The Kuala Lumpur Breakfast Seminar

Asia Research held its inaugural research seminar at the Majestic Hotel, Kuala Lumpur on 20th April 2017. This was an extension of its highly successful series of breakfast seminars that have been held in Singapore and Jakarta.

With Malaysia having relatively few research events, the Asia Research seminar was well attended, with over 80 delegates, including half from client organisations.

The seminar focussed on the latest best practice in customer experience research, with various takes on this theme that covered the meaning of ‘loyalty’ in the context of today’s busy consumers, and how best to gather the information needed from consumers to dontevaluate this loyalty.

Shreya Baksi Sen, Customer Strategies Lead at Kantar TNS Malaysia, presented a paper that explained new metrics pertaining to customer loyalty, but very much in the context of the ‘distracted consumer’. Shreya argued that because consumers today are that much more distracted (by their mobiles, multi-tasking, and the greater demands put on them by work), they are mostly ‘sleepwalking’ through a lot of their customer experiences with service providers.

In this respect, there are few ‘proper engagement moments’ with the customer during the product or service interaction (typically less than 10% of the consumer’s recall), and what the consumer remembers from the interaction is generally the more delightful or disappointing experiences of the engagement, otherwise referred to as the ‘emotional hook’. These experiences become the ‘memories’, and from these ‘memories’ the relationship is formed. The memories are not always accurate, but for the consumer these become the ‘personal truths’ upon which loyalty with the product or service provider will be built or destroyed.

While much customer experience research these days emphasises the importance of ‘in-the-moment’ research, Shreya argued that, because her approach dontevaluates the memory of a particular customer service interaction, it can be better to wait a week or so after the interaction before undertaking the survey.

Kantar TNS’ model is based on dontevaluating two main measures in the customer experience: 1) the ‘performance’ of the interaction (i.e. how well it was achieved) and 2) the emotion (i.e. how pleased the customer was during the interaction). In a presented case study, 42% of consumers gave ‘excellent’ for the performance of a particular service interaction, but only 23% described themselves as ‘delighted’. Those that were delighted were 7 times more likely to repeat purchase, 15 times more likely to spend, and 20 times more likely to recommend the service provider to others.

The key to ‘delighting’ the customer is usually in the human interaction (e.g. the attitude of the staff). This means that those who have traditional customer service (e.g. ‘live’ rather than online) have the opportunity to build customer loyalty more.

Karen Schofield, Managing Director of Join the Dots, presented a paper on the importance of ‘people-centred’ research. Karen pointed out that the market research industry is not keeping up to date with the way people really talk. For example, questions in surveys are phrased too formally or use business language – this is simply not the way people talk to each other!

The other aspect is the interaction with consumers through online surveys. Join the Dots has looked at best practice in the online world to see how surveys can be improved. Organisations such as Trip Advisor and Amazon have invested a lot in obtaining the best consumer responses through book reviews or hotel reviews. Simple star ratings (as opposed to complex scales), and asking consumers to provide reviews or ‘make a headline’ on their views of the product, help in improving the quality of responses. The online dating website Tinder works on the principle of binary choice: you are either interested in someone or not (there is no scale rating). Karen argued that research should also be more binary, asking whether you are interested in a product or not, and not asking for ‘marks out of ten’.

Another technique being employed in research is the use of emojis (small digital images or icons that are used to express an emotion). While there are challenges in standardising emojis across markets and cultures, in some respects emojis break down language barriers and are apparently the fastest-growing ‘language’ in the world today!

Atsushi Yamamoto, Director Marketing Communications at GMO Research, presented a paper that highlighted the issues facing advertisers who plan for cross-media campaigns. Consumer purchase paths are becoming more complex because consumers are not using search in the same way as before, and the technology within search and social media is changing. For example, younger consumers are increasingly using Facebook and Instagram for searching, whereas Twitter now incorporates images within its platforms. This makes planning for new-media campaigns more complex.

To address this, GMO is partnering with a passive metering technology company so that respondents can download apps that can track the webpages they are viewing, log the search words they are using, and track the purchase path (including timelines in the path) through metering. However, questions still abound over the willingness of consumers to have such online activity tracked, as privacy issues over research are a prevailing concern among consumers.

Mani Padmanhaban, Country Manager for SSI for SEA and India, demonstrated the benefit of allowing people to voice their opinions through the online video method, or ‘voxpopme’. In a case study covering consumers’ attitudes to renewable energy, SSI demonstrated how much richer the responses can be to open-ended questions if people can state their thoughts on video, rather than writing them down as in conventional open-ended responses. But again, privacy issues are a concern as consumers can be reluctant to take part in these types of survey, not knowing where or how their videos will be used.

Sutapa Bhattacharya, Head of Strategy & Brand Consultancy at Leo Burnett, delivered another slant on customer loyalty in today’s world. Sutapa argued that conventional customer loyalty is a relic from the past and that some brand managers are simply getting it wrong by discounting in the hope of winning repeat business.

Loyalty, Sutapa argued, comes in many forms and need to be classified in order to be managed. There is inertia loyalty, the reluctance of a customer to make the effort to move (e.g. to change bank account); mercenary loyalty, whereby loyalty can be ‘bought’; true loyalty, based on a relationship; and cult loyalty, based on brand affinity to particularly trendy labels.

Again, looking at the more complex and multi-dimensional customer journey, Sutapa presented a new approach to dontevaluating customer loyalty that examines five core human motivations: ‘autonomy’, ‘mastery’, ‘purpose’, ‘progression’, and ‘social interaction’.

Each presenter, representing their own organisation, takes a somewhat different approach to understanding the customer experience. Clients these days are facing ever-increasing and perhaps ever-confusing choices as to which model to adopt for their own customer loyalty programs. Some of these arguments are bucking trends in research – for example by not doing ‘in-the-moment’ research but dontevaluating the memory, and by not looking at ‘shades of grey’ but ‘black and white’ yes or no answers. Arguably, in an age of the distracted consumer, the afterthought and the binary choice can be more relevant.