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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.

Three Clever Ways to Know the Competition Better

What is the secret to success in business? That’s easy! It’s how well you know the competition.

Alright, maybe this is a slightly over-simplified perspective, but it always surprises me how many companies work with a primarily internal focus.

I have written many posts about knowing your customers, such as “Why Customers Are The Answer To All Your Problems (If You Ask the Right Questions).” Watching and listening to them in order to fully understand their rational needs and emotional desires is a great – and free! – way to start.

But today I would like to speak about doing exactly the same thing for your competitors. If you are going to succeed in attracting their customers away from their products and services, then it would make sense to know them as well as you do your own.

Here’s a simple three-step process to do so. 

 

Encourage employees to use competitive products & services

Know the competition better by trying their products and services.In most organisations today, using competitive products is still frowned upon; after all, we make the best don’t we, so why use those of other companies?

However to challenge and beat the competition you have to intimately know what you are up against. Regular contact with competitive products will encourage your employees to evaluate your own offering. They will also be encouraged to suggest competitors’ strengths and weaknesses that were perhaps not evident before. It will also ensure that you are rapidly aware of any improvements made by the competition. You won’t get left behind and find yourself suffering from declining sales due to competitive improvements of which you are unaware.

To challenge & beat the competition you have to intimately know what you are up against through regularly experiencing their product and service offers. #marketing #competition #brand Click To Tweet

This intimacy with competitors’ products and customers should be requested of employees at all levels, by being one of their annual objectives. Of course, in some industries this might not be possible, due to the selective nature of the product or service, but certainly for most consumer products and service companies, this can easily be done on a regular basis.

Now encouraging people to use competitive products is easy to say, but you should also be prepared to invest in it, by paying for your employees to experience them. It would be unfair, and would certainly be resented, if your people had to spend their own money to make such experiences. This knowledge gathering should be seen as an investment by your organisation, of at least equal value to offering your employees discounts on your own products and services.

Why don’t you start a similar process and add these experiences to everyone’s annual objectives? It’s a great way, and a free one at that, to know the competition better than you do today.

 

Make a Library of Competitive Products and Material

KNow your competition better by sharing what you knowIn one of my previous positions, the company had an incredible competitive library. This included every single competitive product that was available from all around the world, classified by country and organised by segment.

Everyone found this library extremely useful, especially when discussing such topics as shelf impact, packaging or in trying to understand our competitor’s portfolio strategy.

However, it was managed by the marketing services team and was hidden away in the lower ground floor where people rarely passed by. Additionally, the packs were emptied of their contents, to avoid infestations of vermin and insects, so people never got to try the products.

It would have been even better had the products been displayed in a location that was easily accessible to everyone. In addition, the products should have ideally been sampled before the packages were emptied of their contents. That said, they still remain one of the few companies I know that have been observing and following their competitors in such a consistent way for decades. As you can imagine, they were always ahead of the market and up-to-date with their competitive intelligence!

Stay ahead of the market & up-to-date with what you competitors are doing with a competitive library of products and communications material. #brand #marketing #communications Click To Tweet

Another client of mine has made a library of communications material. Their advertising agency is of course the major source of the samples, but employees who travel are also encouraged to take photos of ads and promotional materials which are then added to the library. You would be amazed how inspiring it is to review this work whenever a group is discussing their own advertising and promotions. They avoid duplication, get great ideas from countries to which they don’t normally have access, and can again take their customers’ perspective when comparing the samples with their own work.

What could you do to make your competitors’ products and communications more easily accessible to your employees? If you’re serious about wanting to know the competition better than you do today, you have to stay on top of what they are doing at all times.

 

Understand your Competitors’ Customers too

Observe to know the competition betterThis same curiosity to know your competitors’ products can also be used to know and better understand your competition’s customers as well.

When your employees go out to observe your own customers, they should also pay attention to those people who are not using your products or services. In this way they can gather additional information that can then be compared with your knowledge of your own customers.

Whether it is getting a better understanding of your competitors’ products and services or the people that use them, the information accumulated must be stored and shared internally to be of any benefit. Some companies organise weekly or monthly sessions where people from different departments can share their latest knowledge and observations. For more ideas on how to share effectively read “Knowledge sharing and how to WOW!” 

Other companies organise customer connection sessions where teams of employees from different departments – with differing perspectives – go out together with a task to complete or a question to answer. These could be for example:

  • How, where and when do people use our product or service?
  • What is their biggest frustration in shopping for the category?
  • If they could make one change to our major competitor’s product, what would it be?
  • What differences are there in the way the category’s brands are displayed?
  • Which social media channels are most popular with category users?

Employees gather ideas and information by first observing and only afterwards asking questions for clarification purposes. Upon their return, the teams can meet up to share their ideas and learnings, as well as to discuss the impact of their findings and agree on what actions if any need to be taken. For more details on how to observe customers, whether your own or those of your major competitors, read “Five Rules of Customer Observation and Why it’s Hard to Do Effectively.”

I have witnessed these customer connection sessions being run in countless organisations. Every single time I see just how excited and energised employees get about improving the way the company makes, packs, sells or communicates its products and services.

Isn’t it time your organisation got closer to your customers and those of the competition? 

 

These are three ways you can easily and quickly know the competition better than you do today. Do you have other ideas that you’d like to share? I’d love to see your comments below. 

Have you run any such customer connection exercises, or built a competitive library of products in your own organisation? If so please share your experiences too.

For more ideas on how you can know the competition even better, why not organise one of our 1-Day Catalyst Training Sessions? We have them on many areas of brand building, so you are sure to find exactly what you need to inspire and energise your team. Check out and download our brochures here. If you would rather talk through your needs first, then feel free to book time in my calendar. 

This post is an update of one that was first published on C3Centricity in 2011. All images in this article are from the book “Winning Customer Centricity – Putting customers at the heart of your business – One day at a time.” 

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.

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

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

How to Segment for Actionability & Success

Last week I shared the twelve questions you need to be able to answer in order to ensure you really know your target audience. If you missed it, you can read it here. The post certainly attracted a lot of hits, so I hope you have all found ways to improve your own customer underst anding as a result of reading it.

All br ands and services need a group of customers that they are going to satisfy, since it is impossible to appeal to everyone most of the time. This means that you will need to make a choice about who you are going to target, which also implies that you must accept that you will also ignore some other category users.

Last week I read a really great post by Colin Nelson of HYPE on how a simple segmentation of employees enabled Swisslog to underst and and improve participation in their innovation ideas campaigns. I highly recommend reading this case study as it shows how even the simplest grouping of a market – in this case employees – can be both actionable and successful.

Segmentation can be as simple or as complex as you like, but is essential for all successful businesses. If you yourself are struggling to underst and your consumers, employees, retail customers, or any other group of people, perhaps a segmentation exercise is what you need to run.

 

 Where to start

When deciding who to target, most companies will start by conducting some sort of data gathering. This could be as simple as identifying your users by what you observe, such as young men or large families, or as complex as gathering your customers’ values and motivations. As mentioned in last week’s post, the deeper the underst anding of your target customer is, the more likely it is to provide you with a competitive advantage. The same also goes for segmentation.

 

Do you have the MIDAS touch?

Choosing the golden segmentWhatever method you use for segmenting and choosing your target group, the results of your exercise need to meet the following five conditions, known collectively as the MIDAS touch:

Measurable: The individual groups need to be clearly defined and quantifiable using KPI’s such as size, market share, value share
Identifiable: Each segment must have a distinct profile and each customer must be attributed to only one segment
Definable: Every cluster must be easy to describe and share with others, so that you have mutual underst anding of each of them
Actionable: The groups must be easy to identify, in order to be able to target your actions and communications to them
Substantial: The chosen segment must be financially viable to target, which means that it should in general be stable or growing, and durable over the long term

All good segmentations or groupings will fulfil these five key conditions, so it is easy for you to evaluate the results of your segmentation exercise. If they do not meet these conditions, then you will struggle to target your actions to your chosen group of customers.

Why not take a look at your own segmentation right now and decide how it can be improved? This may be by completing the information you have on each group, or may make you realise that you need a whole new segmentation study. However, it is definitely worth getting target customer choice right, as this forms the foundation for your br ands’ customer centricity.

 

Don’t have the resources? Here’s a solution

If you do not have the time, money, or expertise to run a detailed segmentation study, you can still make an informed decision of thebest  customer group to target. Use an analysis similar to the Boston Matrix, first developed in the 70′s by the BCG. At that time, it was created to help corporations analyse their business units and was based on market growth and relative market share. There are numerous free articles online explaining both the methodology and giving example plots; the one from MindTools is in my opinion one of the better sources.

Boston MatrixWhilst the criteria you use for each axis can vary, this simple method has the advantage of being able to be completed over time, as you get more information. Examples of the criteria that can be used are:

Attractiveness: Segment size, segment growth, segment value, competitive environment, fit to the company or br and
Ability to win: Product attractiveness to your customer, your distribution channels, your media mix, your reputation

Once you have positioned the different segments or groups of customers on the axes, you can easily see what needs to be done for each:

  1. Target: these are your core customers to target, as they are both attractive to the business and easy for the company’s product or service to attract
  2. Convert: these users can be attracted to your product or service but your ability to win them is currently low; you probably need to consider improving one of the elements of the marketing mix to attract them
  3. Grow: your product or service can easily win these groups but perhaps they are not as profitable as you would like; review them from time-to-time or develop a different strategy to attract them
  4. Ignore: many organisations struggle to make the decision NOT to go after a group of category users, but if you have neither the product / service nor the segment size that would be profitable to you, why spend time, money and energy going after them?

Choosing the right group of customers to satisfy with your product or service is essential for business success. So is doing everything you can to underst and them as deeply as possible. Truly customer centric organisations excel at doing both; do you? Why not share your own succcess story on segmentation?

If you would like to  know more about targeting, check out our website: https://www.c3centricity.com/home/underst and

Need help in underst anding and segmenting your current category customers or defining which group to target? Let us help you catalyze your customer centricity; contact us here

This post has been adapted from one that was publised on C3Centricity Dimensions on May 14th 2012

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/

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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

Walking the Talk of Customer Centricity

Do you ever get frustrated that although everyone in your organisation claims to underst and the importance of placing the customer at the heart of the business, nobody seems to be really “walking the talk” of customer centricity? If so, then this post is for you.

Thanks to Stan Knoops from Unilever, I recently came across a great video produced by their Insight Team. It is part of a series of Unilever consumer connect programs and presents a new way for connecting their R&D people at Unilever Vlaardingen to consumers. It shows how to engage and inspire a complete organisation of R&D with consumer insights and is a highly inspirational film.

This got me thinking about the problems that many- or should I say most? – organisations have to get all employees engaged and interested in better underst anding their customers. To help get them started on this essential road to customer centricity, I came up with these 6 points:

#1. Put customer connection in everyone’s annual objectives

This can be left open, or specified such as watching a certain number of focus groups or in-depth interviews, accompanying a certain number of customers whilst they shop for or use your product or service, or listening – and why not also manning, after training? – your care centres or websites.

#2. Conduct co-creation or co-elaboration sessions

Whilst it is good to get people close to your customers, you can also help the company with the development of new products, services or communications, by inviting your customers to join meetings and planning sessions. This is both fun and exciting for your customers and inspiring for company employees. And don’t forget the positive publicity and word of mouth you additionally get, since the participants will certainly talk about their experience to their friends and colleagues

#3. Work on the front line

If marketing, sales, supply chain or another department is struggling to find a solution or new development idea, put them on the front line, to talk to customers directly. If you have your own retail outlets this can be relatively easy to organise. However, even if you don’t it can still be done, with a little planning.

I remember when I first started working at Philip Morris International, I spent a week on the road with a sales representative. Not only did I see first h and some of the issues he faced in selling in his stock, but also learnt a lot from the retailers with whom we discussed. I also began to underst and consumers’ mentally whether smokers or non-smokers, when we were offering free samples in bars and cafés (not sure this goes on today, as I am speaking about 30+ years ago!) Being on the front line is both an inspiring and humbling experience and I just wish that more organisations gave this training, both to new hires, as well as all employees on a regular basis.

#4. Get out of the office

When I worked for Gillette many years ago, all br and managers had to spend one day every two weeks in the field, watching. I am not sure that many organisations still send their staff out of their offices on a regular basis – with a few notable and infamous exceptions of course – but since customers can be and often are, totally unlike the people in your organisation, it is difficult for them to appreciate the customers’ perspective.

Whether it is a difference of age, background, culture, wealth or experience, it is unlikely that the people taking the decisions about your br ands really know what their customers feel. So get them to stop sitting in their Ivory Towers and get out into the real world occasionally.

#5. Listen to the frontline staff

When was the last time you invited your promotions staff or retailers to join a meeting? Unfortunately today, many companies don’t even use their own staff to man promotions and sampling, s the wealth of information about how the events have gone and how potential customers appreciated the offer, is lost.

#6. Share the knowledge

In addition to gathering information and knowledge about your customers, it should be regularly shared so that everyone benefits from each other’s learnings. The latest topics customers are calling or writing in about can be visibly published to stimulate everyone’s thinking; how about putting weekly summaries on the notice board, at the lift, in the restaurant waiting area or anywhere else in your offices where a maximum number of people can be inspired by the information? Or what about holding monthly “lunch and learn” sharing sessions during the mid-day break, in a relaxed, fun and creative environment? A free lunch will get people more involved but won’t take valuable time out of their working day.

I hope this “Starter for 6” has got you thinking about ways that you might start walking the talk of customer centricity in your own organisation. If you are using other methods to get your company to put the customer at the heart of the business, please share them here.

If you would like to learn more about targeting, connecting with and underst anding your own customers, please check our website: https://www.c3centricity.com/home/underst and/

C³Centricity uses images from Dreamstime.com

Are you a Fan of your Customer?

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

What about you? When was the last time you yourself listened or watched your customers to learn more about them, and to underst and them more deeply? 

Do you usually just leave this to your colleagues in the Market Research and Insight Department and wait for them to come and present the findings of a study to you? Your customers are constantly changing, as are their attitudes, needs, desires, and how your products and services fit into their lives. Being close to your customers should be on everyone’s 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, everyone in the company leaves their offices and goes 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
  • accompanying demonstrators who are showing or sampling your products in retail outlets
  • working behind the counter if you have your own retail outlets
  • interviewing 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

To really undert and what you are seeing, it is advisable to run a briefing session before allowing people to go out and watch their 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 watching 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 you learn what is important to your customers first, rather than what is important to you. Everyone can meet up at the end of the exercise to share and build greater knowledge and underst anding of your customer.

For more information on how to run observation sessions refer to an earlier post: The Five Rules of Observation

Try it; you will become a fan of these exercises  and of your customers!

If you already run such experiences we would love to hear about your ideas and success stories.

Need help in getting closer to your own customers? Let us help you catalyse your customer centricity; contact us hereor check out our website: https://www.c3centricity.com/home/underst and/

This post first appeared on C3Centricity Comments page on July 7th  2011

 

 C³Centricity uses images from Dreamstime.com

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