Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Research Suppliers to Clients: “We Don’t Suck!”

Clients are Tigers and Bears. Oh My! Part One

By Marc Dresner, IIR

I’ve been known to eat dessert before dinner, so feel free to stop reading here because the headline is also the conclusion…

Some of you may remember the masked rogue blogger and tweeter “MR Heretic” (MR being shorthand for “market research,” not “mister”), author of a subtle little blog called The Market Research Deathwatch.

We haven’t heard from him/her in a while, and it saddens me because whether or not you agreed with MR Heretic's assertions or approved of his/her penchant for the controversial, I find it’s refreshing to come across someone who doesn't suddenly go blind every time a massive white elephant enters a room.

Happily, it recently came to my attention that the #MRX twitterverse has a new anonymous bomb thrower.

Her handle speaks for itself: Angry_MR_Client.

She’s caused a bit of a stir, but there are two sides to every story, and my aim today is to tell the other side…

Background

Angry_MR_Client started with a slightly salty twitterfeed, which I’ve read and obviously follow.

Research industry pundit, GreenBook Editor and friend Lenny Murphy published a stimulating interview with this mysterious figure on September 12 aptly titled “An Angry MR Client Speaks.”

Not surprisingly, it generated quite a bit of interest in MR circles and a lively discussion on the blog’s comment board ensued.

The shadowy, ax-grinding client subsequently appeared on the September 17 episode of the webcast series, Radio NewMR.

Who Is She?

Her identity remains the subject of breathless speculation—some maintain she is actually a supplier with an agenda that would do Machiavelli proud.

According to her NewMR bio, Angry_MR_Client is a woman and she is currently the “youngest” (i.e., newest, although she does also sound young when you listen to her) clientsider to tweet her frustrations with the industry.

We also know from her tweets and the interviews she’s given that she has some pretty strong opinions and a healthy sense of humor.

And lest we ignore the obvious, even those who are hearing about her for the first time know from her nom de plume that she’s had a few dissatisfying experiences with research providers.

For what it’s worth, while controversial, on the whole I haven’t found her comments inflammatory, but I’m not here to debate their merit and/or lack thereof.

Instead, I thought it might be interesting to present the providers’ perspective in similar fashion: anonymously.

A Silent Ruckus

I’m no industry apologist, but we spend an awful lot of time fixating on what’s wrong with commercial providers and little time talking openly about clients’ shortfalls (for obvious reasons).

The customer is not always right, and there’s nothing radical or subversive about pointing this out.

Nevertheless it’s clear that to get authentic opinions on a sensitive issue like this one requires the protection of a disguise.

By the way, this is not a rebuttal piece specifically aimed at Angry_MR_Client, although she inspired me to undertake it.

I appreciate Angry_MR_Client for speaking out and hope she will continue to do so, because she’s performing an important service to this industry.

In my interviews at no point did I mention her or solicit a response to anything she’s charged. I simply asked a few questions along the lines of, “What frustrates or upsets you most about clients?”

When I got this bug last week, I was determined to get the truth—raw and unvarnished, so I encouraged people to speak from the heart and to dispense with diplomatic pretense as they liked.

I didn’t want to start a counterproductive conversation, but I didn’t invite Pollyanna to the party, either.

The “Sample”
  • - I spoke to 24 people, all of whom currently work for research companies or consult independently in a research service capacity.
  • - More than half of my sample came from Honomichl-class companies, their subsidiaries or strategic partners.
  • - I spoke with what I consider to be a fair distribution of job titles in terms of seniority and function and—not unrelated, but an important distinction—to veterans and relatively fresh faces.
  • - I already knew many of these sources personally, but referrals were a huge help. I had no problem filling my quota. Everyone was very cooperative.
  • - Roughly one-third of those interviewed have worked on the client side.
  • - Lastly, tempted though I was, I deliberately avoided known provocateurs. My goal was not to provide a platform for serial malcontents.

Mostly Bad and Some Ugly

Obviously, I did not attempt anything remotely resembling a representative sample, but at the end of the day, I think the folks I interviewed provided a decent window into how the supplier community feels.

Several themes emerged (entirely unaided), which I’ll get to in my next post, so please stay tuned!

For now, I’ll simply close with some particularly resonant verbatims:
  • “We’re mad as hell, and we are going to take it more.”
  • “If you’re going to get into research today, get used to abuse.”
  • “I love my work, but it’s discouraging when they don’t appreciate you…I would say maybe 25% of the time (the client does not appreciate the supplier).”
  • “My job is to give (clients) what they want, not what they need.”
  • “Unreasonable expectations. Epidemic levels.”
  • “I constantly remind people that you get what you pay for. But either no one believes that or they just don’t care.”
  • “When I find a client that really understands what it means to partner, it’s like finding an honest mechanic. They're rare. You stay with them and do whatever it takes to keep them happy.”
  • “My long-term clients I love. They ‘get’ it, and they’ll go to the mat for me…I’m so grateful for (those relationships), but they’re the minority for us and I don’t think my company is unique in that regard.”
  • “I feel sorry for (clients). They’re under the same pressure (as suppliers are), maybe worse.”
  • “It’s all about trust, but I’m not seeing a lot of that on either side these days. I think (too many suppliers and clients) have been burned. They’ve given up.”
  • “You have to walk in their shoes first…My best clients have been people I used to work with (when I was a client).”
  • “I just wish sometimes (my clients) would get out of the way so I could do my job.”
  • “Tell me the truth. I can’t help you if you won’t.“
  • “I’ve had to fire clients (because) they wouldn’t listen to anything (I said).”
  • “You say to yourself, ‘There’s no way this can turn out good.’ But what choice do you have? They’re paying the bills.”

And finally, my personal favorite: “We don’t suck. That’s my message. We don’t suck.”

And that wraps part one of this two-part blog. I hope these comments gave you something to chew on, but it's only a taste.

In part two, I'll share some of the outcomes from my interviews with suppliers in more detail and introduce you to The Burn Victim, The Know-It-All, The Miser and a few other client types that bug suppliers.

Until then, thanks for reading and please share your thoughts (you don't have to use your real name, either).


ABOUT THE AUTHOR/INTERVIEWER
Marc Dresner is IIR USA’s senior editor and special communication project lead. He is the former executive editor of Research Business Report, a confidential newsletter for the market research industry. He may be reached at mdresner@iirusa.com. Follow him @mdrezz.
Enhanced by Zemanta

4 comments:

Lennyism said...

Nice post my friend; well done and thanks for keeping this important dialogue going!

Jennifer Nelson said...

More! I want more! (Spoken like a MR client... well, because I am one). Seriously though, don't just give the quotes of how they feel - lets get into the substance of it. Clients who don't know enough about the business situation for the project design or the deliverables to be actionable... and so on. What could we or should we do to have a more quality productive relationship?

Marc Dresner said...

@Lennyism Thank you, sir, for scooping everyone with such a great interview and getting the dialogue started!!! You're such an important asset to this industry!

Marc Dresner said...

@Jennifer Nelson - HEY stranger! I am delighted to hear from you!!! Thank you for your support and encouragement! Outstanding point and question. Let's see about getting it answered...