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Shopping for customer research? Make sure you ask these four questions first!

Your customers are at the heart of your business, so how can you be successful if you don’t know what’s on their minds? Knowing what your customers are really thinking, saying, and feeling about your company, products, and services will help you make better, more informed decisions about your business.

If you’re looking for insights from your prospects and customers, but don’t know where to begin, a third-party market research vendor can be a great place to start. While often necessary, and justified, a customer research program performed by an expert vendor is a large investment you won’t want to jump into lightly.

Just like other large investments, it’s vital to do your homework before signing a contract for customer research. Not only do you need to make sure the vendor you choose has a great reputation and proven results, you also want to ensure a culture fit. Does the vendor really understand your needs? Do their methods and style align with your own? Are they equipped to partner with your internal team – not just work in a vacuum?

To help you in your search, we’ve put together four questions you will want to make sure to ask when you start the process of comparing market research agencies. These are some key questions to ask before you even touch on pricing, which we’ll cover in-depth in our next blog.

Does the vendor specialize in one type of customer research, or can they do multiple programs?

There are many different types of customer research, depending on what you are looking to learn. Those outside the research profession may be most familiar with Win/Loss Analysis, Customer Success and Experience Research, and Churn Analysis. However, these are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to Voice of the Customer research. At Spailey Solutions, we are experienced in the full range of market research program types and equipped to combine elements of multiple methodologies into your custom program.

In fact, we find clients may not even know exactly what type of market research program they need when first getting started. With expertise across the board, we are able to listen to concerns, identify pain points, and advise which type of program (or combination of types) best suited to achieve your desired results. Regardless of the customer journey stage you want to study, and even examining how your employees’ sentiment and behavior may be impacting customers, we’ve done it all and won’t try to provide a solution that doesn’t match your unique challenges.

The reason this is an important topic to highlight when shopping for a research vendor is that some firms specialize in only one or two types of research, while others can do more, but charge a separate fee for each type of research and analysis you want to incorporate into your program. This can leave you paying for two or three separate research programs with your chosen vendor or locked into a specific type of research that isn’t really the best fit for your needs.

How quickly can the vendor start delivering results?

Time is money: The quicker the implementation of your customer research project, the sooner you will start seeing a return on your investment. When a vendor can start quickly and begin delivering insights sooner, you can make changes to benefit your customers’ experience and your sales performance before the study is even complete.

When comparing vendors, make sure to inquire about implementation speed as well as the project timeline to set realistic goals for your business decisions moving forward. Spailey Solutions offers our clients superior speed and can begin delivering actionable results to your business in as little as three weeks, when provided the kickoff information quickly.

What is the vendor’s participation rate?

While success is about more than statistics, you can’t argue with the facts. When comparing vendors, ask about their average “conversion” rate. That is, what percentage of the contacts they are provided do they typically turn into research participants?

A simple way to do this is to ask each vendor how many customers or buyers they would be able to connect with for a call if you were to give them a list of 100. If you have magnitudes more potential contacts than you need, a low conversion rate may not matter. If you’re like most of our clients, you don’t have contacts to spare, so every prospective participant matters.

The bottom line is, it doesn’t matter how great a research firm may be, if you can’t get responses from your research subjects. The conversion rate is a key part of the proven results you should ask about before choosing a vendor.

Does the vendor rely on software to perform analysis?

Many research vendors automate their services – from the initial customer outreach to the final analysis. While there are benefits to automation, there are also risks you should consider.

  • Artificial intelligence and business analytics tools do speed up the process, but software is only as good as its programmers. If the computer isn’t given the exact right inputs and rules to follow, you could miss valuable insights that a real human with experience would easily see.

  • Automated outreach efforts can help you reach more customers, but no one likes robocalls and mass emails! When you use technology to reach your potential research subjects, you risk losing valuable opinions as SPAM filters on both email and cell phones screen out your communications. Even if you make it past the filters, recent studies have shown that up to 65% of unsolicited emails go ignored! This makes personal outreach by phone – from a live human – even more impactful.

  • It’s great to see your data in real-time with graphs and live dashboards, but if the software isn’t integrated into your organization it can end up being more of a hassle than a help. A standalone platform will likely require your sales or customer success team to log in in order to access information. Everyone is password fatigued already, so you may risk low internal adoption rates.

  • If your data is locked away inside the software, you may find it hard to sever the vendor relationship if you ever need to. Even if you want to keep your chosen vendor for all of eternity, you may find it hard or impossible to manipulate your data in ways not supported by the software.

The lesson here is, if your focus lies more in the quality and flexibility of research rather than the speed at which it is done, consider hiring a firm that has real people with real expertise examining your data and interpreting insights. Spailey Solutions understands that although the world of big data makes it easy for vendors to lose human touch, personalized and flexible outreach services offer unmatched value, which is why our services are conducted by real people and are never automated.

With these four questions in mind, you can shop smartly for a customer research firm that best meets your needs. We hope these questions will prove useful in your endeavor.

Want to learn more and see if Spailey Solutions is the right partner for you? Send an email to to start the conversation about your customer research efforts.

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