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No Substitute for Listening to and Observing Customers

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“Say-Do Gap” should become “Say-Do Insights”

The recent downfall of Shoes of Prey has provided a spectacular reminder of the pitfalls of market research and the gap that can sometimes emerge between what customers say and what they do. The “Say-Do” gap.

As CEO Michael Fox commented: “While our mass market customer told us they wanted to customise… what they were consciously telling us and what they subconsciously wanted… were effectively polar opposites.”

Whether this gap emerged from the way customers actually make decisions (emotion vs logic) or had something to do with socially acceptable or idealised market research responses or just execution problems are moot points – that clearly needed to be teased out.

Fox continues, “We learnt the hard way that mass market customers don’t want to create, they want to be inspired and shown what to wear.”

It might be tempting to quote Henry Ford at this point: “If I had asked people what they wanted, they would have said faster horses

However, in this day and age, I am not sure that this means we “throw market research or customer feedback out with the bath water.” Product lead companies like Apple are still fanatical about testing and learning with customers.

As Bri Williams observes “think of market research as a starting point rather than a conclusion” and then add observation and experimentation. This behavioural economics approach provides a way of bridging the say-do gap.

The same observations I believe apply to Customer Experience (NPS) measurement systems. Customer ratings and comments are a great starting point for distilling insights but observing behaviour is the acid test.

A fairly compelling behavioural observation is of course sales! And that is the appeal and simplicity in the Net Promoter approach. But there is also enormous opportunity to observe what customers are doing on their sales journey and why many more prospects are not buying at all.

At the end of the day, whether it is saying or doing, the insights lay with the same customer.

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Jeff Carruthers

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