Narrative Research: Revealing the Real Story of the Customer Journey

Minneapolis, MN | August 02, 2016

The term “Storytelling” has been thrown around a great deal over the years.  When we use the term in a true research context, we’re referring to a highly structured forum designed to prompt a participant driven dialogue.  The skill is in observation, not leading.  Respondents own the conversation, and they reveal the themes of their narratives as they participate in our sense-making* exercises.

When fielded properly, we believe these explorations are able to go deeper than ethnography, revealing the customer’s journey as it is experienced by the customers themselves.

The Fundamental Premise Of Narrative Methodologies:

  1. Humans are fundamentally shaped by and shape the narrative structures of their existence.
  2. Narrative stories and anecdotes tell us what people really internalize based on their experiences.
  3. People’s perceptions are hidden in their stories and anecdotes – What people retain from and take out of their experiences.

The Storytelling consists of Characters, Moments in Time, Location, Incident/Trigger Events, Emotions, Struggles & Conflicts, Transformation, Resolution, Overcoming Obstacles, and a Hero’s Journey.  We carefully watch and observe behaviors (some of which we can probe if it doesn’t interrupt the narrative).

Stories have an arc.  You’re able to get a good idea of the where, who’s involved and what is the focus of the activities.  We’re able to reveal areas of conflict.  We’re looking for an incident or trigger event that leads to a specific call for action.

In this format or forum we more easily get to core emotions and the struggles that need to be overcome.  It’s been our observation that people are much better storytellers than listeners.  The Researcher is the trained listener as participants are in the comfortable role of Author.

“future Back” To See Where You Are Going

A favorite technique for Storytelling or Narrative exploration is “Future Back.”

Step 1:   As a group, participants are instructed to identify elements that would describe a best and worst future imaginable.

Step 2:  The group is then asked to identify a significant event or turning point that immediately preceded and helped shape this future scenario.

Step 3:   This process is then repeated, identifying the events that preceded each “turning point.” The process continues, event-by-event – working back in time to identify how specific events determined the end state (both favorable scenarios and worse case outcomes).

Finally, common elements are combined and organized by the group into coherent paths that lead to future outcomes. Now you’re ready to plan with a future vision that unites teams.

MarketResponse International is a full service, global research firm based in Minneapolis, USA.  The firm works on a global scale for leading brands in medical, financial, industrial, automotive, retail, and consumer products.  Founded in 1992, MarketResponse is recognized as the most experienced firm in the field of Motivational Research.

*For these and other narrative techniques, MarketResponse moderators are accredited practitioners of Cognitive Edge.  Founded in 2005 by Dave Snowden, Cognitive Edge builds methods, tools, and capabilities to utilize insights from Complex Adaptive System theory and other scientific disciplines in social systems.