Need customer insight and do not have the tools to get it? A new method solves this problem.

Need customer insight and do not have the tools to get it? A new method solves this problem (11-07-2007).

Having a plethora of services and products makes nowadays customers very demanding. The reality for companies who want to offer customer satisfaction is that they need to have a clear insight into the needs and wants of their customers, or their customers-to-be. That is an issue that has somewhat being fulfilled with methods such as focus-groups, interviews and more lately cultural probes, or a combination of methods. These methods have filled in a gap and have provided relatively good results. However, these methods have serious shortcomings. Therefore there is a space of opportunity in learning from the shortcomings of these methods and creating new ones, better ones. In this article I am proposing a combination of two existing methods applied mainly in social psychology: the Experiencing Sampling Method (ESM) and the Day Reconstruction Method (DRM). I begin with presenting the advantages I see in comparison with existing methods from the perspective of a company who wants to get a better insight into their customers’ experience. Then I present the way it works, a short insight into what the ESM and DRM is and where have I applied it.

The advantages

  • Provides a picture of customer experience over time. Methods already used mostly focus on events (e.g. an interview session). This method captures customer experiences over time.
  • Getting (closer to) the facts and not gathering opinions. The data usually gather by existing methods are subjective reporting of customers. This method can capture facts such as the place a participant is when he reports.
  • Stakeholders of the research (such as researchers, managers, etc.) can track data at the time it is being generated by subjects. Currently used methods, such as the diary method, provide the bulk of data at the end of the study when it is impossible to adjust and correct shortcomings of the research questions. This method provides an almost synchronous presentation of the data while the data is created by the customer.
  • Combines capturing the experience of a customer and reflecting on an overview of the captured experience. After collecting the data it might be useful to review it with the customer so that the researcher can get his reflection. With this way the researcher can understand the underlying reasons of the data.

How does it work?

  • A researcher specifies the aspects of the customer experience he wants to capture. That might be: employees’ well-being, teenagers communication needs, use of devices and energy consumption, eating habits, etc.
  • Customer inserts some initial data (intelligence) according to his lifestyle. This data can be things like places and activities. The data input is done through a website.
  • Initial data (step 2) are inserted in a mobile device. The device asks the participant aspects of his experience (step 1) and records his answers.
  • Mobile device communicates the data to a central computer. There the data is gathered and stakeholders can synchronously monitor the evolution of the study. This helps the stakeholders to adapt according to the input they get. For example, it can happen that the initial questions for capturing the customer experience are unclear or misunderstood. With other methods there is no way to alter the initial questions until the end of the study, when it is too late. With this method stakeholders have the chance to adapt and “rescue” a valuable customer input.
  • A researcher holds a debriefing interview to go into more depth to the data he got with the previous steps.

What is the Experience Sampling Method?

The ESM is a quasi-naturalistic method that involves signaling questions at subjects at random times throughout the day [1]. By using it, researchers try to capture the experience of the subject at a particular time. Although very useful in capturing a specific incident during the day, it has shortcomings such as interrupting the subject from daily activities, asking at inconvenient moments, etc.

What is the Day Reconstruction Method?

The DRM on the other hand, assess how people experience their various activities and settings of their lives [2]. Subjects in this case have to reconstruct and reflect on the activities they perform during the day. Shortcomings of the method include the accuracy and difficulty in remembering occurred events.

Where has it been applied?

The tools for combining the two methods have been developed by Vasileios-Javed Khan, a PhD researcher at the Industrial Design Department at Technische Universiteit Eindhoven. He has applied the tools to research daily communication needs of busy parents [3].


  • Kubey, R., Larson R.; Csikszentmihalyi M., “Experience sampling method applications to communication research questions”, Journal of Communication; Spring 1996; 46, 2; ABI/INFORM Global pg. 99.
  • Kahneman D., Krueger A.B., Schkade D.A., Schwarz N., Stone A.A., “A Survey Method for Characterizing Daily Life Experience: The Day Reconstruction Method” Science 306, 1776 (2004).
  • Khan, V.J., Markopoulos, P., IJsselsteijn, W., “Combining the Experience Sampling Method with the Day Reconstruction Method”, In proceedings of Chi Nederland Conferentie, 21 June 2007, Eindhoven, ISBN: 978-90-78981-01-5. Link to proceedings.