Friday, November 17, 2006

Ion Group Survey Stresses Importance of Service

“People consider personalized, intelligent and convenient contact the most important elements of added value a company can offer.”

Insight or cliché? It really depends on who said it and why.

In this case, the quote is from UK-based marketing services provider Ion Group ( Ion sent a three-question email survey to 1,090 representative UK consumers and analyzed the results. We don't know how many responded. (Click here
for the study.)

Just knowing this tells us something about the quote: it isn't derived from a very big or detailed project, so the results are at best directional. In fact, they are barely better than anecdotal.

But the real question is, “Most important elements of added value” compared to what? Ion, to its credit, published the actual survey questions. It asked “What aspects of companies that you buy from do you consider offer the most value to you?” and gave a list that can be paraphrased (with their relative ranking) as:

- friendly, knowledgeable staff (127)
- open/contactable 12-24 hours a day (124)
- company can access my information (116)
- well known brand (104)
- nationwide network of outlets (104)
- environmentally friendly policies (102)
- loyalty scheme (98)
- send offers I’m interested in (93)
- periodically check whether I’m happy with my purchase (85)
- endorsed by celebrities (42)

It’s an interesting list and interesting rankings. Celebrities don’t matter – cool! (But bear in mind that these are UK consumers, not Americans.) Well targeted offers aren’t very important either – hmm, maybe not to consumers but how about to the companies that sell them things? Still, there is a clear message here: the top three items all boil down to service.

But wait - did you notice something odd?

Ion’s list is limited mostly to service considerations. Yet value is typically considered a combination of quality, service and price. So Ion is really just ranking alternatives within the service domain.

Why would Ion Group limit its survey in this fashion? A look at their Web site gives a hint. They offer event marketing, mystery shopping, contact center, fulfillment, affinity partnerships, lists, loyalty programs, and similar services. In other words, product quality and price are rarely within their control. Their survey focuses on what they know.

Fair enough. Still, it’s easy to misinterpret Ion’s findings unless you dig into the survey details. I wish they had been more explicit about the scope.

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