Research makes the business world go ‘round. From its application in research and development to the halls of marketing, without it, none of our value propositions, use cases or claims of competitive differentiation would hold much water.

But when it comes to market research, we take it with a grain of salt — many times because the research was conducted by a paid entity who just might be tempted to slant results favorably toward the research sponsor.

That’s why Siteworx, a digital design experience company, is partnering with the Martin J. Whitman School of Management at Syracuse University to conduct its latest round of research — a project designed to help B2B manufacturers better understand how they can maximize the customer experience.

Academic Advantage

Ken Quaglio“You could hire Forrester or an independent company to do the research,” said Ken Quaglio, president of Siteworx. “I like the academic focus for two reasons: One, I believe academia gives you a sense of impartiality — it’s not a paid outcome that supports Siteworx as a business.

“And two, we’re using marketing students. What’s really interesting is, we’re working with undergrad and grad students to run the entire thing as if it’s a consulting engagement. Students stay engaged and it becomes part of their experience when they graduate.”

Quaglio said the outcome of the research project, which should be released later this year, will serve as a guide to help businesses understand and rate themselves on their performance around five to six macro drivers regarding how to create emotional — and not just digital — connections with customers.

“We want to find out who does customer experience well, who doesn’t and why,” he said. “The results will be ranked into quartiles, and it will be an annual index aimed to help B2B companies assess their ability to create connections.”

He added that the purpose of the research is not to uncover visionary or emerging trends, or even to identify companies that deliver the best customer experience — it’s about helping companies better learn how to engage with their clients.

“We want people to say: ‘Where are we on the index?’”

A Win-Win

Cindie AdamsThe model the two organizations are following with this project is a win-win, according to Cindie Adams, executive director of alumni and corporate relations for the Whitman School of Management.

“For students, it’s doing work that is adding value to the company, learning about the environment and the industry, presenting research analysis and recommendations, and being challenged and getting feedback from executives,” she said.

She added that, regarding data collection, companies are much more willing to speak to students than a competitor or consulting firm, giving them added inroads to getting more information.

The list of benefits for companies that work with these students is just as long.

“Companies benefit from a fresh perspective, and from working with students that are being advised and supervised by faculty members. They’re also getting cutting-edge research and the academic background included in the experience,” said Adams.

A Way to Give Back

Adams noted that, besides the obvious benefits of the student-company relationship, this model provides a way for alumni to support their universities long after they graduate.

“This is a way alumni can give back and stay connected with their institutions,” said Adams. “If they can’t give a lot of money, or can’t hire, they may be able to offer these kinds of opportunities.”

Not surprisingly, Quaglio agrees. Whitman School of Management just happens to be his alma mater.

“We wanted to partner with a prominent academic institution. Whitman has a national marketing faculty that is well known, and they do a lot in the B2B space. The university is also my alma mater, so it was an easy choice.”