August 5, 2016

Why we do customer research

We’re used to using market research in Tesco, which is a powerful tool for building insight about large groups of customers or target markets. With our service design approach, we use customer research from the bottom-up and look closely at how representative customers interact with our existing or our possible products and services.

As a team, our purpose is to improve the way Tesco designs services, aiming for a joined-up and consistent customer experience. To be able to improve our products and services, we need to understand:

  1. Who the people are that use them
  2. What they’re using them for
  3. How they currently use them

Using customer research helps us understand how the products and services we’re designing will fit into the lives of the people they’re intended for.

Customer research doesn’t tell us what to build, but it can help us understand if the thing we’re building is going to be successful. It can also be used to help us understand where people are being underserved by the existing service. The work of taking this understanding and using it to improve the products and services that create Tesco’s customer experience requires careful, considered analysis and design.

So the role of customer research as a tool in service design is for illumination rather than validation: it doesn’t tell us if we’re right or wrong, it just helps us ensure we’re headed in the right direction and continually increasing our chances of improving the customer experience.

Why this approach?

There is a difference between research to learn about what people say they do (attitude), and what people actually do (behaviour).

Attitudinal research helps us understand what people think about things by exploring their opinions and stated beliefs, often in groups. This type of research is helpful in getting a broad understanding of how markets and audiences are responding to our products and services.

We tend to focus more on behavioural research: by observing how customers use our products and services in their lives we are more likely to be able to understand how to make them more appealing or valuable. The purpose of this research is to increase our understanding of how to make our products and services better for the type of customer we’re designing it for.

Key differences between market and customer research

Customer research (What people do)

  • understand how people are solving the problems they have (these might be opportunities for new product/service dev)
  • understand what needs customers have
  • understand how we might help meet those needs
  • to check our own assumptions and biases
  • to understand how customers use our products and services
  • Looking up close at how representative customers interact with our service.

Market research (What people say)

  • Big picture or broad brush view of who will use a product
  • look for patterns in consumer audiences and the market
  • to segment demographics and buying behaviours
  • Size market demand for a product or service
  • Identify gaps in the market

Testing Research Market research


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