Meet The DRG Team: Shelley Ahrens

Meet The DRG Team: Shelley Ahrens

This article is one in a series of blogs where we interview members of our DRG team to share a little bit about who we are and why we love the work we do. In previous blogs, we interviewed Lanie Johnson, President & CEO; Ron Rawski,Chief Information Officer, Senior Vice President; and Nikki Riggleman, Vice President, Business Development. Here, we introduce you to Shelley Ahrens,Chief Customer Officer, Senior Vice President. Shelley has been with The DRG for just over two decades and is an important member of our Senior Management Team, along with Lanie, Ron, and Nikki.

How would you describe your role and primary responsibilities here at The DRG?

As part of our Senior Management Team, I work to make sure we’re delivering on our promise to provide our clients with intelligence they can trust. I’m also responsible for helping set our strategic goals and key initiatives as a company. As Chief Customer Officer and Senior Vice President, my day-to-day duties involve overseeing our corporate strategy; product and service development; marketing; and enhancing client experience, employee experience, and a customer-centric culture.

Can you share a little bit about your background and how you came to work with The DRG?

I started as a Psychology major in college because I wanted to help people. After taking a few classes, I realized that wasn’t where my passion really was. So, I started taking business courses and discovered marketing research – a profession that’s based in both psychology and business. That made me start to seriously consider it as a potential career path.

Later, I joined the collegiate chapter of the American Marketing Association (AMA). I held the role of Director of Marketing Research and lead an independent research study outside of class work. My role was to write the questionnaire, collect the data, code the responses, write the report, and then present the findings to the client, who happened to be a banking institution.

After college, I first worked in retail and then publishing before landing a job at The DRG – and the rest is history. It strikes me as poetic that my very first research project was in the banking industry given that today, banking and financial services is one of our key industries of focus.

What are some of the reasons you love working in marketing research so much?

It’s the perfect mix of creativity and logic. On the creative side, I love to work with my teams to transform hundreds of thousands of numbers into a compelling story – a story that helps our clients improve their products and services. I love how we can bring a customer to life through their words, opinions, and reactions to our questions.

I also really like the process of going from an observation about the data to drawing an insight. With quantitative research, the goal is to find meaningful differences in results. We’re trying to answer critical questions for our clients. Am I doing better this year than last? Is Customer A happier than Customer B? But sometimes, a significant difference in the data is just an observation of fact, not necessarily an insight about customer experience or behavior. I enjoy being able to work with a client to delineate the difference between the two – observation vs. meaningful insight. Opportunities for growth don’t often come from mere observations; we arrive at them by synthesizing actionable insights from the data.

Which one of the core values speaks most directly to you?

I’d have to say, “Individual excellence fuels collective success.” As a leader in an organization that works hard to promote strong teamwork and collaboration skills, it might seem counter-intuitive that the core value I gravitate toward focuses on an individual’s efforts. But the fact of the matter is, it all starts at the individual level. If we’re not trying to be the best version of ourselves, then we’ll likely fall short of delivering our best effort as a team. In the end, it’s the combined efforts of many individuals striving to achieve their own level of excellence that ultimately leads to collective success.

From your perspective, what sets The DRG apart from other companies?

We have a number of clients who make a point of telling us they really appreciate our thought leadership and our partnership. They value our strategic point of view as well as the recommendations and implications we present as a result of our data analysis and synthesis. In other words, they very much appreciate, and have come to depend upon, the fact that we always try to go well beyond simply data collection, processing, and reporting to deliver true consumer intelligence. Providing intelligent recommendations based on quality data is what our clients need in order to take their customer experience to the next level.

Amid all the technological innovation currently in marketing research, what aspects of marketing research do you believe remain constant?

I’ve been working in marketing research long enough to remember when the introduction of online surveys was something new. How we collect consumer feedback is likely to continue to evolve as technologies are developed that further reduce the amount of effort required on the part of the respondent and make the survey experience more enjoyable overall.

However, the need to be able to clearly articulate and understand your clients’ objectives will always exist. The need to have a solid research design has always been there and always will be. The need to ensure high quality data collection will never go away. Many of the core principles of what we, as researchers, do today are the same as what they used to be years ago. There will always be value in working with well-trained, experienced research consultants to design, interpret, and collaborate with clients on finding innovative business solutions based on consumer insights.