The Best Data Collection Methods to Become a Data-Driven Business

Having the correct data can make a world of difference for any customer service and support organization. Data can help you make better decisions about how to serve your customers, identify areas of improvement, and track progress over time. But in today’s digital-first world, this critical material isn’t always easy to come by. That’s why it’s so important to have solid data collection methods in place. So, where should you start?

Let me take you on a journey through some of the best data collection methods available and show you how to apply them the right way. By putting the selected techniques into practice, you’ll be well on your way to becoming a data-driven and customer-oriented business.

16 min read
The Best Data Collection Methods to Become a Data-Driven Business guide

Three reasons why data collection is important

If you haven’t been actively collecting data until now, this Learning Space guide should be a wake-up call for you. Let’s explore the top three reasons why gathering data is key to being more informed as a customer support representative or a business owner.

Three reasons why data collection is important.

1. Make better decisions based on real-world insights

Collecting data allows you to make smarter decisions based on real-world insights and analytics, giving you a more accurate picture of customer needs and preferences. You can understand customer behavior and use this knowledge to develop strategies to refine the overall experience.

Also, companies can adjust their products and services, leading to increased sales and profitability. Does this sound like something you’d be interested in? It certainly does! The bottom line is that gaining access to accurate data can help you make decisions more confidently.

2. Identify areas of improvement 

Another reason to start collecting data is that it can help identify areas of improvement within the organization, leading to enhanced customer support in general. By systematically gathering and analyzing data from various sources, decision-makers can identify potential points for optimization.

For example, reviewing customer feedback or sales metrics can help you understand why customers are dissatisfied, why your products or services aren’t positively received, or which products may be ripe for an upgrade. 

Continuously tracking relevant data points lets you stay abreast of changes and trends in employee productivity, company efficiency, customer satisfaction, or quality assurance. Additionally, you can use the accumulated data to measure the effectiveness of specific practices or identify potential issues upfront to mitigate unwanted side effects.

3. Measure success effectively

In terms of achieving any goal or objective, data acquisition can be your best friend. Accurate data allows you to measure your success against pre-set goals related to sales, customer behavior, marketing campaigns, internal performance rates, financial results, you name it, and then show your progress over time — you can easily assess whether you’re reaching the necessary milestones and how close you are to meeting them.

Overall, with data collection and analysis becoming more accessible than ever in the digital age, it should be seen as part of achieving impactful results, not just something that happens in the middle of the process.

Define your goals and objectives

Before collecting data, you must define clear objectives for data acquisition so that the information obtained answers the hypotheses set at the outset. For this reason, try to answer this question before starting all the hard work of research design: “What do I want to learn about my customers, my company, my product/service?” — this will ideally clarify what you want to achieve with the study and can also serve as a roadmap for the research team.

Collect data for well-defined reasons, such as solving problems, understanding motivations, developing an effective strategy, improving an existing process, determining market trends, evaluating employee workplace satisfaction, or segmenting customers. On this basis, the research team can decide on the most appropriate tools, frameworks, or techniques for data acquisition.

Understanding the goals and tasks involved in data collection will ensure you harvest accurate info, generate meaningful insights, and derive maximum value.

Decide on the right data collection method

Selecting a data collection method is one of the most critical decisions in any research project. It can affect the accuracy and completeness of the information collected, as well as the amount of time and resources needed to do so. On top of that, there are no “one-size-fits-all” methods, and poorly chosen ones limit the researcher’s ability to uncover meaningful information. In this way, investing time in considering which method best fits a research question can ensure high-quality results.

When you pick a method for collecting data, it pays to consider the following:

  • The purpose of the study (and this is something you should already have at this stage).

  • The pros and cons of the available primary and secondary data methods. 

  • The type of data (qualitative/quantitative) you need to collect.

  • The variations required to enable accurate analysis.

As they say, getting it right from the start pays off in spades!

What are the primary and secondary data collection methods?

There are two main approaches to data acquisition: primary and secondary data collection. Combining these two methods makes it possible to get a holistic research picture and better insights that wouldn’t otherwise be achieved using just one isolated method. Now, let’s examine the differences between the primary and secondary methods.

Primary data collection methods

Researchers use primary data collection methods to gather their own original data. These methods include focus groups, surveys, interviews, field research, or observation. Primary data collection methods involve gathering information directly from the source, usually by interviewing or surveying individuals

This is a brilliant way to gain insight into people’s opinions and behaviors because it allows you to observe things in their own context rather than trying to infer what might have happened (which happens to researchers working with secondary data sources).

On top of that, primary data can be collected quickly and more accurately, allowing you to make evidence-based decisions. In short, primary data offers a better opportunity to grasp the motivations behind various activities that may seem unrelated but are essential for effective market research and strategy development.

Secondary data collection methods

Secondary data collection methods are used by businesses to gather information without having to start from scratch. This method involves collecting and reviewing already available data, usually in the form of published studies, existing surveys, census results, or previously released reports. The data examined may include original sources, such as government reports, as well as surveys or interviews conducted by private organizations or other individuals.

The data collection method in question is used for its convenience and cost-effectiveness, as it eliminates the need to collect fresh primary data. You can quickly obtain a broad overview and accurate information on a wide variety of topics without further research. On a larger scale, it can even be used to understand better people’s interactions with changing economic trends and technologies.

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What are the qualitative and quantitative data collection methods?

Gathering both qualitative and quantitative data is essential in any research project. Qualitative research provides information about the reasons behind decisions, while quantitative methods provide factors such as accuracy or success rates that prove a solution works or not.

Finding a balance between qualitative and quantitative data collection brings a well-rounded perspective. It can help you get a long-range view of your research efforts to reach more solid conclusions. Let’s delve into the details of qualitative and quantitative data collection.

Qualitative data collection methods

Qualitative data aims to understand phenomena from an individual’s point of view through data collection techniques such as the interview, focus group, field note, textual analysis, participant/non-participant observation, or survey.

By gathering information through close interactions with people, researchers can capture elements such as context, reactions, opinions, beliefs, values, or emotions in a way that other methods simply cannot ensure. The major strength of qualitative data is to make sense of human experiences on a large scale, complementing commonly used quantitative techniques with real stories and testimonials.

Quantitative data collection methods

Quantitative data collection methods involve gathering numerical information to draw conclusions about a population. They’re here to bring more objective and measurable insights into phenomena of interest through online surveys, questionnaires, polls, structured interviews, experiments, and other means. You can use this type of data collection to extract conclusive results from established parameters that are reliable and valid.

Additionally, quantitative data allows researchers to make assumptions about the trends underlying their research that they couldn’t test without using objective measures. Ultimately, quantitative methods help researchers reach more rigorous and validated conclusions, which can increase the credibility of the overall study.

Top data collection methods

  1. Surveys

Surveys make it quick and easy to reach people worldwide, asking them for their opinions on a particular topic. They can be conducted by email, in person, or even through online tools, giving respondents the flexibility to answer in their own time.

In addition to collecting data on user experience or product/service, surveys can be used to build customer loyalty, analyze brand awareness in target markets, or understand consumer behavior patterns. Surveys solicit responses from selected demographic groups to give companies detailed insight into customer opinions, which can influence their business strategies and future plans.

The data-gathering method I’m discussing can be a unique opportunity for the participant to express their innermost thoughts and reveal true desires. When you conduct a survey, some answers will shock, amuse, puzzle, or worry you — but regardless of the result, it’s still one of the low-cost and impactful research tools.

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  1. Experiments

Nothing beats making bold hypotheses and then proving them wrong (or right!). This is essentially what research experiments are for. They involve manipulating one or more variables to observe the impact of those changes on other variables, which can lead to invaluable insights based on quantifiable evidence. Experiments often use carefully designed surveys, interviews, and field observations to minimize potential manipulation or observer bias.

Experiments are useful in cases where you want to know the cause-and-effect relationship between two things. For example, suppose you’d like to test the effect of a new loyalty program on user performance in your loyalty app. In this case, you can conduct an experiment and measure how active users are before and after exposure to the loyalty program. 

Experiments are also helpful when conducted in a controlled environment where external variables, such as weather or political turmoil, don’t come into play. Using this method, you can draw educated conclusions that might otherwise be overlooked.

  1. Observations

They say the only thing better than experiencing something first-hand is having someone else experience it and then tell you all about it – that’s where observational research comes in.

Observational research involves watching people or things in a natural setting. Actively monitoring people, activities, objects, and places can yield valuable insights into the studied area. For researchers, observation means looking at something from a distance and documenting how people behave in different contexts. Bear in mind that observers aren’t participants in what they observe but act as an objective onlooker who isn’t involved in the monitored process.

Moreover, observational methods can bring qualitative data, including body language and other non-verbal cues, that can lead to important discoveries. Clearly, observation is an extremely powerful tool for collecting data to better understand social behavior — it just takes practice and patience.

  1. Interviews

Another option for data collection is the interview. This type of data gathering is excellent for getting more in-depth information from study participants. This approach is suitable for picking up information that can be used to test your hypotheses. A trained interviewer asks questions that reveal valuable data and insights while allowing the participant to feel comfortable and safe enough to open up.

Interviews also offer exciting insights into participants’ general emotions, attitudes, and opinions that are often difficult to determine through other methods. As long as the interview questions are well constructed, they can bring out salient points that can lead to important findings for research.

Keep in mind that interviewing people can be challenging, especially when the questions touch on sensitive areas of life. Also, juggling a structured list of questions without making the interview too dry and tedious can leave you feeling like a struggling tightrope walker. However, with practice and willingness to learn, your interview research game will only get better.

  1. Focus groups

Focus groups, as a data collection method, involve bringing a group of people together to deliberate, discuss, and focus on certain ideas related to a research topic. This can be done as a casual conversation or moderated discussion with help from a trained facilitator who asks questions and ensures that everyone can have their say. Focus groups provide qualitative, rich insights into respondents’ understanding of the research topic, allowing researchers to gain deeper insights.

Conducting focus group studies can be quite an adventure, and you never know what kind of insight you’ll get from a room full of people with differing opinions. You’re almost guaranteed a huge dose of unexpected emotions and facial expressions. 

In summary, these are the top five data collection methods that I’d recommend for starters. Give them a shot, see how they work in your business case, and iterate the next steps. 

Design your research questions and interview guide

When designing surveys or other studies, it’s crucial to ensure that each question is specific and relevant to your goals — this guarantees that the data collected will be accurate and meaningful.

Consider asking open-ended questions and using various survey methods, such as multiple choice, checkboxes, rating scales, and conversation-style interviews. Additionally, rehearse your survey to ensure it’s easy to understand and navigate. Below you’ll find a list of sample questions you can use as inspiration in the research process.

Examples of research questions

  • Are you familiar with our product/service?

  • How do you use our product or service daily?

  • How would you rate the quality of our product or service? 

  • What features do you like most about our product/service?

  • Are there any features that would improve your experience and satisfaction with our products or services?

  • What challenges do you face when using our product?

  • What features or capabilities would make our product more useful to you?

  • How likely are you to recommend our product or service to others?

  • What is the most important feature for you when making purchasing decisions?

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Recruit research participants

Finding qualified research participants is a tricky and forward-looking task. When recruiting for a study, you should always consider a few fundamental principles. First and foremost, participants should give informed consent — they should be aware of all study procedures, possible risks, and benefits before deciding. 

Second, you must respect participants’ privacy and ensure their anonymity, which means that all identifying factors should remain confidential throughout the process.

The third rule is to ask only relevant questions and avoid obtaining information that would violate an individual’s privacy or be irrelevant to the study. Also, consider psychographic, demographic, economic, political, and other characteristics relevant to your study.

Fourth, create a comfortable atmosphere, so participants feel safe and confident when sharing information.

Finally, focus on recruiting people who truly represent an unbiased sample. Creating an effective recruitment plan takes some time, but finding the people who will provide the most valuable input for your project and ensure reliable survey results is well worth the effort. 

Analyze the gathered data

Analyzing the data gathered through data collection methods is essential. For this reason, during data validation, always look for patterns, trends, and insights that can help you meet your business goals.

By carefully examining patterns and uncovering trends, you can gain valuable insights to better understand the nature of your problems. This helps the company prioritize tasks, set smarter strategies, and make data-driven decisions. With data gathering and analytics, businesses are creating a new form of insight into their data, which helps them stay ahead of the competition and improve overall performance.

What’s more, customer service researchers should be wary of relying solely on vanity metrics, as they may not accurately reflect the quality of customer service. Vanity metrics in customer service can include average handling time, number of tickets closed, or number of calls answered. While these metrics may initially seem impressive, they don’t necessarily reflect the level of customer satisfaction or the effectiveness of the support provided. Too much focus on these metrics can lead to an emphasis on speed rather than quality, ultimately hurting the customer experience.

Now, let’s take a quick look at examples of data patterns and research trends so you know what falls under them.

Examples of data patterns

  1. Seasonal patterns refer to changes in system behavior that correspond to certain seasons; for example, a retail chain may see higher sales during the holiday season than in other months.

  2. Correlation patterns identify relationships between variables. It can be observed when one variable goes up while another goes down.

  3. Time series patterns examine relationships between data points over a given period of time and can help predict outcomes or qualify trends.

  4. Outlier patterns refer to data points that are noticeably different from most of their peers. They stand apart and appear to be an anomaly compared to the rest of the data.

  5. Trending patterns track linear changes over time — when graphed, these changes appear as curves on a graph.

  6. Clustering patterns arise naturally when data is grouped into categories by similarity. This method can help identify different types of items or clusters them together.

  7. Causal relationships connect one event to an outcome or action and are used to evaluate cause and effect.

  8. Hierarchical structures show how a group of elements fit together in layers, where larger groups or categories encompass smaller ones. 

  9. Connections and flows can be defined as how ideas, energy, or information move and interact with each other. Patterns of connections and flows exist within human thoughts, in conversations between groups of people, and cultural practices such as dance, music, and social action.

  10.  Linear regression models analyze two or more quantitative variables to explain how much one depends on another.

Examples of data patterns. Examples of discovered research trends

  1. Increasing online shopping trends

  2. Rising use of mobile phones

  3. Consumer preference for healthy food options

  4. Growth in demand for environmentally friendly products

  5. Increasing popularity of digital banking services

  6. Increased interest in streaming services

  7. The emergence of long-term subscription models

  8. Boost in popularity of influencer marketing

  9. Increased use of virtual and augmented reality technologies 

  10.  The growing popularity of chatbots

Examples of discovered research trends. Depending on the nature of your business, you may discover different patterns and trends. Keep your eyes open and stay curious!

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Unpack your customers’ data and get powerful insights

Data collection is an essential part of launching any successful business. It doesn’t have to be complicated, though. From defining clear objectives to designing effective questions, there are many elements that go into collecting valuable data you can use to make strategic decisions. For this reason, take all the time you need to analyze and truly understand your data. After all, there are no shortcuts to achieving your business goals and meeting your target audience’s needs.

Using the right data collection tools, you can identify relevant data and your customer’s profile, find out what they want, and adjust your offerings. Sign up for HelpDesk today and gain deeper insights into your customer service operations, so you can cultivate strong relationships with your audience and respond to their messages the way they expect.


Weronika Masternak

Weronika is a product content designer at HelpDesk. She has a deep passion for telling stories to educate and engage her audience. In her free time, she goes mountain hiking, practices yoga, and reads books related to guerrilla marketing, branding, and sociology.

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