff that appears in scientific and social science journals, the scientific method, the challenges of research in social science (i.e, any research involving people).

In short, we’re going to look at how we know what we think we know, generally, and then in the context of customer service.


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