“Our leaders quickly realized that before we could use digital to transform our customers and the world, we needed to transform ourselves.” This according to General Electric Co. CMO, Linda Boff, “Over the last few years the company changed its way of doing business at every level. And, per Boff, “When we apply these technologies in our teams and facilities, our customers and markets can reach their potential.”
“Listening” has been the industry buzz word for years and is key to building relationships for both BtoB and BtoC businesses. And although many companies have put in place extensive systems for “listening” very few are responding to what they are “hearing.”
So, the action companies must take is to share customer listening insights across all departments involved in product development and marketing. They must ensure that the actual brand experience and products align with BtoB and BtoC customer’s voices.
Elizabeth Arden Goes Inside to Get InsightsGoing beyond traditional focus groups has been a strategy for beauty company, Elizabeth Arden who looks to their “Arden Insiders,” insight community of more than 4,000 women, to inform the direction of innovation and critical product and design decisions. Utilizing consumer opinions and feedback, the company can make educated decisions to stay aligned with consumer sentiment.
Celia Tombalakian, the senior director of global insights and product development commented on their new customer-insight driven marketing, “…[The] Customer intelligence platform allows us not only to identify our customer’s likes and dislikes…but to stay current on who she is and where she is going from a beauty point of view—typical focus groups or questionnaires just can’t capture this.”
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The company uses this insight group to test copy, print ad concepts, promotional offerings, product claims, model photography, and branding and new product ideas. The feedback drives decisions on all aspects of creative and design. Per Tombalakian, “We launched our community as a one-year pilot and within the six months we were discussing plans for geographic expansion. The ROI was very apparent to all stakeholders.”
The company uses real time feedback on initiatives they are working on through their Arden Insiders insight community customer intelligence platform. Noted Tombalakian, “Arden Insiders transformed how we are making many decisions…this is critical because they can weave [the customer] point of view through all stages of product or program development rather than just key junctions.”
The company also implemented a dedicated market research and customer insight department to assure that their customers’ voice is incorporated in all decisions. Tombalakian summed up the investment payoff, “We launched our community as a one-year pilot and within the six months we were discussing …expansion. The ROI was very apparent to all stakeholders.”
Use Insights to Connect
Findings from 15,000+ hours of VoC research interviews indicate that customers want deeper engagement throughout their brand lifecycle. This means that marketers should utilize Voice of Customer (VoC) insights from your customers and prospects to improve their experience during all these key points: acquisition, activation, loyalty—and critically, deepening the relationship.
Here are a few quotes from recent VoC research to consider as you develop your strategies:
“When a supplier proactively works to understand my needs, we can develop a personal connection. That forms the basis of a long-term relationship that will remain when we are approached by their competitors or have the occasional problem with their solution.”
“I appreciate you asking for feedback and clearly listening and taking action based on what we are saying. Very few companies ask for our opinions regarding how they can get better and what I would like to see them do. That’s cool. It means you are trying to get bigger and better.”
It’s not just BtoC companies that are seeing results from customer listening, BtoB brands such as GE have devised campaigns to target niche audiences to gain insights on sentiment. GE’s #CC9900 GEEKS GO campaign connected with coders in a challenge environment on social media that used a game-style conversation to spark interactions.
Make Listening an Everyday Marketing Practice
In a research report by Wharton, “Listening to the Online ‘Voice of the Customer’”, the following points were cited:
- Large online customer discussions boards carry the potential to revolutionize the world of market research, offering businesses a massive and free data base of what customers think about their products.
- Traditional surveys and focus groups are flawed because the process of identifying the specific product attributes in a customer survey [are] typically guided by company marketing managers, [and] often ignore issues being raised by customers. In addition, focus groups might not always reach the most passionate and engaged customers who are voluntarily discussing products and brands on the Internet.
- [There are] “unseen attributes of a product” – that is, issues that buyers are discussing which executives back at the headquarters are not even aware of.
The takeaway for brands is that actual customer sentiment needs to be a prime focus and that listening (rather than assuming or modeling) must become a regular part of everyday marketing practices.