Two years ago, one of our financial services clients approached Cicero after having conducted six separate customer segmentation initiatives. Their goal in conducting segmentation was to better understand customer needs to allow for targeted and improved customer acquisition and retention efforts. The reason this client had conducted six separate segmentations, across a span of twice as many years, was that despite every expensive iteration, the client was unable to distill the findings into specific, actionable, implementable changes. Sadly, after an initial discussion with Cicero on a potential seventh segmentation, the client instead decided to attempt the research in house.
A year later, and after having spent over $1 million on an expensive data warehousing and analytics capabilities, the same client came back to Cicero and admitted defeat. They were crunching massive amounts of customer data, but they still could not identify the desired actionable segmentation insights. They were ready to try a new approach.
As we worked with this client it was clear that what they lacked was an overarching vision of what they wanted to do with the research. While they knew they wanted to improve customer acquisition and retention, what they didn’t know was whether they were trying to improve marketing, sales, product or customer service, or some combination of all of them. Without better definition of target outcomes, their research and analytical designs were full of interesting, but ultimately unhelpful questions and mired in convoluted data analytics.
Our approach was completely different. We took this client through our Cicero “Solution First” research process (see chart below) that looks at research holistically to ensure that the right questions are being asked in the beginning to motivate ultimate impact generating outcomes. We defined improvement goals and planned through potential sales and marketing changes. In doing this our client representatives realized the types of questions that they would need to answer to justify and direct changes down the road. This knowledge was used to inform and craft the research methodology and questions. It also ensured our client was thinking broadly about and planning for potential resource requirements and change management efforts that might be required.
|Cicero “Solution First” Research Process|
|Define Objectives||· Define organizational need
· Envision outcomes
· Determine success metrics
|Understand Needs||· Identify knowns
· Determine knowledge gaps
· Design data collection and analysis
|Gain Knowledge||· Collect data
· Conduct analysis
· Identify insights
|Implement Change||· Develop initiatives
· Prioritize and plan
· Implement and monitor
When we actually conducted the data collection and analysis, we already had a clear picture of the questions we were answering and which data points we were going to use to provide those answers. To fill the gap on what was missing from the client’s previous segmentations, we used the findings to generate a list of actionable initiatives the company could implement to better target their customers. We then worked with the client to prioritize these initiatives based on their overall feasibility and projected impact. And because the client liked our work so much they asked us to stick around and help provide project management support to implement the most promising of the initiatives.
While quite a number of research firms can produce interesting and even helpful data, it takes deep strategic knowledge and client perspective to identify meaningful change opportunities. It is this perspective that Cicero strives to bring to each of our client engagements. This is why our clients frequently tell us we are more collaborative and engaged than other research partners.
While the example above is unique story of a particularly perplexed client, unfortunately, a disproportionately high number of our clients have similar stories of unused and unhelpful research. The problem with each typically lies in the lack of actionable findings and a difficulty in understanding implications for change.
In developing insights, we scrutinize to ensure they can be reasonably translated into clear action that drives impact. For example, in a project concerning staffing, if an insight from data gathered suggests a need to do a better job at retaining and developing top talent, the associated initiative should be a specific, well-defined, and measurable approach to doing that. Ideally recommendations also generate initial planning to determine specific resources, trainings, processes, and monitoring and feedback structures to ensure organizations understand the “how” of achieving the recommendations provided.
Cicero’s unique differentiator lies in the way we plan, design, conduct, analyze, and build strategy from our research. We ensure our deliverables communicate tangible outcomes and impact for our clients.
The value in research is its ability to drive toward transformation and deliver highly impactful outcomes. Engaging in a research process that envisions this transformation from the beginning dramatically improves the chances you will arrive there in the end.