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Five Rules of Customer Observation for Greater Success

One of the best ways to a deeper understanding of your customers is to watch and listen to them whenever you can. Customer observation is a powerful, but unfortunately too often an under-utilised tool of marketers.

It is, therefore, understandable that so many companies run to conduct market research, usually a qualitative study, as a first step to improved customer understanding. They then (hopefully) invite relevant employees from marketing, sales, packaging, communications or R&D to watch the interviews or group discussions. However, this intense but short observation is likely to do more harm than good. Let me explain.

Have you ever gone to watch a focus group only to discover that the research confirms your hypotheses? You are then irritated that you “wasted” money on the project aren’t you? Well, this may actually be as a result of your very own selective listening and interpretation. You watched and listened only to the topics that interested you. You were looking for confirmation of your hypothesis. There was so much more you could have understood if only you knew how to listen.

True understanding comes from regular interaction with your customers, not just from an infrequent observation or two. Here are some ideas on how to do this more effectively.

 

Make customer observation everyone’s job

There are many, many opportunities for every employee in a company to come into contact with the customer. In a customer-centric organisation, everyone has annual objectives which include connecting with customers on a regular basis. This could be by listening to calls at the care centre, reading blogs and message boards, or participating in / watching promotions, demonstrations, sampling or market research.

Some organisations also make a habit of getting their employees to watch and listen to their customers in direct observation or connection sessions. However, this needs to be managed carefully in order to avoid people jumping too quickly to incorrect conclusions, as explained below.

If you’d like to run more successful connection sessions in your own organisation, I can help.  Please contact me for more on our 1-Day training sessions.

 

Customer observation is not as easy as it looks!

There is a very well-known example of the challenge of observation, in a video showing two teams of young people passing a couple of balls around. If you haven’t seen it you can check out the  Awareness Test  and try it for yourself.

In the exercise, people are asked to count the number of passes made by the team in white, so that is what the observer will concentrate on. In the background a man dressed as a bear, moon-walks his way across the screen, but most people are oblivious to the fact. They are so busy looking for the answer to the question, that they miss this significant event in the short video.

Exactly the same can happen when people watch customers. They are so concentrated on finding the answer to their question, or worse the substantiation of their own beliefs, that they miss a lot of what is actually going on.

Marketers observing customers all too often miss a lot of what is happening because they are concentrated on finding the answer to their question, or worse the substantiation of their own beliefs. #Marketing #Observation Click To Tweet

If they were to actually listen objectively, they might hear something new. And this might lead them to a significant breakthrough in customer understanding.

For this reason, it is essential to run a careful briefing session before every observation exercise. This way people go into it with their eyes and brains fully open. Your Insight team can manage this in most cases, but to summarise what needs to be covered, I have listed below the five rules of observation.

 

The five rules of customer observation

1. ORDINARY: Look for the ordinary not the extraordinary, but do note the things that surprise. These can challenge our preconceptions and help us to keep an open mind. Identify also the details of the ordinary event, things that were never noticed or thought about before.

You may see people finding ways to get around a problem or pain point they have. These may offer opportunities to increase satisfaction, either by resolving them or by developing a new product or service.

When observing your customers, you may see people finding ways to get around a problem or pain point they have. These may offer new opportunities to increase satisfaction. #marketing #brand #Observation Click To Tweet

2. ATTENTIVE: Be careful to record only what you see and hear. Don’t start analysing what you think is going on or you will certainly miss something.

If you are running observation sessions yourself, it is important to define roles for every company participant.

If you are running observation sessions yourself, it is important to define roles for every colleague who is participating. #brand #Marketing #observation Click To Tweet

One person should lead the session, one could take notes and one can actively observe and perhaps take pictures. With these different roles covered, the discussion after the event will be much richer and more complete.

3. ACCURATE & OBJECTIVE: This is the reason why you need to remain attentive, so you get an accurate record of what is happening. Keep notes of what your see, when, where, and how people behave.

If you have direct contact with customers, leave your own preconceptions outside and never judge what is going on.

If you have direct contact with customers, leave your own preconceptions outside and never judge what is going on. #CEX #CRM #CustomerFirst #CustomerCentricity Click To Tweet

It is also important not to react openly to what you see or hear. Pay particular attention to your body language. Keep asking yourself (at least at first) why? Even if something appears obvious, the reason may not be what you think it is. So keep asking this vital question.

This form of iterative investigating is often referred to as the Five Whys“. The technique involves asking the question a minimum of five times to ensure you cover every angle.

4. TIMING: Observe and understand what is going on before and after the event, as well as during the event you are observing itself. The event needs to be put into the context of time and place within a person’s lifestyle and habits. This is the only way to understand its relevance.

Also, be patient as people often change behaviour when being watched, at least to start with. Give them a chance to relax and feel comfortable with being observed. Insight colleagues will certainly have mentioned at some point that in qualitative projects, the best comments come out at the end. Participants think the recording is finished and so relax and completely open up!

In qualitative projects, the best comments come out at the end. Participants think the recording is finished and so relax and completely open up! A gold mine! #CEX #CustomerFirst Click To Tweet

5. DEBRIEF & ANALYSIS: Observation is most valuable if it is completed by an immediate debriefing session. Observers can together share, ask questions and start to analyse what they have seen and heard.

This is important if several groups have been following similar events such as shopping, leisure-time activities or food preparation, but with different respondents.

Of course, the immediate debrief does not preclude a more in-depth exchange and analysis the next day. It is amazing what additional understanding comes from “sleeping on it.”

These five points should ensure that everyone enjoys participating in these customer connection sessions. Both you and your customers will benefit from the experience and a maximum number of ideas and learnings will be gathered.

One last point for International organisations; be aware of cultural differences. Explore and understand the culture (>>Tweet this<<) where the observations are being made, especially if you are not a local. What is appropriate in one culture may be offensive or irrelevant in another.

In international work, be aware of cultural differences. Explore and understand the culture where the observations are being made, especially if you are not a local. #CEX #CustomerFirst #CustomerCentricity Click To Tweet

Checking things out with the locals before going into the field can save a lot of embarrassment – or worse! It is also useful to have local members help in the analysis of what was seen and heard, so that the correct interpretation is made.

If you have run observation or connection sessions and have learned something additional, please share your experiences. I answer all notes and questions personally, usually within a few hours. 

For more ideas on getting closer to your customer, please check out our website: https://www.c3centricity.com/. If you would like support in setting up connection sessions with your own customers I would love to help you get the most out of them. Just contact me contact me here.

This post uses images from Denyse’s book “ Winning Customer Centricity: Putting Customers at the Heart of Business – One Day at a Time.

This post has been regularly updated and expanded since it was first published on C3Centricity. It remains one of our most popular posts years later.

4 “Free” Ways to Connect with Customers for World-Class Understanding

Last week I spoke about five of the most important actions you can take when starting your journey to improved customer centricity. If you missed it, you can read the post  here; it will be good background information to build from for this week’s ideas and suggestions.

In this post, I would like to continue to support your efforts with some suggestions on an area that many struggle with, that of connecting with and underst anding your customers.

I believe that one of the main reasons for this, is that the target customer segment has been poorly defined. Perhaps it is too wide, such as all category users, or only superficially described just in terms of demographics. C³Centricity’s 4W™ Template, free to download in the members area, will provide a simple way for you to complete a more detailed description of your customer. Once you have that, you can then start to connect with them to deepen your underst anding of them.

1. Retail connections

There are numerous ways that an organisation can connect with its customers. If you have a retail presence, then this is as simple as going to a few of them  and then talking to the customers present. If you yourself don’t own the outlet then you will need to ask permission of the owner, but since retailers are also interested in getting to know their customers better, they will usually accept in exchange for your sharing any learnings with them. (>>Tweet this<<) Customers are more sensitive to value than price

Another opportunity to connect with your customers in retail is through promotions, demonstrations and sampling activities. These have the added benefit of being able to speak with customers who are already interested in what you have to offer, because they have stopped beside your st and. They also are generally more willing to take the time to talk to you even if they are busy, something which can be a struggle if you are just walking up to customers in the store. (>>Tweet this<<)

In addition, I have found that both these exercises can be a great way to improve your image with the retailer and may even warrant special treatment for your br and.

2. Secondary connections

If you don’t have the luxury of meeting your customers in person, then there are still ways to learn more about them. If you have a call centre, then why not listen in or even spend time answering calls? It is both a rewarding and useful exercise to do. This is why many organisations such as Zappos, make their new employees do just that in their first few weeks after being hired.

Market research can make you more customer centricMarket research projects are also another easy way to observe and listen to your customers, although in general you will be a silent observer behind the interviewer, who is asking the questions. Some people prefer to follow focus groups or in-depth interviews, even from behind the two-way mirror, since they will have the opportunity to impact the discussions by feeding questions to the moderator.

A third way for you to make these less direct connections is by following social media discussions. These can either be on the major platforms such as Twitter, FaceBook, Pinterest and Instagram, or your company’s own panel if you are lucky enough to have one. In either case, I would encourage you to observe and not get actively involved in the conversations. There have been many infamous embarrassments caused by under-qualified people responding to heated customer conversations on social media. DiGiorno (Nestle) and Progressive are just two of the more recent examples; this post gives many others that can heed as a useful warning should you be tempted to get personally involved.

3. Website connections

Today, most organisations rely on some form of online presence, to be available wherever and whenever their customers would like to connect with them. Understanding why your customers need to contact you is important to providing them with the best experience. 

Understanding why your customers need to contact you is important to providing them with the best experience. Click To Tweet

The first place to ensure you are supplying the right information is on your contact page. Are you requesting customers to complete an online form where you request many details from them? If so, it is definitely worth checking if everything you are dem anding is really necessary for that first connection. Name, email address and perhaps telephone number if you plan to call them back, should be sufficient, together with the reason they are wanting to contact you.

Connect with customersSecondly check that you are giving your customers multiple ways for them to contact you. (>>Tweet this<<) The form mentioned above is a rather anonymous connection, since there is no way for the customer to follow up, other than by sending a second completed form. The vast majority of consumers hate such forms with a vengeance and prefer to chat directly, or at least to be given alternative contact choices. Therefore you should provide your email address, telephone number and ideally a postal address. How many times have you been interested in a company only to find that you don’t know in which country they are based? Frontiers today are more linguistic than geographical, so your customers have the right to know whether or not they can visit your offices in person.

One area where this becomes vital is in online purchasing. Ensure that you make it as easy for customers as possible to shop your website. Enable them to check-out as a guest if they want, rather than imposing the completion of a long form of their details. Kissmetrics wrote a great post on this topic, with good and bad examples, which is worth a read if you are selling online.

Finally you should check the performance of your website; how many visitors do you have, where do they come from and what are they looking for in terms of information? This underst anding could be a whole post topic on its own, but since there are many already available, suffice it to say that if your website is getting few visits or your customers are bouncing away quickly, then it is not serving its purpose of building a relationship with your customers. (>>Tweet this<<)

4. Sharing connections

Meeting and getting to know your customers is probably one of the most enriching and inspiring experiences an organisation can have. (>>Tweet this<<) There is so much you can underst and about your current category and br and users by talking to them, that everyone should find ways to do so on a regular basis. As already mentioned, this could be by speaking with them directly whilst shopping, during a market research project, or over the internet. Share experiences when you connect with customers

You won’t be able to speak to everyone, so you will also rely on your colleagues to make such connections, or even external hostesses. This is why it is important that you get a full debrief, ideally in person, whenever you can.

It amazes me every time I speak to demonstrators, that they just go home at the end of the day with rarely any sort of debrief back to the client. On the rare occasions when they do tell their supervisors something of interest that they discovered, they are generally met with a lack of interest and enthusiasm. What a waste of intimate knowledge about the customer, their likes, dislikes and unmet needs and desires! Therefore share whatever you learn with your colleagues and ask them to do the same.

These are four ways for you to get a deeper underst anding of your customers  and which are probably already available to you today. How many are you using on a regular basis? Which have you found to be the most useful or inspiring. Please share your experiences below; it would be great to hear about your own successes.

Winning Customer Centricity BookThis post has been inspired by the first chapters of Winning Customer Centricity and includes images from the same book. You can buy it in Hardback, Paperback or EBook format in the members area, where you will usually find a discount code. It is also available on Amazon, andnoble.com/w/winning-customer-centricity-denyse-drummond-dunn/1121802409?ean=9782970099802″ target=”_blank”>Barnes and Noble, iBook and all good bookstores. If you prefer an Audiobook version, or even integrated with Kindle with Amazon’s new Whispersync service, you’ll have to be patient a little longer.

The Ultimate Guide to Developing Actionable Insights

One of the biggest challenges of many marketers is developing actionable insights about the market and it’s customers.

Are you satisfied with the way you turn your data and information into underst anding and then develop insights on which you can take clear actions? If not, then you will find this post tremendously useful in helping you to update your practices.

Even if you are happy with your insight development process, converting them into actions can still be a stumbling block. In January 2013 Forrester wrote an article suggesting that last year would be the year for market insights. Eighteen months on, things don’t seem to have progressed much, so hopefully this post will enable your own organisation to advance and to get ahead of the competition.

#1. Be precise in your objectives

Your objectives for developing an insight should be presented as a desired change in your target (>>Tweet this<<). For example, if you are looking to increase your market share, you could be looking to find a way to convince competitive br and purchasers to buy your br and instead.

Identifying the change you are looking to encourage is the first step to uncovering a true actionable insight. Are you identifying the change you desire in your customers? If not then this is something you should start doing; it will make developing actionable insights more focused and thus also easier.

#2. Involve a wide range of experts

Insights are not the sole responsibility of the Market Research & Insight Department (>>Tweet this<<). Everyone in the company can bring valuable information and underst anding to address the identified opportunity. Therefore, involving people with a wide range of perspectives can make insight development more effective.

Gather a team of experts to provide a 360° perspective of the category or br and, including for example:

  • R&D, who can bring underst anding of available internal & external technical skills
  • operations who can share current defects and development aspects
  • sales who can add retail perspectives, including distribution, packaging and shelving limitations or opportunities
  • marketing who will provide the communications, image, equity and competitive environment
  • customer services who can add current customer sensitivities, problems or suggestions
  • finance who can highlight any budgetary limitations and ensure financial goals are met

The group you bring together will be a function of the change you are looking to make. I personally believe that the exercise should be run by your market research and insights team, since it is their profession to underst and people and behaviour. They also generally have the widest and most detailed perspective of anyone in the company

#3. Review all available information & knowledge

All organisations have far more information than most employees realise (>>Tweet this<<), including your market research, insight, strategy and planning teams. This highlights the need for having a group of people from different departments since they will bring alternative perspectives and information sources to light.

Once the team has been formed and the objectives for the insight development exercise have been agreed, it is time to organise a complete review of all the available information and knowledge.  You should look for recurring themes, expressions and words across the different information sources that might provide indications of the issues or opportunities around the identified objectives.

As everyone completes the review of the information, a number of working sessions can help to share the information already found and start the process of getting closer to an insight. The actual insight development exercise will take place in another meeting once all available information has been assessed and any information gaps filled.

#4. Walk in your customers’ shoes

I am always disappointed that social media has further encouraged marketers to stay behind their desks instead of getting out and meeting their customers. Is this the case in your own organisation? Although you can certainly learn a lot about your customers’ opinions and needs online, it is only when you take their place that you get the chance to really see things from their perspective (>>Tweet this<<).

Walking in your customers’ shoes can be done in numerous ways and will depend upon the issue or opportunity you have identified, as well as the underst anding you have gained from reviewing all the information you have gathered. You could for instance:

  • go out shopping and purchase item as one of your target customers. This will help you underst and the decision making process of your target customers.
  • compare competitive offers online for a service you propose. Is your website as user-friendly as your competitors’? Have you thought of all the important elements you need to include?
  • call up the customer service departments of a number of your competitors and ask questions about their br and’s uses, reliability etc. Do your own staff provide the same information? Are they as knowledgeable, credible, empathetic?
  • role play your target customer in using your product and identify opportunities to improve for instance its packaging. If your product is used by mothers of toddlers, is it easy to open with one h and? If your product is used in certain dem anding surroundings, such as outdoors, in the car, in the country, at night, is it easy to open and consume in such situations?

Whilst walking in your customers’ shoes, you should be extremely sensitive to any pain points you uncover in considering, evaluating, shopping and using your br and. If you are looking to define a completely new offer, then it is the pain points of your competitors’ offers that you also need to consider. Taking your customers perspective, rather than just observing them, can provide a wealth of information you might not get in any other way.

#5. Fill the gaps

Having gathered as much information and knowledge about your customer as you can, including walking in their shoes, it is important to turn it all into underst anding. This also enables you to identify any information gaps there may be. Never do any market research until you have first identified all the information that is already available on the topic under review (>>Tweet this<<). These gaps can be filled by running a market research project or by acquiring the required information from other sources.

Before continuing with insight development, these new findings need to be summarised and integrated into the knowledge and information already reviewed. If the objectives of the project have been well defined, this should be relatively easy to do, as you had already clearly identified the need.

#6. Develop the insight

At this stage, you will certainly have a better underst anding of your customer in relation to the identified issue or opportunity than you have ever had before. Insight development needs input from every member of the multidisciplinary team (>>Tweet this<<), which can take anything from a few hours to several days. Don’t hurry this process; we are often too keen to get to the action and accept to work with something that is not a true insight.

You will know when you have an insight. When you summarise it in one (or maximum two) sentences phrased as if it were being spoken by your customer, it creates what is known as an “ah-ha” moment. This is when everyone sees it is obvious and wonders why no-one ever thought of it before! I am sure you will agree with me that it is a wonderfully rewarding feeling when you get there.

 

These are the six essential steps to developing true insight, but the most important step of all is still to come, that of actioning them. This is where the multi-disciplinary team really comes into its own. As all the team have agreed on the objectives and the insight, it is extremely easy for them to define the next steps that need to be taken. It also means that all areas of the organisation will work together to take the appropriate actions, rather than just the marketing department which may otherwise happen.

From my experience actioning insights is only a problem when not enough time has been spent at the beginning of the whole process, in underst anding the change in your customers that you are looking to encourage. If you have trouble with this part of the process, then I would suggest reviewing the completeness of the definition of your objectives.

What areas of insight development do you find the most challenging? Do you have any questions about generating or improving your own insight development process? If so, then please add a comment or question below. I would be happy to answer them for you.

For more information on insight development, please check out our website at: https://www.c3centricity.com/home/underst and/ as well as available trainings at: https://www.c3centricity.com/training- and-evaluation/

C³Centricity used images from Dreamstime and Kozzi in this post.

How to get R&D as Excited about Consumer Innovation as you are

Did you do a double-take when you read this post’s title? I bet you did. R&D is at the heart of innovation for most major manufacturers, so they should be excited by consumer underst anding, shouldn’t they? You would think so, but in reality, their concepts are almost always based on the company’s current technical know-how and skills. If you want to break away from this very predictable process and get them excited so they add some “oomph” to your innovations, then read on.

One of my most loyal CPG clients contacted me recently about the latest problem (opportunity?) he has been asked to address: making R&D more consumer centric. Having faced a similar challenge in one of my previous jobs, I immediately empathised with him. It can really be a daunting task, especially when speaking to people who are usually more interested in numbers than emotions.

I remember speaking about consumer centricity at an annual R&D conference and in the discussion session that followed, the Head of Operations commented “You know Denyse, our R&D group is very consumer centric; we know exactly what consumers need. It’s marketing who don’t know how to explain to consumers why they need what we develop!”

Trying to keep a straight face, I thanked him for his comment and also for having just proven my point. I said that I believed it was time for R&D to become more consumer centric by developing a better underst anding of consumers and their needs. I then went on to suggest some ways they could get closer to current or potential consumers. By the end of my talk I had a queue of volunteers wanting me to organise some of the suggested actions for them. Here’s what I shared:

Observe & Listen to your Consumers

Most people working in a company and certainly those working in R&D, know far more about the category than the average consumer. However, most employees – excluding hopefully the insight team – don’t know what their consumers really think about their products and services.

Observation of consumers as they go about their daily lives, helps us to identify pain points, whilst also stimulating new thinking and concepts. Listening to their complaints and ideas, whether online, through carelines or during a market research project, can provide the consumer perspective and input for new or better solutions.

It’s time for R&D to get out of the factory and into the shops & homes of consumers (>>Tweet this<<)

Involve your Consumers

Ben  and Jerry are great at innovationLast year Ben & Jerry asked residents of five cities in the USA to vote for the names of new ice cream flavors that reflected their locales. The br and’s Scoop Truck toured 11 cities and also served as one of the campaigns’ voting platforms. Once consumers had eaten their free frozen treats, they were asked to use their spoons as “ballots” (they voted by depositing their spoons in one of several recycling boxes marked with various ingredient names). Doesn’t that remind you of another br and which used a similar voting tactic when it was starting out – Innocent?

Great br ands and companies have no problem “stealing with pride” and recognise good ideas when they see them (>>Tweet this<<)

Ben & Jerry’s are by no means the only br and to involve their customers in developing or choosing new products and services. Nespresso have been collaborating with their Club members for years on many aspects of their marketing. Whether choosing the end of their commercials or identifying the next new blend to be launched, Nespresso Club members are made to feel important and privileged.

Involving customers in the development of new product and/or service concepts not only makes them feel valued, it also makes them more loyal and valuable advocates of your br ands too (>>Tweet this<<)

Exp and your Thinking

Innovation leversHow do you come up with ideas and concepts for new products and services today? If you are like most companies, they probably come in a majority from your current portfolio of br ands. Whilst this can meet with a certain level of success, as it is what customers expect, or rather dem and, there is another process that can drive even greater success. This is the use of what are often called innovation levers, or what others refer to as “the s and box”. I love the latter term as it suggests light-hearted play, which is an effective way to get people thinking “outside the box”.

Innovation levers enable thinking to “push the envelope” and to exp and outside the box in which R&D and marketing can sometimes find themselves. Rather than thinking about the next flavour or packaging idea, why not consider a new channel or communications strategy?

Coca Cola takes br and innovation seriouslyLast year, Coke used two of these levers, but combined them, when it launched its “sharing can”. Not only can the can be split in two for sharing, it also enables new potential consumers to consider buying a can, such as those with smaller thirsts or those traveling.

This year they took this winning idea a step further and launched the bottle that could only be opened by another Coke bottle – another way of sharing.

Starting from a different innovation lever than the one you usually use can result in more creative NPD concepts (>>Tweet this<<)

Go Beyond Trend Following

Another challenge when looking to make R&D more customer centric, is in moving them from trend following to scenario planning. R&D people often seem to be more comfortable with trends and “poo poo” future scenarios as improbable forecasts. It is therefore important to explain to them that scenario planning is not forecasting. If they can allow themselves to be open to listening to a story, which exposes imaginary but plausible new worlds to them, they can become inspired by the opportunities.

The innovative ideas that are created from scenario planning, have in my experience been amongst the most ground-breaking ever developed. Isn’t that exactly what we would all like to market, rather than the staple diet of predictable renovations?

These are just four ideas that I shared during that conference a few years ago, to stimulate and excite the R&D department. Hopefully they have inspired you too to have a go at convincing your own operations people to get closer to the customer.

Have you other examples of how you got your own R&D people to think outside their technical box? Then I’d love to hear about them, so please share your thoughts and ideas below.

Need help in taking your innovation outside its box, or in connecting with your customers? Let’s discuss how we can help you catalyze your customer centricity; contact us today.

C³Centricity used images from Microsoft, Ben &Jerry’s and Coke in this post.

This post has been adapted from one first published on C³Centricity in June 2013

Best Marketing Quotes to Inspire Essential Actions

Last week I referred to one of the C³Centricity year-end traditions of drawing up a Top 10 list of the most popular posts of the year. Another tradition is our love of inspirational quotes – you only have to look at our homepage to see that!

We have a whole section on quotes in the Library, to which we are constantly adding when we find new ones or get proposals from our friends and followers. In addition, we occasionally like to share some of our favourite ones of the moment and propose actions that are inspired by each of them. Here is our selection for 2013.

 

#1. “Strategy and timing are the Himalayas of marketing. Everything else is the Catskills.”  Al Ries, marketing professional & author who coined the term “positioning”

Whilst I’m not sure I agree that the other challenges of marketing are just “Catskills” (small hills), getting our strategy and timing right are definitely vital. With things moving ever faster today and customers constantly changing their focus and upping their expectations and dem ands, timing has become even more important to get right today. How often do you review your plans, especially for the timing of actions? It is no longer sufficient to fix them annually and then just forget them. Why not make quarterly reviews and monthly evaluations of whether or not your plans need adjustment?

 

#2. “In marketing I’ve seen only one strategy that can’t miss – and that is to market to your best customers first, your best prospects second and the rest of the world last.”  John Romero, designer, programmer & developer of video games

Boss expects you to know your customerThis is a great quote that reminds us to not only target effectively but to be ruthless in doing it. Don’t just take all customers that fit your identified criteria of demographics and habits, but also check their lifetime value too. The better you identify your target customers the more likely it will be that you really satisfy and hopefully delight too. Read “13 Things your boss expects you to know about your customers” for more on targeting.

 

#3. “Business has only two functions – marketing and innovation” Milan Kundera, Czech writer best known for “The Unbearable Lightness of Being”

Another of my favourite marketing quotes, as it is about marketing’s importance to business and reminds us to review ROI in the light of business impact. It also highlights the importance of innovation in today’s world of dem anding customers who rarely stay satisfied for long. Read more on this at “What’s keeping marketers up at night and solutions to help them sleep“.

 

#4. “Marketing is too important to be left to the marketing department” David Packard, co-founder of HP

The new marketing manThis quote may surprise you, but for me it’s a reminder that marketing, as mentioned above, should involve everyone in the company. Although marketing may be the experts, all employees have a role to play in supporting the company and its br ands; they speak with family and friends and even act as a walking advertisement for them. Success in making a company more customer centric comes from every employee thinking customer first. Read “Why marketing will never be replaced but what every CMO must change” for more on this,

 

#5. “Starbucks is not an advertiser; people think we are a great marketing company, but in fact we spend very little money on marketing and more money on training our people than advertising” Howard Schultz, Chairman & CEO of Starbucks

Mr Schultz has clearly understood the importance of customer centricity. As mentioned above, everyone in the company needs to underst and the importance of the customer to the success of the business. Front-end employees – and these are not just in retail outlets, but sales, merch andising, call centre and social media experts – are vital to business and are rarely seen at their true value. Of these I believe call centre employees are amongst the least valued despite their rise in importance in today’s connected world where customers expect answers where, when and how they want them. Read “Clues to a great br and story” for more on this.

 

#6. “The wise man doesn’t give the right answers, he poses the right questions”  Claude Levi-Strauss, French anthropologist & ethnologist, sometimes called the “father of modern anthropology”.

Hindsight, Eyesight or Foresight

Market Researchers are probably the experts in questionnaire design but sometimes there are better ways to underst and your customers than just asking questions. With easy access to your customers through social media and the internet, why not spend time listening and watching your customers and not (just) asking questions? Read “Out of sight, out of mind” for more ways to better underst and your customer.

 

#7. “We have to dare to be ourselves, however frightening or strange that self may prove to be” May Sarton, pen name of Eleanore Marie Sarton, an American poet, novelist & memoirist.

Successful companies are consistent in showing what they st and for; the same applies to br ands. Do you you know what you st and for, rationally, emotionally AND relationally? These are the three essential elements of a strong br and. Read more about br and image definition and measurement at “What does your br and st and for? Ten steps to perfect image following“.

 

#8. “We see things as we are, not as they are” Leo Rosten, teacher, humorist, journalist & scriptwriter.

three people quotesThis is a difficult habit to break on both a personal and professional level. When we are responsible for a br and, it is sometimes necessary to accept that we may not be the ideal customer and thus we have to make choices that will fit them but which we ourselves like less. Underst anding your customers’ needs can be helped by spending more time with them. Why not add it to the annual objectives of your team to regularly shop or use your products and services? In the meantime read “Ten things your customers won’t tell you” for some immediate ideas.

 

#9. “A good head and a good heart are always a formidable combination” Nelson M andela, anti-apartheid revolutionary, politician & philanthropist who served as President of South Africa

It would be impossible not to include a quote from the formidable and recently departed Nelson M andela. Every business needs to have a heart and their customers at the heart of the business. “Improving customer centricity in hospitality” has some great ideas for the industry, that others could also implement.

 

#10. “Fortune favors the prepared mind” Louis Pasteur, French chemist & microbiologist who discovered the principles of vaccination, microbial fermentation & pasteurization. 

Future l andscape

Being prepared is what scouts are famous for, but businesses too need to be prepared for all eventualities. Unfortunately so many organisations think that this can be achieved by following trends, but this will only tell them at best where society might be going. It doesn’t prepare the business for all possible future events both positive and negative. Building scenarios on the other h and will enable both opportunities and possible risks to be identified before they happen and provide sufficient time to develop appropriate plans. Read “Turning trends into future scenarios and the ten step process you need to do it” for more ideas for preparing your own business.

Those are my top ten marketing quotes of the moment. I hope they inspired you to try some new actions. If you have your own favourite quotes to inspire action and change, why not share them below. We’ll publish the best on our website too.

Need help in bringing action and change to your own marketing? C³Centricity runs 1-Day Catalyst Training sessions on numerous topics. Check out our website for more information or contact us for an informal discussion.

C³Centricity uses images from Dreamstime.com  and Kozzi.com

 

Out of Sight, Out of Mind: Is this Why you Can’t Get Closer to your Customers?

As we get to the end of 2013, it is common for many of us to review what we have and haven’t accomplished during the year. If becoming even more customer centric was one of your objectives, let’s review one aspect of it, that of really underst anding and getting closer to our customers.

It is good to remember that even if we want to become more customer centric and might have planned it as one of our objectives this year: 

“Customer centricity is a journey, not a destination”

It is something we need to keep top-of-mind constantly and continuously look for even more ways to make the customer the heart of the business. Deep customer underst anding comes from a multitude of sources of knowledge and information that has been gathered, built up and integrated over time. Nevertheless, the way we go about doing this, can make a huge difference to our chances of success in underst anding and pleasing our customers.

There are four ways we can collect and then use information and knowledge about our customers, and all are necessary for the deep underst anding that brings customer delight and business success.

#1. Hindsight

Hindsight is backward looking but still gets you closer to customersDespite the ever-increasing flow of real-time information into a company, this is arguably still the most used “sight” in customer underst anding today. We record or measure what our customers do; where they bought; how much they consumed; what advertising they saw and when. Unfortunately, despite the possibility technology provides us to record and send this information immediately to businesses, for most organisations, these metrics are based on past performance by the time we get to analyse them.

Even worse, this is exactly the type of information that we use to estimate how healthy our br and and business is going to be in the future. We assume that the market will stay roughly the same and that our continued efforts will be rewarded with similar, if not greater success. However, in today’s fast-paced world, nothing stays the same for long, especially not the customer.

Examples of hindsight are market shares, media consumption and shopping habits. Whilst br and equity can also be considered hindsight, it has been found that declining image often precedes a sales decline, so could arguable be seen to contain elements of both hindsight and foresight.

#2. Eyesight & Hearsight

Eyesight  and Hearsight helps you get closer to customersThis is the qualitative element of the previous “sight”. It helps us to confirm the decisions we take about important metrics to follow, or can deepen our underst anding of the information we have already recorded. Management can sometimes feel less comfortable with this type of knowledge if it is not complemented by “solid” quantified information. However, it is a powerful way to more deeply underst and our customers’ thoughts and behaviour and to share it with others.

Examples of eyesight include observation and ethnography, listening in to call centres and following or joining in to online social media discussions and chat. In addition, new technologies are exp anding this area with additional sources, often using biometric and / or neuroscientific readings. These include retail eye-tracking, webcam emotional facial analysis and online impact algorithms. (If you’re interested in learning more about any of these, which are available through C³Centricity and its partners, I would be happy to discuss further with you over Skype or a quick call)

#3. Insight

The spark of insight brings you closer to customers

This is what hindsight and eyesight should ideally be developed into. This suggests that no single piece of research, nor one project, should be expected to deliver insight, at least on its own. Insights come from combining different sources of information and knowledge, into underst anding and insight. Until we underst and the “why” behind the knowledge we have found, it is unlikely that true insight can be developed.

Depending upon your own definition of an insight, these can include an explanation of the behavioural change sought, or a statement, voiced from the consumer’s perspective, of what their need or issue is and what feelings they are looking to achieve when they solve it.

#4. Foresight

Foresight is planning for the future whilst getting closer to customersAlthough a business may be successful if it develops insights alone, in an ideal world it should also be considering the future and likely changes to the current situation. This will enable an organisation to be better prepared to take advantage of future opportunities, as well as to plan for possible risks.

For some, going beyond insight to foresight might mean making them feel uncomfortable as they are forced to think about possible scenarios that perhaps they would prefer NOT reflecting upon. And yet it is only by thinking about them and planning for our reactions to such situations, that we can really be best prepared to meet the opportunities and challenges the future might hold.

Now that I have summarised the differences between these four sights, I want to go back to the title of this post, “Out of sight, out of mind; how we underst and our customers”. I believe that underst anding comes out of these four sights and the integration and making sense of everything coming out of our minds. As technology starts to replace traditional market research information gathering and in some case the reporting too, we should be looking to move our skills’ emphasis from gatherer to sharer of insight.

Risks of not opening up to other sights

So, which sight are you using more often? As I already mentioned, we need to use all four, but not necessarily in equal proportions. Their use will each time depend upon the situation in which we find ourselves, but working with all four will ensure we try to underst and our customers from all possible perspectives.

If you work mainly with hindsight, you may risk a delay in reacting to market changes and new situations, so you need to strengthen your foresight. This can be done by following societal trends and then developing future scenarios to challenge your thinking.

If you work mostly with eyesight / hearsight, perhaps it’s because you feel threatened by the risk of your hypotheses and assumptions being proven wrong by “hard” facts. If this is the case, why not try quantifying some of your observations to see whether or not what has been observed is normal behaviour or merely your perception of reality?

If you work in an organisation that runs a lot of market research projects and draws conclusions and action plans from each one of them individually, it is time to strengthen your insights. (If you don’t have a process for developing insights from information integration, then contact us and let’s discuss how we might support you to develop a proprietary one). Perhaps surprisingly, insight development can actually save you resources, since running an evaluation of what is already known – the frequent first step of insight development – may produce the required answers and avoid the need for further studies.

Finally if you are living mostly in the future, you may be unaware of current opportunities / threats that quantification can indicate. Even when comfortable working with foresight, a business still needs to be managed on a day to day basis and for that, nothing beats a few numbers. Whilst foresight is essential to long-term business growth, the hypotheses must be based upon facts rather than assumptions.

Which sight do you need to strength in 2014? How are you going to do that? Plan to start this coming New Year by taking a critical look at which sight you are currently most comfortable using and then decide to strengthen your other sights. Please share your thoughts with everyone below.

Would you like some help with your own insight development process or information gathering? Then let us help you catalyse your customer centricity; contact us here

This post was inspired by one published on 11th January 2013 in C³Centricity

C³Centricity uses images from  Dreamstime.com  and  Kozzi.com

How Great Customer Service Leads to Great Customer Loyalty (And That’s What We All Want!)

Last week I wrote about some of the issues keeping marketers up at night and offered some suggested actions for each. Do you know what they are? Are you too worried about them?

The number one challenge faced by marketers today is reaching their customers, which may come as a surprise in this multi-channel, always on, environment we live in. However, once you have reached them and convinced them to buy, you still have the, perhaps even tougher, challenge of keeping them.

With so much on offer and the desire for novelty constantly growing, customer loyalty is declining. In fact, according to Bain & Co and Kantar Worldpanel’ 2012 survey mentioned, 50% of a brand’s ‘loyal’ users today will not be with them one year from now. 

Therefore, to follow on from last week’s post, I want to review what makes good customer service, since I believe it is one of the few ways of both building and keeping loyalty, as well as getting that vital advocacy that can grow your customer base even further. And I don’t seem to be alone in this belief.

Steven Van Belleghem wrote a great post on “Why customer loyalty is declining and what companies can do about it in which he shares his views on why this is so and what companies should do about it. His three solutions were:

1.      Treating customers well

2.      Treating employees well

3.      Doing good for society

So, assuming we accept (at least) his first solution, what do you need to do to treat customers really well? Here are a few thoughts from my side, but feel free to add your own ideas below:

#1. Really value the customer

Dyson cCustomer Service even in the foundationWhen I was younger I was very house proud, but these days I prefer surfing to dusting! That is one of the reasons why I have a Dyson vacuum cleaner; it gets the job done more easily and speedily and without too much mess or effort. You can therefore understand my frustration when the turbo brush stopped working. This was the second time in four years that this piece had ceased to function properly; the first time I was told that the newly introduced guarantee didn’t apply to me as I had bought my cleaner before its introduction! I therefore found myself paying a hefty price to replace the brush head.

Imagine my surprise therefore when I called Dyson this week and was told that as I had already bought a replacement brush before, this new one was going to be offered to me for free, in appreciation of my loyalty! Talk about being surprised AND delighted. The two-week delay for its delivery, which could have frustrated me, suddenly was no longer an issue; I’ll make do for now.

Dyson understands their customers. They turned a problem – being out-of-stock – into an opportunity to reinforce my loyalty. They clearly value my custom AND my patience and are happy to pay the (small) price in exchange for my continued loyalty.

#2. Go above and beyond in service

Zappos is built on customer serviceZappos is known for their excellent service and have actually made it their mission. As they themselves say “We’ve aligned the entire organization around one mission: to provide the best customer service possible. Internally, we call this our WOW philosophy”.

In line with their mission, they have a model they call the “Happiness Experience Form” that they use to measure what they consider to be the four critical factors of customer delight:

  1. Did the agent try twice to make a personal emotional connection (PEC)?
  2. Did they keep the rapport going after the customer responded to their attempt?
  3. Did they address unstated needs?
  4. Did they provide a “wow experience”?

I particularly like their #3 factor, responding to unstated needs; that takes customer service to a whole new level that few organisations achieve. Unfortunately, many still don’t even satisfy customers’ stated needs!

Zappos NPS (net promoter score) rose 5% points following the introduction of the happiness experience form. That’s pretty impressive, wouldn’t you say? If you’d like to read more about Zappos customer service practices, I would recommend CRM Analyst Ashley Verrill’s “ A Zappos Lesson in Customer Service Metrics”.

 #3. Understand your customers’ experience

anding customer service opportunities” src=”https://www.c3centricity.com/newblog/wp-content/uploads/2013/11/Final-path-to-purchase-300×180.png” width=”240″ height=”144″ />In order to delight your customers you need to take their perspective, not yours. This can be done in many ways. You can organise connection sessions where employees go shopping with customers or meet them in their homes. You can spend time listening to call centre exchanges or following market research projects in person. For a complete review of all the different ways to connect and learn from your customers check out “ How to become a fan of your customer” or search the “observation” or “customer service” categories by clicking on the words just below this post’s title.

Emirates customer service journey mappingUnderstanding the journey your customers make, to compare, choose, purchase and then build to loyalty and advocacy, is one way to bring competitive value. Emirates airlines have done a great exercise in customer journey mapping and use it intensively in their training. What they have done particularly well in my opinion is linking each experience to emotions, highlighting strong and weak, positive and negative emotions to each one.

Taking their customers’ perspective and understanding the emotions connected with each has enabled them to earn much respect – and loyalty – within the industry.

Really valuing your customers means that you will do whatever it takes to not only meet their needs, but even surpass them. They should be surprised and delighted by your customer service, which makes understanding the purchase process from their perspective absolutely essential. If you manage to do that and correct any sticking points where your customers are having negative emotions, you will more likely achieve increased loyalty and hopefully advocacy too. 

If you need help in optimising your own care centres or customer connections then we would love to support your plans. We know we can help, just tell us where and when. Contact us here and check out our website: https://www.c3centricity.com/home/engage

No Obligation, just INSPIRATION!

C³Centricity used images from Dyson, Zappos and Emirates in this post

10 Ways to tell if you’re Customer Centric: And what to do about it if you’re not

Summer is a great time to reflect on the progress we have made to date on our plans, be they personal or professional. Having finally completed the “nth” revision of my latest book –the formatting not the content! – it was the perfect occasion for me to review what I wanted to achieve in the coming six months.

This got me thinking about how organisations too need to take a step back and review how their plans are going and what changes need to be made to ensure their completion over the remaining six months of the year. So here are my ten ways to tell if you are well on your way to becoming truly customer centric – and what actions you can still take to go further along your journey.

#1. Identify the category in which you are competing

This may sound strange to you, but many br ands are not competing in the category in which they first thought they were. Think soup which is now a meal replacement, or laptops which are now entertainment platforms.

Action: Review how your product or service fits into the customers’ daily life and how they compare and decide between options. This will help you identify your real competitors and the actual category in which you are competing.

#2. Underst and your primary target

Boston MatrixKnowing precisely who the customer is for each of your br ands is the first essential step to satisfying them. Use the BCG Matrix to help select the best group. Do you already work with this matrix, or do you have a better system? Please share your own best practice below, so I can learn.

Action: Review the target audience for each of your br ands and ensure you have information on their +4Ws” – Who, What, Where and Why: demographics, purchase, usage, media use, places of purchase, consumption, connections to communications, their values, usage motivations and emotions when doing so.

#3. Watch and listen to your customers

Personal experience of your customers is essential to putting them at the heart of your business.

Action: Ensure everyone has regular – ideally monthly – contact with the customer, whether by listening in at the call centre, watching market research interviews & discussions, or observing customers as they shops and use your product / service.

#4. Know what current trends could mean for your business

Many organisations follow trends, but they don’t provide any competitive advantage unless they are turned into future scenarios.

Action: Identify the most relevant trends for your br and and then project them into the future to develop two axes of uncertainty and four plausible future worlds. These will help prepare the business for future opportunities and challenges.

#5. Reinvent your innovation

Example of innovation leversMost organisations innovate based upon their current knowledge or technical skills. This keeps them boxed into a narrow b and of categories.

Action: Take your NPD thinking outside its box, by making use of all relevant innovation levers, including, but not limited to, packaging, channels, sourcing, communications, br anding, services.

 

#6. Follow your image

It is amazing how many companies don’t follow their br and images on a regular basis. Image trends are a great way to be alerted to possible sales issues before they appear in the numbers.

Action: Identify the major image attributes of both your own and competitor br ands, and measure them regularly (annually for fast moving categories, every two to three years for slower moving ones).

#7. Turn your information into insight

Whilst information and knowledge are essential to gather, it is only when they are turned into underst anding and insight that they become truly customer centric.

Action: Review your insight development process and ensure decisions about customer satisfaction are based on them and not just on information. Insights ensure your communications resonate with your customers and your product / service delights and sometime surprises them.

#8. Share your information and insights

Companies spend a lot of money gathering data and information about the market and customers. However, in most cases they spend far too much money, because the information that is needed is actually already available somewhere in the company.

Action: Review your organisation’s information needs and negotiate contracts and access company-wide rather than by department. Make your information and insights available to everyone in the company through a library or database with appropriately managed access rights.

#9. Evaluate your progress

Business DashboardAs the infamous quote from Peter Drucker says “What gets measured gets managed”. Besides br and image, are you following other KPIs to measure your progress on your journey to customer centricity?

Action: Identify the three to five most important areas you want to improve and then measure them consistently. If the numbers aren’t trending up, act – see #10. below. The actual metrics you follow will depend upon your industry, but may include market comparison (shares), availability (distribution or out-of-stock) communications impact, competitivity, value.

 

#10. Plan for action

Once you have identified the KPIs to follow, you need to take action to improve those that are trending downwards and perhaps also those which are stable.

Action: Since your KPIs are the most important metrics for your business, plan actions as soon as their trend changes and don’t wait.

These ten steps should ensure your organisation remains focussed on the customer and doesn’t get lost in the day-to-day issues of the business. After all, as I have been quoted many times for saying:

“There may be customers without br ands, but there are no br ands without customers”

Think about it; do you have the right priorities? How do you know? Have I missed an essential step off of my list above? If so, let me know. Please also share which of your actions towards customer centricity you are struggling with the most. Together we’ll find a solution.

If you would like to  know how customer centric your organisation really is, then why not complete the C3C Evaluator? Check it out on our website: https://www.c3centricity.com/C3Cmembers

Need help on your journey to customer centricity? Let us help you catalyze your business; contact us here.

C³Centricity uses images from  Dreamstime.com  and  Kozzi.com

How to get R&D Excited about Innovation

Did you do a double-take when reading this week’s post title? I bet you did. R&D is at the heart of innovation for almost all major manufacturers, so they should be excited by it. However, their concepts are almost always based on the company’s current technical know-how and skills. Boring! If you want to break away from this very predictable process and add some “oomph” to your innovations, then read on

One of my most loyal CPG clients contacted me recently about the latest problem (opportunity?) he has been asked to address: making R&D more consumer centric. Having faced a similar challenge in one of my previous jobs, I immediately empathised with him. It can really be a daunting task, especially when speaking to people who are usually more interested in numbers than emotions. I remember speaking at the annual R&D conference about consumer centricity and at the end of my talk, the Head of Operations commented “You know Denyse, the R&D department is very consumer centric. We know exactly what consumers need. It’s marketing who don’t know how to explain to consumers why they need it!”

Trying to keep a straight face, I thanked him for his comment and also for having just proven why I believed that R&D could become more consumer centric. I then went on to suggest some ways they could get closer to current or potential consumers. By the end of my talk I had a queue of volunteers wanting me to organise some of the suggested actions for them. Here’s what I shared:

Observe & Listen to your Consumers

Most people working in a company and certainly those working in R&D, know far more about the category than the average consumer. However, most employees – excluding hopefully the insight team – don’t know what their consumers really think about their offer.

Observation of consumers as they go about their daily lives, using the product or service, helps us to identify pain points, whilst also stimulating new thinking and concept ideas. Listening to their complaints and ideas, whether online, through carelines or during a market research project, can provide the consumer perspective and input for new concepts or solutions.

It’s time for R&D to get out of the factory and into the shops and homes of shoppers and buyers.

Involve your Consumers

Ben- and-Jerry-AdA few days ago I came across an article about Ben & Jerry and how they are asking residents of five cities in the USA to vote for the names of new ice cream flavors that reflect their locales. The br and’s Scoop Truck, which will be touring 11 cities this year, will also serve as one of the campaigns’ voting platforms. Once consumers have eaten their free frozen treats, they’ll be asked to use their spoons as “ballots” (vote by depositing their spoons in one of several recycling boxes marked with various ingredient names). Does that remind you of another br and who used a similar voting tactic when it was starting out – Innocent?

Great br ands and companies have no problem “stealing with pride” and recognising good ideas when they see them.

Ben & Jerry’s are by no means the only br and to involve their customers in developing or choosing new products and services. Nespresso have been collaborating with their Club members for years on many aspects of their marketing. Whether choosing the end of their commercials or identifying the next new blend to be launched, Nespresso Club members are made to feel important and privileged.

Involving customers in the development of new product and/or service concepts not only makes them feel valued, it also makes them more loyal and valuable advocates of your br ands too. 

Exp and your Thinking

Example of innovation leversHow do you come up with ideas and concepts for new products and services today? If you are like most companies, they probably come in a majority from your current portfolio of br ands. Whilst this can meet with a certain level of success, as it is what customers expect, or rather dem and, there is another process that can drive even greater success. This is the use of what are often called innovation levers, or what others refer to as “the s and box”. I love the latter term as it suggests light-hearted play, which is an effective way to get people thinking “outside the box”.

Innovation levers enable thinking to “push the envelope” and to exp and outside the box in which R&D and marketing can sometimes find themselves. Rather than thinking about the next flavour or packaging idea, why not consider a new channel or communications strategy?

Coke sharing canCoke recently used two of these levers, but combined them, when it launched its “sharing can”. Not only can the can be split in two for sharing, it also enables new potential consumers to consider buying a can, such as those with smaller thirsts or those traveling.

Starting from a different lever than the one you usually use can result in more creative concepts.

Go Beyond Trend Following

Grow your business using customer underst andingAnother challenge when looking to make R&D more customer centric, is in moving them from trend following to scenario planning. R&D people often seem to be more comfortable with trends and “poo poo” future scenarios as improbable forecasts. It is therefore important to explain to them that scenario planning is not forecasting. If they can allow themselves to be open to listening to a story, which exposes imaginary but plausible new worlds to them, they can become inspired by the opportunities. The ideas that are created from scenario planning, have in my experience been amongst the most ground-breaking ever developed. Isn’t that exactly what we would all like to market, rather than the staple diet of predictable renovations?

These are just four ideas that I shared during the conference a few years ago, to stimulate and excite the R&D department. Hopefully they have excited you to have a go at convincing your own operations people to get closer to the customer.

Have you other examples of how you got your own R&D people to think outside their technical box? Then I’d love to hear about them, so please share your thoughts and ideas below.

If you would like some more creative innovation ideas, check out our website: https://www.c3centricity.com/home/vision

Need help in taking your innovation outside its box, or in connecting with your customers? Let’s discuss how we can help you catalyze your customer centricity; contact us here today.

C³Centricity uses images from  Dreamstime.com  and  Kozzi.com

Which Sight do you Use the Most?

There have been a lot of posts in the last few weeks suggesting we take a look back over our experience in 2012 or to start planning what we would like to do in 2013. I therefore thought I would combine both perspectives by reviewing how we can work more efficiently with customer underst anding and information to develop deeper insight and grow our businesses.

All organisations try to underst and their customers in order to satisfy their rational needs and emotional desires. The way they go about doing this however, can make a big difference in how successful they are. There are globally four ways we can consider to collect and then use information and knowledge about our customers:

#1. Hindsight

This is arguably the most used “sight” in customer underst anding. We look back and record or measure what our customers did. Where they bought; how much they consumed; what advertising they saw and when. All these metrics are based on past performance and we often then use this information to estimate how healthy our br and and business is going to be in the future. This is based on the assumption that our continued efforts will be rewarded with similar, if not greater success. However, in today’s fast-paced world, nothing stays the same for long, especially not the customer.

Examples of hindsight are market shares, media consumption and shopping habits. Whilst br and equity can also be considered hindsight, it has been found that declining image often preceeds a sales decline, so could arguable be seen to contain elements of both hindsight and foresight.

#2. Eyesight

This is the qualitative element of the previous “sight”. It helps us to qualify the decisions we take about what is important to measure before we do so, or can deepen our underst anding of the information we have already recorded. Management can sometimes feel less comfortable with this type of knowledge if it is not quantified by “solid” quantified information. However, it is a powerful way to more deeply underst and our customers’ thoughts and behaviour and to share it with others.

Examples of eyesight include observation and ethnography, as well as online social media discussions and chat.

#3. Insight

This is what hindsight and eyesight should be developed into. This suggests that no one piece of research, nor one project should be expected to deliver insight. Insights come from combining different sources of information and knowledge into underst anding and insight. Until we underst and the “why” behind what we have found, it is unlikely that true insight can be developed.

Depending upon your definition of an insight, these can include a statement voiced from the consumer’s perspective of what their need is and what feeling they are looking to achieve in solving it.

#4. Foresight

Although a business can be successful if it develops insight, in an ideal world it should also be considering the future and likely changes to the current situation. This will enable an organisation to be better prepared to take advantage of future opportunities, as well as to plan for possible threats.

Going beyond insight to foresight can mean making ourselves uncomfortable by thinking about possible scenarios that perhaps we would prefer avoiding. However it is only by thinking about them and planning for our reactions in such situations, can we be best prepared to meet the challenges the future may hold.

Now that I have summarised the differences between these four sights, which are you using more often? To be successful we need to use all four, but not necessarily in equal proportions. Their use will depend upon the situation in which we find ourselves, but we need to be able to work with all four of them, in order for our businesses to remain healthy.

If we work mainly with hindsight, we risk being unprepared for market changes and new situations, so we need to strengthen our foresight. This can be done by following societal trends and developing future scenarios to challenge our thinking.

If we work mostly with eyesight, we may feel threatened by numbers and the chance of being proven wrong in our hypotheses and assumptions. Why not try quantifying some of our observations to see whether or not what has been observed is normal behaviour, or due to some sort of bias in sampling or due merely to our perception?

If you work in an organisation that runs a lot of market research projects and draws conclusions from each of them individually, it is time to strengthen your insights. If you don’t have a process for developing insights from information integration, then C3Centricity can help. Insight development can actually save you resources, since running an evaluation of what is already known may produce the required answers and avoid the need for further research.

Finally if you are living mostly in the future, you may be unaware of current opportunities / threats that quantification can indicate. Even when comfortable working with foresight, a business still needs to be managed on a day to day basis and for that, nothing beats a few numbers. Whilst foresight is essential to long-term business growth, the hypotheses must be based upon facts rather than supposition.

So, which sight do you need to strength in 2013? How are you going to do that? Start this New Year by taking a critical look at which ones you are most comfortable in using and decide to strengthen your other sights. Please share your thoughts with everyone below. 

For more information on all these sights, please check out some of our ideas and training here: https://www.c3centricity.com/home/

C³Centricity uses images from  Dreamstime.com  and  Kozzi.com

10 Things your Customers won’t tell you

Customer centricity has many organisations buzzing in anticipation today. Everyone seems to be talking about it and saying how important it is to the success of their business. 

We are all trying to satisfy our customers as best we can, but all too often we continue to take our own perspective, instead of theirs. Here are ten things your customers wished you knew about them.

#1. I’m sometimes irrational

Don’t ask me why I do what I do. Sometimes I don’t even know why I do things myself! If you really want to underst and me, don’t ask me questions, be a part of my life to underst and things from my own personal perspective.

 

#2. I like gifts

Yes I know I won’t tell you I bought something because I saw it advertised, but the promise of a gift really does help. We never get enough gifts, especially as an adult. Even if I know it is not that special, it makes ME feel special on an otherwise ordinary day, so go on, give me an unexpected treat.

 

#3. I like advertising

Yes I know I tell you it doesn’t matter, but I really do like watching some ads on television. Especially if they make me laugh or tell me something I didn’t know, or entertain me. I will watch them and even more than once, so your br and name might just be in my head when I next go shopping.

 

#4. I don’t like being taken for a fool

I know prices are going up all the time, but don’t try and fool me by putting less and less in the pack whilst maintaining the same pack size and price. One day I’ll notice and I won’t be happy – at all!

 

#5. Don’t promise what you can’t deliver

Also, don’t try to fool me by promising something on the pack you can’t or don’t deliver. OK you need to make your product or service look appealing to me, but if you over-promise and under-deliver it will only make any negative feelings I might have become even stronger. Even if I buy once, it’s doubtful that I’ll buy again if you have disappointed me.

 

#6. I’m just not that into you

With very few exceptions that I am really passionate about, most products and services I buy satisfy a need that I am looking to fulfil. There are usually choices available to me, so don’t take my loyalty for granted. Every purchase is a decision for me, so make it easy by always satisfying my continually exp anding needs. If you don’t, one of your competitors can probably do just as good a job as you do.

 

#7. Don’t confuse me with statistics

Whether it is offering different pack sizes at differing prices, or calculating fat / sugar content by weight instead of calories, I check your maths with my smart-phone today. I believe I should get larger sizes for less money per gram, and lower fat / sugar content for less calorie intake. I will check your claims, so don’t play the numbers game with me.

 

#8. Be happy when I complain

If I complain about something it means I care. You should be happy that I care enough to actually tell you when I am dissatisfied. Make it easy for me to contact you, give me a choice of mediums and make damn sure you satisfy me completely when you listen and respond. I will not only take my business elsewhere if I am unhappy with your response, but will probably tell the whole world about it on social media too.

 

#9. Respect my ignorance

I like to know what you are offering me. What ingredients you use; where they come from; are they from sustainable sources; can I trust you? Give me the information I need, when I need it. Don’t bombard me with too much, or hide less positive things from me. Discuss with me as an equal, don’t talk down to me, after all I pay your wages.

 

#10. Be thankful I’m not satisfied

I know I may sometimes be a pain, but be thankful that I buy from you, tell you what I think of it and ask for more, better, larger, smaller etc etc. My need for constant change and improvements will challenge you to greater things and if you satisfy my rational needs and emotional desires, I might just stay loyal. Oh yes, and don’t believe everything I say; as I said in the beginning I can be irrational, so underst and not what I am saying, but what I mean by what I say.

What are your customers saying to you? Are you listening? No-one knows them better than they do themselves, even if they don’t know how to express what they are feeling / thinking in many cases. They might not always know what they want, but they can always tell you what they don’t want.

What have you heard lately? Please share the surprising comments your have listened to recently.

For more information on customers, how to connect and underst and them, please check out our website: https://www.c3centricity.com/

How to Become a Fan of your Customer

All companies know the importance of being customer centric, but how many of them encourage ALL their employees to think about their customers and to try and serve them better every time? 

What about you? When was the last time you yourself listened to or watched your customers using your product or service, to learn more about them, and to underst and them more deeply? Most people see this as being the responsibility of their colleagues in the Market Research and Insight Department and are happy to wait for them to come and present the findings of a research study.

Your customers are constantly changing, as are their attitudes, needs, desires and how your products and services fit into their lives. This means that everyone should be involved in getting to know them better and being close to customers should be on their annual objectives.

Plan customer closeness sessions

One of the best ways to energize curiosity and excitement around the customer, is to organise customer closeness days or weeks. During these times, several groups in the organisation leave their offices and go out into the world to watch and listen to their customers as they think about, purchase or use your products and services. There are numerous ways of doing this, but to mention just a few:

  • listening in to service centre calls
  • watching group discussions or in-depth interviews organised by market research
  • accompanying demonstrators who are showing or sampling your products in store
  • serving customers behind the counter if you have your own retail outlets
  • accompanying customers as they shop or use your product or service
  • observing your customers as they shop or use your product

Observation is not as simple as it sounds

In order to really underst and what people will be witnessing, it is advisable to run a briefing session before allowing them to go out and observe customers. Your market research and insight people should be able to help with this training and will no doubt be happy to share their expert knowledge.

Ideally each person should go out with a task or question to answer, rather than observing customers with no precise objective in mind. Watching and listening first and asking questions only afterwards, is the best way to gain a maximum amount of underst anding; by listening first you learn what is important to your customers, rather than just finding the answers to the questions you might have. Everyone can meet up at the end of the exercise to share their observations and build greater knowledge and underst anding of the customer.

Try it; you will become a fan of these exercises  and as a result, of your customers as well! If you already run such experiences we would love to hear about your ideas and success stories.

For more ideas on getting closer to your customers please check out our website: https://www.c3centricity.com/home/vision/

This post is adapted from an article which first appeared on C3Centricity Dimensions on July 7th 2011

C³Centricity uses images from Dreamstime.com

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