My journey from ‘respondent’ to ‘member’.
As a numbers gal, I have always worked on the quantitative side. Numbers provided comfort. They are concrete, they are exact…none of this fluffy, abstract nonsense that those qual people on “The Dark Side” fiddle over. People were “respondents” that provided “data”. As a stats geek I would translate this “data” to “information”.
And then I made the move to the qual side. Holy —-! Why have I been sitting behind a desk crunching numbers for so many years? Why did they not spend more time on this qualitative stuff in my MBA program? The extent of our discussions around qualitative research was the mere mention of a focus group – not much on the process or benefits of what good qualitative research brings. And certainly no mention of online communities.
Over the past couple of years that I have been a community moderator, I have learned more about good research, customers, preferences, behaviors, etc. than I ever did in my years on the quantitative side. The feedback that you get from members of a community is so rich with emotion and detail that is hard not to learn so much about an industry and what it is that consumers really want.
People are no longer just a number, a data point, or a “respondent”. They are a person – a member of a community that I take pride in. They have a face, a name, and a real personality! They like to engage in conversation. They like to tell me not only that they like Brand X but why they like it and how it fits into their life. I don’t report “information” but rather real insight into a industry and customer base.
As companies become more interested in learning about this “voice of the customer”, I realize that the only way to hear that voice is to listen to customers talk about their experiences with a product or hopes for the brand category first hand. Quantitative data (which will always hold a place in my heart and in market research) is hard to listen to – its just a bunch or pie charts and tables. But communities provide context, anecdotes, and first hand accounts that cannot be ignored.
Funny…this “dark side” sheds a lot more light on the “voice of the customer” than statistical significance ever did.