Words of Wisdom #10: Life Cycle of a Tracking Study
Phase 1: funding!; lots of excitement about learning what your customers are thinking, how to leverage that, what that might mean to the company, etc.
Phase 2: lots of qualitative research to develop the quantitative survey, lots of interest.
Phase 3: starting the data collection, everyone anxious for what can be learned.
Phase 4: really the only productive phase: everyone learns broadly for the first time what customers like and don’t like, dives into the data, and is sincerely interested in “fixing” things.
Phase 5: the company reacts to the research, and does indeed “fix” things, and as a result the scores improve; the ratings remain high; the study becomes institutionalized, routine, standard quarterly reports, etc.; and everyone begins to take the high numbers for granted.
Phase 6: the CFO decides to keep everyone focused and make everyone “accountable” by linking compensation to survey results.
Phase 7: the survey gets whittled down to just those numbers that are involved in the compensation calculation because no one pays attention to any other data anyway.
Phase 8: the (probably new) CFO decides the company is spending too much money “for just a few numbers,” and the tracking study is killed.
Phase 9: no tracking study. Sigh.
If the marketing and / or marketing research departments are savvy, they’ll prevent Phase 5, the institutionalizing of the research, by keeping the survey alive, revising it often based on new qualitative, new explorations into what’s no longer important to customers and into what is now more important to customers, to always have the survey changing to match changes in your customers and your markets.
Otherwise, you get Phase 9. Sad.