4 Ways to Add Value to your Insights by Microsoft’s Director of Research

Today, Customer Experience is driving corporate decision making. In my recent interview with Marian Anderson, Director of Research at Microsoft, she outlined how Microsoft is using data to drive business decisions. 

Here are some of the highlights from our talk: 

1. Customer Empathy Wins Long Term 

In a recent talk I heard from Matt Cahill of McDonalds, he spoke about how they are improving sales by partnering with customers to maximize the consumer’s value. This is netting long term value and loyalty. 

Marian nailed this point, 

“We are intent on operating on behalf of the customer as opposed to building stuff they will buy.” 

Compare that to many of my experiences where “Share of Wallet” was the Key Performance Indicator (KPI). This KPI would be represented as a pie chart with the intent of gaining as much as possible. 

By partnering with consumers to make the right choices for themselves and their household, you create brand advocates which are far more valuable than the short-term impact model. 

2. Customer Centricity is the hallmark of a successful business. Establish it as a core value and back it up with data. 

Customer centricity is a core value of Microsoft and that value is set from the top. Satya Nadella, CEO of Microsoft, has established this imperative in their DNA. 

The implication here is you must have voice of the customer, 

“You have to have data at the center of decision.” 

The good news is that core values self-police inside organizations, but the shift takes time. By humanizing our products, we will continue to set the customer as our North Star. 

3. Setting your findings in Context by leveraging other data adds value and impact to your research. 

Marian outlined a material problem for large corporations around their massive amounts of data. Here are a few that she mentioned they use regularly:

  1. Ethnographic 
  2. Quantitative  
  3. Internal telemetry
  4. External telemetry
  5. Motivation in social 
  6. Connection between satisfaction and revenue 
  7. Micro experience measurement 

This data must be leveraged because it sets a better context for the research. While this is hard, Marian says, 

“There is a relationship between hard and value. We never want to learn from one point of data in isolation.” 

4. Bring your research to life with NPR like story telling. 

Becoming expert in multivariate analysis is a skill that many of us researchers develop over time. Similarly, cultivating soft skills that enable you to guide a group discussion that uncovers hidden truths can be a lifelong endeavor. We have to treat storytelling as a similar skill to be studied and honed over our career. 

Remember the last time you listened to NPR? Regardless of your politics, you must admit their reporters do an amazing job of taking a combination of various data types and weaving them into a human story that connects to the audience. Marian says, 

“Influence requires a point of view communicated through story.”

The better your story, the bigger the lever you give your research data to impact the company. 


What are brand researchers struggling with? Marian said it best, 

“Combination of multiple data sources and decisions needing to get made in speed.” 

By partnering with your customer to understand their needs and then developing a path forward, you will align your offerings and attitudes towards creating mutual long-term success. So…do that.

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I wish you all success and happiness!


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