Even though tracking studies are considered by many organizations to be one of the most important research programs to conduct, they may be wasting a lot of your research budget that could otherwise be spent on more fruitful endeavors.
Tracking studies typically represent the largest portion of an organization’s research budget, but sometimes they fall victim to a condition of “status quo” in order to preserve historical trends which represent significant investment by the organization. On the one hand, the history that existing tracking studies may have represents a view of “from where we’ve come” and offers the best empirical basis for the potential of seeing into the future. Yet, on the other hand, revising, upgrading, or downsizing tracking studies may, in fact, represent the best opportunity to maintain the viability of an organization’s set of customer satisfaction programs and initiatives that are designed to improve customers’ perceptions and strengthen the ties that bind them to its products and services.
It is safe to assume that, over time, the importance of various aspects of the relationship between an organization and its customers changes. As such, the exact same set of the organization’s performance measures, i.e., key drivers of overall customer satisfaction, that have been tracked in previous waves of research may no longer be valid. Indeed, the shelf life of previously identified key drivers of satisfaction may have expired.
For example, take the case in which customer satisfaction with a bank has been tracked for several years. Perhaps that tracker began with a key driver study that was designed to identify, among all aspects of the banking relationship, only those aspects that showed a significant (statistical) correlation with overall satisfaction. Subsequently, it was only those key drivers that were included in the tracking study – and that is the proper way to initiate a tracking study. It may be that the initial key driver identification study did not find that offering an app to be used to make peer-to-peer payments (e.g., Zelle, Venmo) had a strong relationship with overall satisfaction and customer loyalty. But now, this particular aspect may have a strong effect on overall customer satisfaction due to the recent advent and proliferation of such technologies.
Proceeding along with an existing tracker, without tracking on this particular aspect of a bank’s offerings, may be a major mistake. The inherent benefit of tracking on key drivers of satisfaction is to initiate programs, messages, and other organizational efforts to lift satisfaction over time. Instead, the “same old tracker” may have the organization spending a lot of money, but otherwise flying blindly.
In essence, it may be time to stop tracking on things that have been heard in the past, and start fresh by listening to the new paths pinpointed by key driver research to capture the hearts and minds of customers. If you can hypothesize that the same old performance items that have been tracked have changed in importance, it’s appropriate to test that hypothesis empirically, with a new key driver identification study. If a new set of key drivers emerge, it’s time to take a long, hard look at your existing tracker and weigh the merits of this historical, trended data that are otherwise valued so dearly.