Real-time measurement: Functional methodology, Fact or Fallacy

By Andries Noeth

The current study investigates the concept of real-time measures, its usefulness to the measurement of customer experience and how it differs from traditional research. The paper was compiled using two sources of information 1) an extensive literature review, 2) in-depth interviews with representatives from South African organisations who employ real time measures. The findings suggest that numerous psychological aspects play a role during a customer’s engagement with organisations and that the data collection method used has some limitations in addressing these psychological attributes. The findings suggest that an integration of real-time measures together with more traditional approaches addresses these aspects more effectively than any one of these methods on their own.

1. Introduction

New technologies are changing the market research environment at an ever increasing rate. In the past it took months to collect a couple of hundred face to face interviews using traditional research techniques. With new technologies you literally have millions of megabytes of data with the push of a button in real-time. Real-time (i.e. instantaneously), is one of the newest trends in the market research industry and those that are not using it is considering using it. But does everyone understand what real-time is, what the advantages and limitations are and how the data should be used to improve customer experiences?

This paper attempts to investigate the concept of real-time to better understand the implications of using real-time measures in the market research industry. This is achieved by comparing it to more traditional research approaches and identifying the strengths and weaknesses of both types of measures.

True real-time measures happen during the experience (i.e. while the client is interacting with the organisation) while traditional surveys usually happen post the experience. Real-time measures produces different data than what traditional methodologies produce and an understanding of the differences would guide researchers in terms of the most appropriate circumstances to use these different methodologies. An in-depth literature review revealed that there are specific psychological processes that customer’s experience during the “lifecycle” of interactions with an organisation and that these psychological aspects are directly related to the length of time (from the interaction to the interview) when a customer is interviewed.

The research objective was therefore to investigate the differences between real time measures and traditional measures especially related to the various psychological processes a customer goes through in their “interaction lifecycle” with an organisation. An understanding of the various psychological factors that play a role during measurement and recall, together with an understanding of the appropriateness of various methodologies during this lifecycle will provide market researchers with the knowledge to choose the most appropriate methodology for different circumstances and different research objectives.

The final section of the paper provides suggestions on how real-time measures can be used in conjunction with more traditional research methodologies to get a more complete and holistic view of the aspects that influence a customer’s experience with an organisation. This understanding will assist market researchers in their choice of methodology and provide a better understanding of how to interpret different customer experience metrics. They will in turn be able to assist clients to ultimately improve their current customer experience programs.