Building teams that work to understand your customers better

Building teams that work well together and make customer-centricity a priority benefits the customers. But how do you build those teams, and how do you make sure you have the right players?

Building an insights team that offers a glimpse into what customers currently feel and what they might like in the future, is often also accompanied by a certain buzz around the company.

“You can sense there’s a lot of excitement coming from all parts of the company,” said Maher Beltaifa, human insights manager ahout building the insights team at Faurecia, on an episode of “Reel Talk: The Customer Insights Show.” “And people have always wanted to do that and be intimate with their users and know what’s going through their mind whenever they are using the products and services and how they can improve on those experiences.”

A lot goes into building teams. Let’s dive into that topic in this article.

customer insights at the foundationCollaborative teams

Building teams that work together can help us understand our customers and continuously improve the customer experience.

“It’s really regardless of what teams you have,” said Tara Robertson, chief marketing officer at Teamwork, on an episode of “Reel Talk”.

“I will lean on my statement that I’m allergic to silos,” she said. “If you are a customer-driven business, customer insights needs to be sitting at the foundation of what you do.”

In some companies, that’s an insights team. In other companies, another team might be leading the charge, Tara said.

“That doesn’t mean you can do it in a silo,” she said. “There’s all that heavy lifting going on to make sure we are aligned with our customer experience team, our customer success team, the product team.”

The alignment is necessary so teams:

  • Don’t recreate the wheel.
  • Are aligned on the things they are asking for from customers in surveys.
  • Get the insights from the internal team before anyone puts a survey out into the market

You can get more buy-in when other departments understand what’s going on and how it can benefit them, said Jenn Vogel, vice president of marketing at Voxpopme. “We are on this journey together instead of us saying, ‘Hey, we’ve done this research.’ “

Tara added: “I’ll even go so far and say that the customer experience becomes so much better.”

Working collaboratively helps you build something that every department can benefit from. Surveys and questions that are asked of customers at different touchpoints can be aligned when teams work together.

“We are doing a survey in marketing right now, and we will share feedback with product if we are getting feedback on the product,” Tara said. “We are going to want that and put it into our product road map.”

The same goes for customer experience.

“If we have an unhappy customer or a thrilled customer, we have that opportunity to create an even better experience,” Tara said.

Speaking up

Team communication is essential to make it work.

At PepsiCo, everyone should feel like they can give their opinion fearlessly, said Jennifer Saenz, global chief marketing officer at PepsiCo during her chat with Zappi President Ryan Barry, at the 2021 Virtual Insights Summit.

“When you see an outage you have to speak up,” she said. “I wouldn’t hold it in and let it fester because you can make an impact.”

Thinking like an owner can help with speaking up, Jennifer said. When there’s a problem or an idea owners certainly would speak up. Anyone should feel empowered to do that.

“There are things about an organization that implies,” she said. “One, are we willing to listen? Or are we so hierarchical? Our hope would be that those cultural values showcase that we want to listen and want you to state your opinions – act like an owner.”

But also voice your opinion with purpose.

“Saying something is a problem is a step, but I also think it’s important that people take the responsibility trying to solve things,” she said.

Creative excellences

Jennifer’s teams focus on creative excellence to improve.

That includes:

  • How to manage the agency
  • The way the team learns
  • How to brand position

“Creative excellence is where we spend a lot of time and energy to make sure we have strong brands that resonate with consumers,” Jennifer said.

Testing

Testing is also important, but perhaps more important is why A won in an A/B test than that A won.

“So the next time you can do an even smarter version,” Jennifer said. “Make sure you are doing that reflective exercise. And that you go in there intelligently. Being constantly learning helps you.”

Understanding where your brand can go and where it shouldn’t is also is important to know when evaluating trends, strategies, and the next campaigns.

As you are experimenting make sure you understand the scope of what’s being tested. Also, make sure you are involving the right people in the company. Who is closest to the customer.

Consider which market is the best for a pilot.

“Figure out who is the best partner to start,” Jennifer said. “It’s a bit of shopping it around. There’s an aspect of change management.”

Tasks that teams need to consider in their analysis

Tara said in a clip played on the show that teams should analyze the right amount of answers from surveys.

“You have to understand how many responses you actually have to read to get to some form of significance,” she said. “Reading and digging into those answers is what creates empathy.”

That, of course, takes a team approach: Who is doing what, what information gets shared, and when, to drive the best results, while keeping the team on the right forward path together.

For example, one team member can take the analysis in the Voxpopme video survey platform. They can read the automatic transcripts of responses and find responses by topic or sentiment. With the click of a button, a highlight reel can be created to share with your team and executives.

understand your customers better now
“You really want to understand what people are saying,” Tara said. “Yes, you can run it through a tool but spending the time to go through it, whether it’s an hour or a day, gets you those insights.”

From there, you can use what was learned and add it into your campaigns, talk tracks and product updates to create value for the customer.

What does it mean to drive value?

"My belief is that marketers shouldn't just create demand, but create value"

“My belief is that marketers shouldn’t just create demand, but create value,” Tara said. “Yes, I do have to care about the demand funnel, acquisition and growth. And everything in between. But what I care the most about is that value.”

Think of value as something that is useful to the customer.

“What is it that people are hiring us for?” Tara said. “They have a pain, and they need to solve that pain. So when we think about value, we need to think about how do we make this person’s life better?”

Demand rooted in value creates lifetime value. 

“That’s where I think customer research becomes so important,” Tara said.

In addition, this is where qualitative methods — like video surveys —  become essential. Data can tell teams a certain level of information, but data can’t tell why a customer feels a certain way.

Companies will be most successful when they understand:

  • the customer’s problem.
  • what the customer’s motivation is to buy.
  • what the customer’s dreamer state is.

Understanding customers’ personal problems can help us create more personalized experiences.

“Personalizing is a huge challenge,” Jenn said. But it’s one that can be overcome by understanding your customer through surveys that tell you the “why.”

You also can personalize experiences by thinking about how personas are alike. Which ones overlap? In essence, you are personalizing for a group of similar people.

“Where are the similarities in the problems they are trying to solve?” Jenn said. “And then work from there to personalize.”

Mimi Swain of RingMimi Swain, Ring’s Chief Revenue Officer sits right at the center of marketing, sales, and customer teams, and said teams can be successful when they see things from the customer perspective.

“Try to understand the levers of the customer,” she said during an interview with Jenn during the 2021 Virtual Insight Summit. “What’s a motivator for them?”

When customer preferences change

As Voxpopme CEO Dave Carruthers mentioned in this article, some consumer behavior changes are knee-jerk reactions to a current, time-limited situation. Others are more long-term and evolving. The trick is to figure out what’s what, which can be done by staying connected with your customers.

“I’m definitely a fan that a survey isn’t one and done — you get the results and then you go and build,” Tara said. “Customer insights should be an always-on thing. It should be something you are constantly looking at, improving on and iterating on.”

To have insights always on, ask customers in the moment or right after an experience. James Dodkins discussed this concept in this article.

Also look at changes in your NPS score, but not just to be able to say you got a certain score. Look at it to see who the happy and unhappy customers are, Tara said. You can reach out to each for different reasons:

  • Happy customers: Perhaps they’d leave a review or would let you create a case study.
  • Unhappy customers: Find out what they would like to see improved.

You  also can think of the NPS as the quantitative (the what) piece of your insights analysis. Then you’ll have to figure out the qualitative piece (the why customers are feeling one way or another).

With an always-on approach, there should be little to no surprises in customer behavior, Tara said.

Where does customer research fit in terms of priorities?

“It’s probably one of the most important priorities,” Tara said about where it fits in her first 90 days in a new CMO role. “I can’t make an impact on the organization if I don’t understand what I need to be looking for, and that means getting on the phone with customers, looking at the customer journey, understanding our drop-off points”

And sometimes you just have to listen and let the customer feedback and thoughts sink in.

“That can be hard. … I’m a very action-oriented person,” Tara said.

What skills and what mindset should people have?

We are all just human and want to work for companies or buy from companies that listen to us,

“I take functional skills off the table for this,” Tara said. “If you are hiring somebody for a job, you have to assume that they can do the job at a functional level.”

Then soft skills come to the table:

  • Do they have a growth mindset?
  • Is there empathy and the ability to listen?
  • Are they customer-driven?
  • Do they leave their ego at the door?
  • Will they contribute to team camaraderie? Chemistry matters.

On the hard skill side: Are they analytical, which doesn’t mean they have to be an analyst but they do need to understand the data.

Looking at the data helps us understand whether an effort is worth it.

“I think it’s the mix of functional expertise, soft skills, analytical and willingness to learn,” Tara said.

But you also don’t want to be too robotic in your decision-making, Tara said.

“I still do believe that those risks are grounded in insights,” she said.

Insights executive Khary Campbell stressed the importance of high-performing teams on this episode of Reel Talk.

Performance comes out in the metrics, but also the behaviors of team members, Khary said.

“Where it came out to me was when I joined a disruptive innovation team at General Mills. They said we are going to give you a different business model,” Khary said. “We don’t want you to bring us another cereal in a box. Other than that you are free to create new approaches, new methods and new ways for us to assess it.”

And the team realized they had to operate outside of their titles.

shared consciousness“We realized we had to assume each other’s responsibilities in some places,” he said. “So our behaviors changed. It was no longer a conversation of ‘I don’t know. I have to wait for our finance person’. And it goes to ‘I know they are busy and why don’t you and I get together and take our best shot at it’.”

Of course, still doublecheck it with that person, but give it your best shot.

“And what happened was we kind of forgot our titles,” he said. “And we started operating as a team with one shared consciousness.”

Clarity of roles

Khary’s team had a very clear understanding of their combined goals and how they would operate together to reach them.

When it comes to having the right people in the right seats, it’s important to communicate why a seat exists. What problem is that particular seat solving?

“It’s important to give people clear alignment on what their role is,” Tara said. “And what is the role clarity that they need to be successful? That’s equal responsibility for the manager and the employee, working together and defining Key Performance Indicators.”

The KPIs for some roles can be soft, and for some roles, they are more direct.

For example, a demand generation marketer has very direct goals while a designer has less direct goals.

“Regardless of role, I’m a believer in putting a number around what people are responsible for,” Tara said. “And then building in the right performance review cycles. I don’t think once or twice a year is enough.”

When something isn’t going great, bring it up right away. And when they do something well, “shout it from the rooftop,” she said.

Accountability

David Cancel, CEO of Drift, said during the 2021 Virtual Insight Summit, that autonomy and accountability are linked internally.

“Are we getting better at servicing our customers?” he said. “Are they happier? And we are seeing that in them buying more over time. Then we can give more autonomy.”

Working on making customers happier can also be achieved by reinventing processes when it helps be more customer-centric.

“That’s simple but it’s not easy,” David said. “It’s simple conceptually but it’s not easy to do because most of the processes we are taught are company-centric.”

This can also include finding new opportunities in existing markets.

“You always want competition, you want demand,” said David. “That means that there are customers. That means there’s money there.”

Read next: How to spot and use new trends with consumer insights

Unlearning together

As strategies and tactics that work evolve and change in markets, it’s also important to understand what works currently and with that what should be focused on today!

Sometimes teams have to unlearn tactics and practices. And sometimes they have to relearn them in a different context, David said. Keep in mind that many product features and offerings can be easily copied so you have to build a brand to stand out.

“Now as we are scaling the company we are re-learning some of those things slightly differently,” he said. “It’s all about applying the context of when to apply lessons.”

Many people have experiences throughout their careers that were applied to specific situations in specific companies. But can they be applied to similar but not identical situations in other companies? Not always. Plus, customer behavior may have changed since the first experience.

“It may have been a different time, different size company and things like that,” Dave said. “The only thing that’s universal is how you treat people and lead people. That part is pretty universal because we are all humans and have the same basic needs.”

Culture as teams grow

Unlearning and re-learning also includes the right culture. Admittedly, it’s hard work – especially as companies grow. Drift, which launched in 2015, currently has around 500 employees and is already looking to grow to 750, Dave said.

“That’s where I spend all of my time,” Dave said. “We’ve had a culture of teaching from the very beginning.”

As new employees come in make sure you share how the company thinks about:

  • Building a brand
  • Writing
  • Communications
  • etc.

“It paid off for us as we scaled pretty quickly,” he said.

Also consider how you are empowering teams to share back successes with the wider company. For example, Drift has a weekly game-show type even every Friday where different teams can share successes.

Voxpopme has a Slack channel called #boom where employees give high fives to others to highlight internal successes.

Collaborative leadership

"When you are put into a leadership role there's a natural inclination to double down on that your decisions are correct."It’s also good for leaders to ask for feedback. And to understand that leadership isn’t a license to disregard feedback.

“When you are put into a leadership role there’s a natural inclination to double down on that your decisions are correct,” said Rand Fishkin, CEO of SparkToro, on an episode of “Reel Talk.” “So you seek out information, data and stories that put you in the best possible light.”

It’s okay and necessary for leaders as well to own up to mistakes, but some leaders double down on mistakes and claim it was intentional.

 

“A lot of this also comes back to those soft skills,” Tara said. “I want people to feel comfortable failing, and failing forward is so critically important.”

And sometimes a situation doesn’t work out, which can be for a variety of reasons, like a bad hire, the person isn’t a good fit with the team and so on.

But make sure there are no surprises and that communication channels are open and transparent, Tara said.

While we mostly discuss customer feedback on the blog, getting feedback from employees is also important.

“Use these same approaches with your team and follow through,” Tara said.

“We are all just human and want to work for companies or buy from companies that listen to us,” Jenn said.

Prioritization

Good teams also prioritize well together. Not everything has to be a full-blown project. And not everything has to be scrappy. It’s OK to find the right level of effort for any project.

“At the end of the day, there’s only so many people on the team and only so many resources to put against a project,” Jenn said. “So it’s important to identify efforts that have a high impact and low effort. Let’s do those first.”

To be truly customer-centric and do what’s best for our customers, we need high-performing teams. Building teams around functional and soft skills can help them work better together and constantly improve the customer experience.

it's tough to deprioritize," Khary said. "For somebody on the other end that was very urgent for them."Khary on his podcast episode talked about risk versus rigor. How much risk is involved in a project and how much effort do we truly have to put into it.

“That’s a nice way to frame it up,” he said. “You need to look at the priorities of your business and the priorities of your team and see what realistically can get done. And you need to look at what can potentially move the needle.”

Be clear about what your north star is and then have that ongoing conversation of what can make an impact and how you can tackle those projects in a realistic order.

Impact

“What can we control today and how much value is that going to add?” Khary said. “My team can deliver these five things this week and these two will bring real value.”

Jenn added that she loves the idea of deprioritizing tasks that don’t appear to bring value.

“Or find a way to make them more valuable,” she said.

She uses four quadrants to evaluate tasks and projects:

  • Urgent
  • Important
  • Not urgent
  • Not important

Be clear on if something is urgent and important, for example. When something is urgent but not important does it even need to get done? Those are conversations to be had in the prioritization.

“You want to do your due diligence because it’s tough to deprioritize,” Khary said. “For somebody on the other end that was very urgent for them.”

Also, keep in mind that some things are urgent but not for the right reasons. “You have to build that rapport and trust to be able to talk about it,” he said.

“You can’t just tell somebody you deprioritized the thing that’s most important to them,” she said. “Talk about it.”

understand your customers better now

Jean-Michel Hoffman, vice president of brand marketing at SoFi, said during his interview during the 2021 Virtual Insight Summit that people also get much more invested when they own the brand.

“You are much more focused on performance,” he said. “Owning the equity for the brand that you own – making sure the brand is set up that you are protecting its reputation and building its value.”

 

How to turn companies into disruptive brands

When it comes to disruptive brands we aren’t talking about brands that interrupt the class. We are talking about brands that make a difference in customer lives in a way that didn’t happen that way until then.

What are disruptive brands?

Disruptive brands are brands that come onto the scene or change the market so much that their impact is felt positively by customers. Customers can’t live without them, love their products, the experience and most everything about them. Disruptive brands can be new brands but also established ones that keep evolving and – dare I say – innovating?

“I rarely use the word ‘innovation’ because there’s just too much brain damage around it,” David Kidder, CEO of Bionic, during an interview with Voxpopme Vice President of Marketing Jenn Vogel during the 2021 Virtual Insight Summit. “It’s really about building that machine that allows you to go on offense – every single year.”

Visual notes created on 04/21/2021 titled Making Disruption Happen for Big Brands.

What’s hard about being a disruptive brand?

Larger organizations have largely eradicated the skill to grow.Traits of disruptive brands include being highly useful to customers. These brands make their place and evolve it in a market by filling a customer need that hadn’t been filled. Sometimes consumers didn’t even know they had that need. For example, take the story of Ring, the consumer security camera company. They disrupted the market around 2014 after appearing on “Shark Tank” and today many consumers use the cameras.

But yet, it can be hard for brands to innovate. That’s especially interesting of a dilemma as other business tasks have become easier. Thirty years ago, operating globally was much harder than it is today, for example.

“We can do that like clockwork,” David said. “Why can’t we do that for growth?”

Read next: What business growth strategies are best for my business?

For larger brands it can be especially hard to be disruptive because they optimize for efficiency, David said.

“That’s planning and it is really important,” David said. “But it’s gotten so overbuilt that trying to do new things in that big-to-bigger engine is really at war with its purpose. It’s there to defeat risk.”

Companies that are innovative and disruptive have the right systems and mindsets.

“Large organizations can restore this muscle,” said David, adding that it needs to be restored at the top of organizations. “In a way these companies are almost re-founding themselves.”

Larger organizations often look for short-term wins. That can seem like they are willing to move nimbly but they actually aren’t.

“Large organizations are designed to win the quarter and not the future,” David said. “And these other ecosystems out there where growth mindset and systems live… they are actually designed to defeat those companies.”

Timing

Being disruptive is also about timing. Think about the disruptive student. It’s only disruption when they are interrupting something else – the teacher, usually! The same is true for brands that are trying to disrupt the market in a customer-centric way. They have to get the timing right.

backdropLet’s take the COVID-19 pandemic. All kinds of things changed. Consumer behaviors changed overnight. An Amazon delivery gets made to my house daily. I needed to update my home office. Many others were in similar situations.

It prompted me to rethink my office and the brands that were able to help me had good timing in solving my problem. I’m guessing others bought more home office items, too,  in addition to more sweat pants. If your company’s sweat pants brand was ready for the disruption in the market, I was ready to buy!

How do companies hit the timing right?

“You have to experiment,” David said. “You want to launch a large volume of ideas.”

Read next: Customer-led product development through design thinking

How to move toward being disruptive

To truly be disruptive, companies have to build that culture and that muscle to do things that actually disrupt the market. That can’t always be achieved through acquisition either, he said.

“Two mediocre companies don’t make a great company,” he said. “The company itself has to become great.”

It all starts at the top, David said. The leadership team needs to believe in it, move it forward and give teams permission to fail and to fail fast. That’s one way to find disruptive ideas.

“If the permission doesn’t exist they aren’t going to do it,” he said. “Our job is to install the systems and raise the permissions so they can go on the offense – not as an initiative or a campaign, but permanently.”

understand your customers better now

To start, companies need to realize how their systems are set up. Big brands have systems that are setup to run a business well.

“We have systems that are designed to create efficiency,” he said. “But do we have a system that creates growth? And the answer is shockingly ‘no.'”

The interesting part about that is that many brands think they are doing a ton of innovative things. But usually they are just one-offs or specific projects. It’s not a systemic change.

The mindsets

In some companies the cost of failing is so high that people are intellectually dishonest and don’t see the path and opportunity to even try. Also keep in mind that pushing for growth usually doesn’t mean universal agreement.

“If you have consensus and you are going for growth you are basically screwed,” he said.

It’s very true and I see that often. Strategies evolve. Consumer behavior changes. And when everyone agrees with me that’s usually not a good start for collaborative growth. 😊 There needs to be healthy debate and people need to be able to bring their ideas to the table.

Read next: Building teams that work to understand your customers better

The best perspectives can be the ones that are based on customer feedback.

“The answer is outside, not inside,” he said. “We need to start with the need in the world and work backwards.”

In addition, some people have a tendency to always wanting to be right – and as disruptive as that can be on a team it won’t help you become a disruptive brand.

“We have to break the addiction of always trying to be right,” David said. “Cognitive bias destroys learning. We need to become question-driven leaders and the first question is ‘what questions do we ask?'”

Who needs to buy-in?

It’s often not the teams, but the leadership level.

“We don’t have an employee problem,” David said is what he often hears from team. “The problem is up top. The reality is that’s the biggest problem.”

Also keep in mind that many companies have the pieces in place, but they are not integrated.

Buy-in from the top also needs to make sure employees feel that they can fail quickly and move forward.

Lower the cost of failure

At Voxpopme, we make that easy by framing ideas as “Here’s my crappy idea.” That gives me the chance to share ideas wildly and if nobody likes it that’s okay, I already called it “crappy.”

Once teams have a lot of ideas and whittle them down, speed also matters. Implement ideas quickly to see what works and what doesn’t.

“You need to lower the cost of failure,” David said. “You need to have a lot more experiments.”

Care about your customers’ problems and find a way to solve them.

To be disruptive

“There’s something about sharing – not selling – in your ecosystem,” David said. “Companies need to figure out ‘why us?'”

What can’t others replicate? David mentioned that one strategy is to not do more things, but do a few things really well! That concept can also be applied in your career and building teams.

At the end of the day to be disruptive you need to understand your customers. And it’s hard – maybe impossible – to know somebody without speaking to them and hearing from them on how your product or service can help them.

Of course, things can change, new trends evolve and customer preference evolves. Staying connected to customers helps companies be disruptive – and in a way more positive way than the disruptive kid in class.

understand your customers better now

 

 

 

 

 

Responsiveness in customer service matters, so why are some brands struggling?

Being available for customers - Shep Hyken quotePoor responsiveness in customer service can feel like it’s the norm to some consumers. On the flipside, that can be a blessing for brands that have great responsiveness in their customer service. They stand out in a positive way.

I remember the brands that make things easy for me. For example, I was driving one day when my car ended up with a flat tire. It was just before 5 p.m., and I wasn’t that far from my regular car repair shop. I called and asked if they could help.

“Of course, we can. Do you need a tow?”

I didn’t need a tow, as I was just half a block away, but the offer certainly felt responsive. And it was awesome that they were able to get me in and get my car fixed so close to closing time.

Many customers have been in the situation where we try to reach a brand for a variety of reason. We:

  • want to buy something.
  • need something fixed on the product.
  • have a question.
  • and so on…

Some brands make this more difficult than it needs to be. But the ones that make it easy stand out.

The other day, my AirPod Pros weren’t working and I contacted Apple through their website. I thought that might be a difficult process. I was wrong. They auto-called me right away and even let me pick my own hold music. That’s a nice gesture since I wasn’t on hold very long. “Push 1 for contemporary…”

I had to sent the headphones in for repair, a process that Apple made super easy. They sent a box, then returned them a few days later – repaired.

Good and quick service like that really does stand out.

Reaching somebody at a company

Sometimes it’s harder than necessary to reach a company. Some customer service responsiveness is especially bad when the outcome for the brand is less than positive – for example, when somebody wants to downgrade or cancel a service. We’ve all been in situations where it’s almost impossible to cancel. You can’t do it online and have to call a number that’s only answered during super restrictive hours.

Other times, customers get a hold of somebody, but feel like they aren’t being heard or their problem isn’t being addressed satisfactorily. It doesn’t have to be that way.

Maybe some businesses don’t even realize their responsiveness is bad? Run a video survey to find out what your customers are saying.

In large part because of the invention and market penetration of smartphones, many people expect everything instantaneously, said David Cancel, CEO of Drift, during an interview with Ryan Barry of Zappi during the 2021 Virtual Insight Summit.

“We want to buy the way we want to buy,” David said. “People want to do everything 24/7 but when you look at our businesses we run a 9-5, no weekends, no holidays schedules. That worked in a world where a company controlled the process.”

Today, competition in many verticals is fierce and companies that have that great product with a great customer experience can win.

Read next: How a customer experience program can help your business

What we call our customers could affect responsiveness

Many behaviors do come back to mindset. That’s no different in customer service. How we think of our customers can also make a difference in how we treat them. Are they just a number? Do we think of them as a person?

There certainly are a ton of different words to describe the people who buy from a business.

  • Customer
  • User
  • Person
  • Human
  • Client
  • Partner
  • Neighbor

But what we call them can make a difference.

“Hey neighbor!”

Customer experience legend Shep Hyken mentioned on an episode of “Reel Talk: The Customer Insights Show” the story of an Ace Hardware store that called all its customers “neighbor.” So when somebody walked into the store, an employee would greet them “Hey, neighbor.” That’s certainly a friendly way to talk to each other and can help establish that positive – dare I say, neighborly – relationship.

“You can’t say ‘Hey, customer,'” Shep quipped. “That doesn’t sound right.”

The term customer is a bit generic and maybe even “dehumanizing,” Shep said. Calling customers people or persons can actually humanize the relationship, he added.

“You are not just an object of a sale,” he said.

“You are not just a revenue metric,” Jenn added.

Read next: Ring also calls its customers neighbors. Makes sense as Ring cameras are becoming part of many neighborhoods.

What does it mean for a company to be accessible?

From a customer experience perspective, it comes down to how easy  it is for customers to interact with your brand. That can include:

  • Hours
  • Location
  • Other ways that customers want to reach you

“Think about Walmart,” Shep said. “Ninety percent of the population in North America is within 10 minutes of a Walmart. Now think about that. That’s accessible. And let’s say you are in a busy city. New York City. And you want a coffee. There’s a Starbucks on, like, every corner.”

Of course, hours of operation can make a huge differentiator for some businesses. If your competing car shop closes at 5 p.m., staying open until 9 can help you connect with that segment of people who have to work until 5 and can’t get away before then.

“That accessibility means, as a customer I don’t have to work around their schedule,” Shep said. “I can work around more convenient hours to me.”

Responsiveness doesn’t mean you have to be available

That doesn’t mean customers need to be able to reach you by phone in the middle of the night.

Shep shared the story of when he bought a Ping-Pong table from a German company. The assembly was difficult, and Shep called the company, but they were closed as it was outside business hours. “But don’t people put together Ping-Pong tables at night or the weekends?” Shep asked.

But the company’s  website shared a video showing, step-by-step, how to put the Ping-Pong table together.

“It saved me hours. And it didn’t matter if it was two in the morning or two in the afternoon,” Shep said about this example of responsiveness in customer service. Sometimes you don’t have to respond live, but make sure the answer is easy for your customers to find.

“That’s a version of accessibility,” Shep said.

Once customers experience great responsiveness in customer service, that raises the bar for their next brand experience, Jenn added.

understand your customers better now

Making responsiveness a competitive advantage

When Shep was talking with Salesforce, he asked, “How accessible are you with customer support?”

“What kind of question might you need help with?” the sales rep responded.

Shep came up with a question, and the sales rep responded, “Just google that.”

He did and all kinds of video tutorials came up – some created by Salesforce and some by other users.

For a sales team, it’s important to know what is available and how to answer those questions. For example, for a start-up, there might be few answers available online, either from the brand or as user-generated content. In that scenario, the internal communications team or the marketing team might want to create  some of this explanatory content. .

The sales team also could let customers know about a well-designed content support center.

Read next: Which role on the marketing team should own customer insights?

In that setup, “most of the time, I don’t have to call,” Shep said. “It’s like I have that person sitting there and looking over my shoulder.”

Why is responsiveness and accessibility hard for some companies?

Jenn Vogel customer journey mapping quote“The biggest barrier is that they aren’t customer-focused and they really haven’t thought this through,” Shep said. “The way to go about this is to journey map  the experience for when something goes wrong.

To understand your customer pain points, you can simply ask them in a way that works for them and that you can easily analyze.

“When a customer has a problem, what do they experience?” Shep said.

Marketers often work on journey mapping, but focus on the experience to get people to the buying stage. Identifying problems and then figuring out how customers will experience them is another important step.

“No experience will ever completely be without problems,” Jenn said. “Journey mapping the problem in the customer experience is something people miss.”

“Realizing that we have to be more customer-centric is the key,” Shep said. “Jeff Bezos of Amazon is so customer-focused that there’s a rumor that there’s always an empty seat in the room … for the customer. That’s the customer who is not here, and we always need to be thinking about that customer.”

Use your website to your advantage

Not every business can easily sell their products on their website, but many can. Evolve your website to be accessible 24/7.

Take a plumbing business. Why not add an online scheduler to your website. Need a plumber? Schedule your urgent or regular appointment directly on the website.

If, for some reason, the technology implementation is delayed or not currently possible, at least set the expectations, Shep said.

“We will get back to you within one hour after opening at 8 in the morning,” he said. “I can buy into that a little bit more than ‘we are not available’. If you are going to make people wait, at least let them know how long, and then don’t be late.”

“You are going to lose my business if you are not available to me in the moment,” Jenn said, reflecting what many consumers think. “Brand loyalty is really under attack right now. It’s so easy to switch brands. If you aren’t available I can just go and get it somewhere else.”

David of Drift said to think of your website as a store. Even if you aren’t in ecommerce. On some websites the experience unfortunately can look like this:

  • Somebody comes into your store
  • Nobody is currently working so you have to fill out a form
  • That may or may not get read
  • Then you wait for them to respond

But how can you make your website part of the always-on culture?

  • Add the information that answers frequently asked questions.
  • Include an automated chatbot – like Drift – to give customers options to get information from you.
  • Add automatic responses to form submissions that mention how soon you will respond and that include answers to some frequent requests.

A well-setup website can also help with your responsiveness in customer service.

Internal relationships and collaboration for better access

It’s easy to forget there’s such a thing as internal customers. Those internal customers work with external customers. The better the internal relationship, the more likely it is to offer positive experiences externally as well.

Internal processes and requirements trickle down to the customer and can impact their experience. Shep shared a call to his cable company.

“They asked for my phone number,” he said. “Well, phone number is easy. Then the next question was ‘what’s your account number?’ Well, don’t they already have that?”

It’s always good for executives and team members to experience interactions with their brand as a customer.

“When was the last time you called your customer support line?” Shep asked. Try it. See how easy it is to get help.

If you follow the model above, where content support hubs are used to answer questions, define a problem and try to see if your content can help you solve it.

Sometimes, you still might make decisions that are unfavorable to the customer, but at least you gave it weight in your decision-making process, Shep said.

“At least be aware. Raising a price will never make a customer happy,” Shep said. “But to decide and know what to expect and know what to do when somebody calls and complains – all of that is proactive.”

Getting customers to come back

Shep also mentioned the importance of sitting down with cross-functional teams and asking:

  • Why would somebody buy from us over our competition?
  • What’s the reason for people to come back?

“You’ll get all kinds of interesting answers,” Shep said. “The ones I want you to stay away from are the generic ones — like, ‘Oh, we have really good service.’”

Everyone is saying that! Look at your competitors and see what they are doing. What are they doing differently? Whatever you are going to do, make it your own.

Go outside your vertical and see what companies are doing, Shep said, and ask yourself: “What’s my favorite company that I do business with? Write down why you like them.”

  • Who do you love?
  • Why do you love them?
  • Can we implement that?

Then ask yourself again why somebody would work with you? Be specific!

Responsiveness in customer service also includes automation. Shep said he loves working with brands that send quick and automated notifications that an order was placed and then send relevant follow-ups.

“Follow your package on a map” is my favorite notification.

How can insights help brands be more responsive?

Shep ranked the importance of customer insights a 12 on a 10-point scale. Listen to your customers to see what they enjoy about your brand, what they want to buy and how they are feeling about their experience.

Even in-the-moment feedback is important and helpful, Shep said.

Read next: What are some disadvantages to customer feedback?

When you rent a car, an immediate survey is sent: Is the car cleaned to your satisfaction? If the rental company knows about this in the moment, they can fix it right then.

“If you can fix it in the moment, it can prove how good you are,” he said. “Think about how listening to the customer isn’t just about thanking them for the future but doing something right now!”

Jenn said that’s much better than getting a survey a month later. “I don’t remember what I did a month ago. And if there was a problem, I would have brought it up already.”

Responsiveness in customer service helps business

For companies, it is important to understand their customers, their problems — including the problems they experience with your company – and how to make their lives easier.

“When companies are accessible, that’s never by accident,” Shep said. “It’s purposeful thinking.”

Being more accessible can help you win the game of sales and customer retention, Shep said. “At the end of the day, it’s a game, and the tally is how many customers do you have?”

Also remember the difference between “simple and easy,” Shep said. “A lot of the things we are talking about are simple to understand but they aren’t easy. Simple means I now understand it. Now let’s implement it.”

understand your customers better now

How to use video surveys for market research

Video surveys make feedback funIf you want to understand what someone is thinking, feeling or doing, chances are you’ll ask them a question.

  • How are you?
  • What do you think of this?
  • Why did you do that?

Expressing how we feel and our likes and dislikes is human. We do it every day in conversation and on social media. The how and why questions give us the answers we need to get to the bottom of what people think.

Open-ended questions are an essential way to uncover hidden truths that closed questions can’t. That’s why they are such an important part of market research.

It’s easy to get answers to open-ended questions through video surveys. People use video all the time already. To Facetime their friends and family. For selfie videos on Instagram. Slo-mo shots of their daughter playing softball.

Many, if not most of us, now have smartphones in our pockets or our hands nonstop. So why not use video surveys to get feedback from your customers in a way that is easy for them and meaningful to you.

“Instead of answering checkbox questions, respondents can answer on their phone or desktop and really tell their stories,” Jenn Vogel said. “They can add additional context to their stories.”

Jenn, vice president of marketing and Host of Reel Talk: The Customer Insights Show, discussed video surveys on The CX Leader Podcast.

What are video surveys in market research?

video survey resultsVideo surveys allow you to gather market research from your customers, consumers, users – anyone! Brands can ask questions directly to the people they care about most, and respondents leave their thoughts and feedback via video.

Video surveys are easy for brands as they are hearing directly from people. The software analyzes:

  • sentiment
  • key topics
  • and more

Having your video surveys in one place is also one way to centralize your data.

Consumers do video surveys asynchronous, meaning they answer your brand’s questions on their own time, and the brand can see the results as they come in.

“There’s no need to have a moderator on the other side, which helps get consistent questions to the respondents and eliminates biases,” Jenn said.

Video open-ends are just like text-based open-ends. But instead of writing down responses, respondents simply record a video. Videos are often more authentic than edited written copy.

It’s a win-win for everyone:

  • Consumers love it because they can express their opinions
  • Researchers love it because it delivers rich insights
  • Decision-makers love it as they get to identify actual customer stories

Video makes it easier for respondents to express themselves. It’s also much more personal, adding more of a human aspect to communication. They can portray emotion through body language and facial expressions. It’s an experience that’s simple and easy to use. It delivers spontaneous and honest answers.

How video surveys work

Video open-ends can be added to any survey.  Video surveys are added by inserting a block of code to whatever platform you’re using for surveys.

For quantitative researchers, video open-ends can be integrated directly into survey platforms such as

  • SurveyGizmo
  • Qualtrics
  • Decipher

Video surveys can also be added into communities like FuelCycle. Just imagine the power of your NPS, Brand Tracker and CSAT scores, for example, with real customer stories to enhance them. The ease of end-to-end video research means you could also capture video feedback pre or post-survey by recruiting an audience from on-demand video feedback communities or panel providers.

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So whether you want to utilize video in a new or existing study or collect your videos alongside or after a survey, in just a few clicks, it’s all possible. That means you can capture, analyze and share compelling customer stories across an array of quant and qual studies so you can boost the impact of your results without changing your existing program.

“I’m an evangelist for video,” said Kristin Luck, a serial marketing measurement entrepreneur. “The closer we can get to customers and potential buyers the better. And I think there’s no more powerful way than hearing it from them in their own words. I think it just resonates more deeply.”

What companies should do video surveys for their market research?

Video surveys can be used in all kinds of industries and verticals, Jenn said. From large brands to smaller businesses, video surveys are a way to understand their customers and hear from them directly.

“The real power comes in where it works alongside traditional methods,” Jenn said. “Adding a video layer to the quantitative data can help you understand your customers better.”

Video surveys success stories

In 2021, in the inaugural Viddys – the Voxpopme awards, we recognized companies that have used video surveys to their competitive advantage. The winners received the news through a personal Facetime call from our CEO and Founder Dave Carruthers. These are their video survey success stories.

Mars video surveys

Mars has been using Voxpopme for years and has done more than 200 video survey studies,  with more than 40,000 minutes of recorded customer insights.

“You truly are an industry visionary when it comes to pioneering research and the willingness you’ve shown experimenting with an agile research tool,” Dave told Michelle Gansle of Mars on their Facetime call. “The application across so many study types excites us.”

PepsiCo video surveys

“In this past year with COVID, the lives of our consumers have been impacted in so many ways,” said Megan Kehr, analytics insights associate manager at PepsiCo, adding that includes how they do daily tasks differently and even how they consume beverages. “Our brands need to be aware of that and be prepared for the future. Our partnership with Voxpopme was super instrumental in us being able to keep our ear to the ground to see what our consumers were dealing with and how they are navigating this new world. I’m super excited to get this recognition.”

In PepsiCo’s “Humanize” initiative the company was trying to get marketers closer to customers and understand them better.

“In the past we’ve done one-on-one immersions with consumers where myself and somebody from the brand marketing team would speak directly to the consumer to gather learnings,” she said. With COVID upending so many lives, the team didn’t feel it was appropriate to ask consumers to join meetings.”

It was decided to try video surveys to allow customers to answer questions on their own time.

Understanding the customer deeper

Understanding the customer goes beyond “what flavor they pick up at the store and why,” Megan said on an episode of Reel Talk: The Customer Insights Show. “But there’s also so much more behind the people who are drinking our products and what’s going on in their lives. And then figure out how our brands can help them ease the tensions they are dealing with. How we can fit better into their lives and what they are facing on a day-to-day basis.”

With Voxpopme’s video surveys “they could just do it on their mobile phones, pick it up whenever they feel like it. They are not put on the spot or speaking to somebody that they don’t know.”

Megan said that she was getting “more authentic responses because we met them where they were.”

understand your customers better now

“You are certainly one of the most forward-thinking people that use the Voxpopme product and I’m looking forward to seeing what you and the team are going to achieve these next 12 months as we move forward.”

Subway video surveys

Subway used video surveys to get quick feedback from its 2021 Super Bowl campaign.

“Literally, we had like a 12-hour turnaround,” said Wendy Semrau of Subway. “It was just amazing how many responses we were able to generate in that short amount of time. We went through the results right away on Friday and shared them right away with the team. There’s no other tool that we can do that with. Honestly, a lifesaver for us.”

Global video surveys in the London Underground

Global used video surveys to understand brand recall and sentiment for Old Spice.

A new Old Spice campaign in the London Underground put the Old Spice scent into the posters in the subway system, Emma Brett of Global shared on the Facetime call.

“That was something new. Something we didn’t know would work,” she said. “We didn’t know if the posters would smell, what people would think. We used Voxpopme to get a few opinions around the posters. If the scent was strong enough, etc. It was really good feedback for the client. It proved that the campaign was a success.”

Dave added that “we love how they are pushing the boundaries” and making it a success.

Faurecia

Maher Beltaifa shared how Faurecia wanted to find out how people want to communicate in the future in their cars. Do they want to move beyond touching screens and buttons? What does that look like?

“We were looking at the future of communications,” Maher told Dave on their Facetime call. “Maybe not tomorrow, but maybe the day after tomorrow.”

They wanted to find out the future of voice and “maybe there will be something different even,” Maher said. That could be gestures to communicate with the devices in our cars.

“Amazing to see how you are pushing the boundaries of the automotive experience,” Dave said.

Maher said on an episode of “Reel Talk” that the project started with a gut feeling.

“They knew there was just too much happening and wanted to make it more seamless,” Maher said.

Ideas were discussed on allowing people to communicate with their hands and maybe even gesture with their eyes. The video surveys helped the team stay grounded and find out what people were saying about ideas.

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Reckitt video surveys

“We’ve had so much success inside the walls of RB,” Elisabeth Trawinski said to Dave on her Facetime call after she found out about the award.

“It’s so great to see what different teams are doing with Voxpopme and super excited to see what you and the team are doing in the next year,” Dave said.

Learn more about video feedback through Voxpopme here.

Video surveys can help your brand understand your customers and make decisions to improve the customer experience. And as Jenn and Megan discussed on the podcast: Video surveys allow customers to answer your questions on their time.

“Just give people space to kind of talk about what’s important to them and what their lives look like,” Jenn said. “That’s where you can get answers to those questions that you didn’t know you needed to ask.”

The Reckitt team won their award for a program called “Outside In.”

“It’s about bringing that external lens inside the company,” Elisabeth said on an episode of “Reel Talk: The Customer Insights Show“. “In essence it’s an empathy program.”

Reckitt used video surveys to understand how customer behaviors and rituals change.

Using open-ended questions in video surveys

Open-ended questions open the doors to understanding what our customers are telling us. We can learn so much from asking open-ended questions. Responding to open-ended questions, customers can express emotions, likes and dislikes and everything about us. It’s human nature. Open-ended questions have been a major part of market research and, more specifically, surveys for many years. They are an essential method to unearthing hidden truths that closed-ended questions could otherwise miss.

As market researchers, we are all aware of the benefits open-ended questions, allowing respondents the flexibility to answer questions freely, without limits, could be the deciding factor between unlocking key customer insight and not.

What are video open-ends?

As the name suggests, video open-ends are just like text-based open-ends but instead require the respondent to record a video response as opposed to them typing/writing out their answer.

What are the benefits of video vs. text open-ends?

Video provides all the advantages of text-based open-ends, plus more.

Consumers love video because it allows them to easily portray their emotion, which in turn is valued highly by researchers for content richness and ability to drive action in the boardroom.  After all, nothing is more powerful than seeing your customers face to face (digitally via video), sharing insight into their thoughts about your product, service or brand.

Consumers love giving feedback. Hear it from them directly…

Why not try video surveys now?

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Examples of types of open-ends to ask

At Voxpopme, we’ve tried and tested thousands of open video questions while collecting over a million consumer recorded video responses. So, we wanted to share our knowledge by offering some starter questions that have proven to deliver valuable, visual insights. We’ve put together a collection of simple, but effective open-ended questions you can use when you’re crafting your next video research project. These short-format templates will need adapting, combining or expanding to suit your specific needs but are here to get those creative juices flowing again.

We’ve segmented the question examples based on the various areas of a business to make them relevant to your particular research goals.

Products

  • What would you change/improve about product X?
  • Why do you choose product X over Y?
  • What do you think of the taste/look/feel of new product X?
  • Any other products compare to this and how do they compare?
  • How does or doesn’t this product solve problem X for you?
  • What did you like most about product X?
  • Imagine and explain life without product X? (ethnography study)
  • Show us how you use product X? (ethnography study)

Services

  • What are your expectations/requirements of service X?
  • Any  changes you would most improve to the service of brand X?
  • How likely are you to recommend service X and why?
  • Where did you come across this service?
  • What was your primary reason for using/purchasing this service?
  • Any steps you took in your decision to use service X?

Advertising

  • What did you think of advertisement X?
  • Your favorite part of ad X?
  • What emotions did the ad elicit?
  • Which ad was your favorite and why?
  • Are the claims made in the ad believable?
  • How does this ad fit with what you know about brand X?
  • How unique is this ad compared to others you have seen for similar products?
  • In what ways does the ad you just watched impact your purchase consideration for brand X (if at all)?
  • What makes a great ad?

Branding

  • What are your initial thoughts when you hear brand X?
  • In your opinion, what do you think brand X represents?
  • Is your perception of brand X positive or negative and why?
  • What traits are you looking for from a brand in category X?
  • How and where do you come into contact with brand X most?
  • What are the positive attributes of brand X?
  • Any negative attributes of brand X and what are they?

In-store experience

  • How was your last experience when visiting store X?
  • What did you think of the customer support in store X?
  • Why did you choose to shop in store X over its competitors?
  • Do you have an alternative to brand/store X and why?
  • Show us your favorite section/display in store X and tell us why it is?
  • When did you last go to buy a product/service but didn’t buy your intended item and why?
  • Please explain if you would return to this store and the reasons for your answer.

Online experience

  • How was your experience shopping with brand X online?
  • Was it easy/difficult to navigate the site and find what you were looking for?
  • Did you experience any difficulties when trying to buy a product from mysite.com?
  • Explain your opinion of our website checkout experience?
  • How did online support work?
  • What don’t you like about your current service provider/product?
  • How does your online experience of ‘brand X’ differ across different digital devices?

Promotions

  • What promotions come to mind when you think of season/event X?
  • Any seasonal promotions would you like to see product/service X offer?
  • What time of year do you begin looking for product or service X?
  • Any promotions stand out most for you in store X?
  • Please show us prominent category X promotions in store Y.
  • How do you prefer to discover promotions for product/service X?
  • What are your thoughts of our loyalty program?
  • How does loyalty program X compare to the loyalty program of competitor Y?

Value positioning

  • Would you say brand X provides value for your money?
  • What are your thoughts on product X’s quality for the price paid?
  • Does cost play a role when purchasing product/service X in category Y?
  • The cost of product/service give you a particular perception of brand X?

Wider brand exploration & personification

  • If Brand X was a celebrity who would they be and why?
  • Which make of car is brand X most similar to?
  • Brands are a party – what type of party guest would brand X be?
  • How has brand X changed over time?
  • Who do you think to be the leader in category X and why?
  • If brand X came to life as a person, what would they be like?
  • Where does brand X rank amongst its competitors and why?
  • Draw what you think X means and explain why.

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How a customer experience program can help your business

Customer experiencesWith everything else being equal, your customer experience program can give you a competitive advantage. And we’ve seen tremendous improvements in customer experience in recent years – which makes this an area that should be focused on.

“As you are getting into customer experience programs, be fearless,” said Luke Williams, senior vice president of customer experience at Qualtrics. “There’s an unlimited amount of sustainable advantage. Companies that choose to not compete on this stuff choose to measure their own decline.”


Luke joined Vice President of Marketing Jenn Vogel on this episode of “Reel Talk: The Customer Insights Show” to discuss the topic. You can read this article, watch their chat on YouTube or listen wherever you listen to podcasts to get the details.


The evolution

“If you look at the average customer experience today … when compared to 15 years ago, they are night and day,” Luke said.  “The world is materially better but nobody cares because everyone is like ‘Yeah, it’s better, but it could always be better.’ No one is ever happy. There’s an endless amount of work to be done.”

Building and improving customer experience is a never-ending process, Luke said.

“It’s interesting to see the evolution of customer experience programs,” Jenn said. “Companies were competing on customer experience, but they weren’t calling it that at first. As a consumer, my expectation for that experience as it improves goes up. If that’s not met, I’m disappointed. The bar continually gets raised.”

“Take 50 years ago,” Luke said. “Companies couldn’t figure out supply chain. It wasn’t easy to get stuff where you needed it to go. Everything was done on pen and paper. You had no idea where the ship manifest was … logistics was the issue. And companies started competing on logistics. That was a meaningful competition.”

Today, consumers expect overnight shipping everywhere. Customer experience management programs are undergoing a similar evolution.

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Customer expectations

Luke said the hedonic cycle illustrates how customer expectation continues to increase, another reason why a customer experience management program is necessary.

  • People experience something
  • Are happy about it
  • Now it’s the norm and expected

“So over and over we have to fill up this bucket to push this thing forward,” Luke said. “Customer experience isn’t fake.”

Customer experience becomes especially important in crowded and highly competitive fields. Take buying furniture, for example.

  • Let’s say the furniture is comparable.
  • The online shopping experience is great.
  • It arrives quickly.

When those are equal, customer experience becomes a bigger differentiator, Luke explained.

Take the example of cars

“Safety is a primary concern,” Luke said. “If it doesn’t have brakes or an airbag, I don’t care that it’s a Porsche. I’m not driving it.”

Today, the real decision-making comes down to fit and finish, Luke said.

“It’s the way the car feels. It’s hard to describe. But if you are really good, you know how to design specifics to deliver those experiences.”

Of course, we have to consider what we can actually pull off, Luke said.

The buying experience

Staying with cars here, the buying experience also matters. Ross Wainwright, CEO of Alida – a Voxpopme partner, recalled this story during an appearance on Reel Talk.

A car dealership was receiving low Net Promoter Scores after a vehicle purchase. The company couldn’t figure out why that was and dug deeper into the situation.

Customers reported that the buying process was too stressful and didn’t make them feel comfortable enough to ask questions. The company then updated processes, communications and more. Scores started going up again.

“Surveys without a closed loop can do more harm than good,” he said. “You have to understand why the score is really great or really poor so you can then go back to the client and either fix the problem, thank them, celebrate or ask the follow-up question.”

Team and strategy integrations

We’ve talked about the importance of teams working together, and that matters in building a customer experience program.

An example: when customers abandon a $50 sale because of a $6 shipping charge.

At the end of the day, place the customer first and deliver a great experience and product across all departments.

Who will the customer experience program help?

Of course, the answer is: Customers. But how do we think about them?

Luke said he doesn’t think of a single person when he thinks of customers but rather thinks of clusters and micro clusters of people who exhibit certain behaviors, have certain attitudes and are likely to commit certain behaviors — things he can try to understand and use to create better customer experiences.

“My background is in research methods and analytics,” Luke said. “How do I build science around decisions people make? How do we make better decisions for the customer with an end in mind?”

Also keep in mind that if the goal is market penetration, you also need to think about the customers you don’t have.

“The people who don’t use you, they don’t use you for a reason,” Luke said. “Those are the things you need to be fixing to acquire more customers.”

Read next: How video surveys can help you create a better customer experience

Brand loyalty

Even though brand loyalty might be under attack, good customer experience does create customer loyalty, Jenn said.

“I don’t buy Apple products because their camera is better than Samsung,” she said. “I don’t know if their camera is better. There’s a feeling they sell you. An experience they sell you. That’s designing an experience for the customer.”

And, in the case of Apple, Luke added, people often don’t choose between Apple and a competitor. They choose between one iPhone and another.

Throwback content: Apple received love letters in this Valentine’s Day article

How does a customer experience program impact revenue?

Integrating the right technology is helpful, Luke said. For example, using platforms like Qualtrics or Voxpopme can ensure employees can spend their time on the right tasks and high-impact activities.

“We don’t just need to make experiences better,” Luke said. “We need to make them better to the point that they are actually better than competitors’ experiences, and, as a result, can drive a bunch of revenue.”

To use customer experience to the fullest, understand the baseline of the market and then figure out where improvements can help.

“Do we have strong evidence to make the investment in experience strategy faster?” Luke said. “You see companies competing on that type of stuff all the time.”

It’s easy enough to see customer sentiment of your brand by looking at:

  • Social media
  • Open tickets
  • Customer complaints and feedback

But without diving in deeper, it’s hard to answer what needs to be fixed. Maybe it’s the product. Or maybe it’s a need for call center training, Luke said.

“Companies really come back to the same goals,” Luke said. What can a company do to meaningfully change the customer experience?

The most basic programs solve for issues of:

  • time
  • cost

The most advanced programs solve for:

  • share of wallet
  • customer lifetime value
  • market penetration

Many companies are great at designing a great delivery, but fewer are good at delivering a good customer experience.

“I can promise you won’t be able to compete by 2025 if you don’t have both,” Luke said.

How to get started

“That all sounds like a dream,” Jenn said. “But how do you get started? What if you don’t have the foundations in place?”

“There’s no right answer,” Luke added. “If you ask the 30 greatest painters in the world ‘where do you start?’ “

It depends on where you are. For example, if you are starting with a high churn rate, start there and figure out why. Then fix that problem.

“But first, I have to understand my product and the competitive landscape,” Luke said. If people are saying they are leaving because of a certain experience, set up a program to address those issues.

“The first question I always ask is where are we losing customers and why?” Luke said. “The first thing you want to do is go in there and put a wedge in there.”

That saves money. That then gives you permission to do more.

A good question to ask:

“Am I going immediately operational or strategic first?” Luke said. “Most of the time, you are going to go operational first. Plus, you need that stuff anyway. Where should you start? Well, you start everywhere… and I want to start by understanding why money is walking out the door.”

understand your customers better now

Why you need centralized data to help your brand be more customer-centric

Many organizations face the problem of having a ton of data that can’t be easily accessed, let alone getting usable insights out of it.   That’s why, as a starting point, it’s good to have centralized data. But how can companies get there, and what are some of the barriers that come up?

Brenna Ivey, an experienced insights professional, joined Jenn Vogel on “Reel Talk: The Customer Insights Show”, to discuss the topic at length and share ideas that you can implement. You can watch their conversation on YouTube or listen wherever you listen to podcasts.

“I’ve always been interested in understanding people’s motivations,” Brenna said. “And to understand the choices that they make so I can help improve the product.”

Qualitative and quantitative in understanding our customers

Quantitative research works well if you want to understand the what. What are people doing?

Qualitative research works better when you want to understand the why.

“Quantitative research gives confidence and qual gives understanding,” Brenna said. There are reasons to use either, Brenna explained. “And I’ve married quant and qual over the years.”

For example. Brenna said, doing a cluster analysis with surveys and then “bringing that to life with qual.”

When it comes to advances in both areas, there are always new things to learn, Jenn added. From how surveys are done, how we reach people, to, of course, video surveys.

“Bringing that all together takes years of experience,” Jenn said. “It’s very interesting to see the evolution of the industry.”

understand your customers better now

“There’s definitely an intellectual curiosity that I see in my colleagues,” Brenna added. “They are just hungry for more information. And then digest that and share back what they heard. Sharing back the top three things after reading 3,000 open-ends takes practice. I don’t think you can do it unless you are really curious about what those 3,000 open-ends say. ”

Merging different types of research

“All data is unintelligible with the wrong questions,” Brenna said.

Understand what it is you are trying to uncover, ask those questions of the data and start looking for insights that can help you make decisions.

That’s another reason why centralized data is so important. If everything is in one centralized place that’s searchable, it’s much easier and more efficient to ask those questions.

“It has to come from that specific question or we are just swimming in this ocean of data, which is overwhelming,” Brenna said. “Hone your questions. You want to be spearfishing and not just cast a wide net.”

Turning centralized data into usable insights

An insight usually becomes necessary in this scenario: A stakeholder or client comes to you and they need to solve a business problem, Brenna explained. That could include:

  • We need more people to remember our name.
  • We need more engagement with a particular product.

Insights professionals as translators“Whatever their internal problem is, it’s usually not from the customer perspective,” Brenna said. “The insights’ professionals job is to look at ‘what does this look like for the customer.’ And then go out, ask and find out.”

You can apply the same dataset of responses to different businesses problems and for different stakeholders, Brenna explained.

“Think about the client side. That happens all the time. You have marketing stakeholders and creative stakeholders for the same ad test,” she explained. “They need to know different things.”

It’s a balancing game, of course, of the needs of the customers and the needs of the business.

“The insights function being the translator between those two is really fascinating to me,” Jenn added.

As you jump into the analysis, make sure you are clear about “what you are saying and what you aren’t saying,” Brenna said. That comes back to knowing what the data can answer, what it can’t answer and what it means.

Megan Kehr, analytics insights associate manager at PepsiCo, explained the insights function is at the intersection of psychology and business. What reasons lie behind their actions? What prompted customers to do what they do and what else is going on in their lives?

Customers mindshare

Reading between the lines of customer answers is another thing to consider and that must be done properly.

“After doing interviews in this space for 10 years, I can tell what they are holding back,” Brenna said. “But you also don’t want to come off like you know everything. Remember that you are working with smart people, and some don’t take it well when you come in and you say that you know everything.”

She advises not to be married to your favorite data source but to see what works best to get the insights you actually need and that actually help you solve problems and learn more about customers.

“As an insights professional, it’s my job to ask people how they feel and what they think,” she said. “And they are the expert on that.”

This especially comes into play when a new product is unknown to a consumer.

“There’s no way everyone in a company can tell you how customers feel,” she said. “We are just too immersed in it.”

Take Brenna’s example while working at Wayfair, an online home shopping site. “I’ve thought more about home décor these last few years than I ever have.”

When she worked on a cereal account, she spent more time eating cereal, checking out the packaging in the aisles and more.

“Because I needed to do it for work,” she said. “Most people are busy and are not obsessed with what we are working on.”

Data sources and analysis empowerment

Many companies have a ton of data available — internally from different departments, the insights team and from partners or vendors that have their own data.

“At Wayfair I value data transparency,” Brenna said. “People are really empowered to run their own analysis.”

One way to accomplish that is by having global search for your centralized data, similar to what’s available in the Voxpopme video survey platform.

Search centralized data in Voxpopme

“My favorite product development has been the global search tool,” Brenna said. “You can even search across projects.”

Sometimes when centralization of data isn’t available, teams build Band-Aid approaches that can work for a while but aren’t effective and can create more work. Global search and centralized data is better and easier.

“You can search all projects, four years of interviews,” Brenna added. “For example, you can go in and see what people think about when they talk about ‘home’ or ‘family.’ You can search for any word, and it comes up with all the interviews anyone has ever done.”

When work is completed for stakeholders, insights professionals show their work, and “they can see the answer for themselves, just as we are empowered to find that answer for ourselves.”

To offer this level of data transparency means data has to be centrally located. It has to be accessible, and it has to be accessible easily and in a meaningful way.

“Just like I can go into the marketing dashboard I wanted my stakeholders to go in and be able to search,” Brenna said.

“Being transparent with data is a goal of many companies,” Jenn added. “Make it a habit to cross functionally have other departments interact with the data.”

How to encourage people to dive into customer data?

Understanding the customer

Eva Tsai of Google previously told us that it’s everyone’s job to understand the customer. To some co-workers looking at the customer insights — through video surveys or any tool that might not come naturally or isn’t part of their routine. Yet.

“Everyone is quite busy so there’s that tradeoff,” Brenna said. “But there’s that curiosity. People want to just know more. Nurture that curiosity.”

Pull the most important nuggets and share them with stakeholders in an easily digestible way. Then offer them ways to dig more into specific areas of the insights.

Why is getting centralized data so hard?

“I think it has to do with the different sources,” Brenna said. “If you are getting the data in different ways, it’s housed wherever it came from. Then it takes an extra step to move it into a centralized location.”

Think of it this way: “If your report is due on Tuesday, you are not going to turn it in on Wednesday to take the time to move data into the right spot.”

The key is to have the right system in place that works for your team as a whole and makes processes easy.

“It is so hard to manage the long-term goals and the short-term deadlines,” Jenn added. “I can totally relate to that. You aren’t going to miss a deadline to follow an administrate step basically.”

But nonetheless, getting data in one place from the start can help your organization get valuable insights and make it easy for internal stakeholders to access and use it to build better relationships with your customers.

And more centralized data is something executives want, said Ross Wainwright, CEO of Alida – a Voxpopme partner – on an episode of “Reel Talk.”

Ross said there’s so many different sources of data, and many CEOs have told him they just need the reporting in one place.

understand your customers better now

How to spot and use new trends with consumer insights

Brands must grow and evolve or risk getting left behind. But how do you maintain your brands while taking advantage of new trends? And some new trends aren’t really long-term changes in consumer behavior while others are.

So which new trends are worth following and which ones aren’t can be a challenging question for brands. What kind of trends are we seeing?

“There are so many,” said Jennifer Saenz, global chief marketing officer at PepsiCo during her chat with Zappi President Ryan Barry, at the 2021 Virtual Insights Summit. “There’s some trends that are ever lasting and we don’t want to forget them. For example, there’s a need for indulgence, fun, entertainment and enjoyment across food and beverage. When people are eating and drinking they want to enjoy it. It’s silly to classify that as a trend, but it’s not going away.”

And with the COVID pandemic people have needed an uplift more than ever, she said. Also, some new trends aren’t truly new, but the pace of change is faster than it was before.

“You cannot forget the basics,” Jennifer said. “It is dangerous as you get pulled toward new development or new technologies you forget those basics.”

Those basics include to know your audience and understand what do they want to hear from you?

“It’s harder and harder to get the technologies to work for you if you don’t know the ‘why’ behind it,” Jennifer said. “There should be a lot of humanity in data-driven marketing.”

Consumer insights must be usefulDon’t just chase new things to chase new things. Keep in mind how they are going to help you and how they fit in or replace what’s currently in play.

Consumer insights can help us figure out what trends are worth pursuing and which ones aren’t.

“Consumer insights, to me, is something that is useful, something that we can make decisions around,” said Dave Carruthers, Voxpopme founder and CEO on an episode of “Reel Talk: The Customer Insights Show.” “Ultimately, we are looking for these insights to help us build better brands and better experiences.”

Making the process easier to spot new trends

Dave mentioned that people sometimes make consumer insights harder than they need to be.

“The insights should literally be able to be explained in one sentence,” Dave said. “It should be something that should be succinct, but it should surprise you.”

That also makes understanding new trends easier.

Inefficiencies in internal workflows also can present a problem. Somebody has a PowerPoint somewhere that shares consumer insights. Then somebody else comes up with the same insights, confirms what’s in that PowerPoint — a PowerPoint they didn’t know anything about.

Read next: The importance of centralized data

“It needs to be simple and surprising but also needs something you can make decisions on,” said Jenn Vogel, vice president of marketing and host of “Reel Talk.” “It’s got to be actionable. It’s not just information for the sake of information. You have to do something with it. I think that’s really crucial.”

How has the global pandemic impacted customer insights?

Certainly a lot happened in 2020 and 2021. The COVID-19 pandemic keeps raging, Texans lost power after a snowstorm, and other disasters have impacted consumer behavior, which, of course, impacts businesses.

“The industry was already in a fairly aggressive stage of transformation,” Dave said. “You were seeing us adopt technology, both on the quantitative and qualitative side of consumer insights.”

Dave reports seeing businesses increase their investment in categories like experience management. Also, “listening to customers certainly is gaining traction.”

COVID and social distancing have pushed advances, especially in qualitative research, Dave explained. Before, you might have been able to go into somebody’s home or meet in-person. But now, much of that contact has moved online.

“It’s funny when people talk about ‘mobile research,’ ” Dave said. “That’s the medium now.” It’s no longer a standalone strategy.

Jenn added that the insights function has become more important in companies, in part because of recent events.

“Understanding a brand’s customers has been an ever bigger challenge than it had been,” Jenn said.

Before the pandemic, market research was seen in some companies as a support role, Dave added. “Market research had kind of lost its seat at the boardroom table.”

That changed with the pandemic, and “things aren’t just rolling back into where we were,” Dave said. “What we’ve seen is insights teams inundated with requests by executives.”

Uptick in use of market research technology and results

Rick Kelly, chief product officer at Fuel Cycle – a Voxpopme partner, said that his market research technology platform saw an immediate upswing in usage starting in March 2020.

“The realization that customer insights is essential has become more and more apparent,” Rick said on “Reel Talk: The Customer Insights Show.”

Bianca Pryor, vice president of insights at BET, added that insight teams now are asked to help drive business decisions and results and can’t just function as a librarian that reports back data.

Understanding the person

To truly understand trends and customer behavior we have to understand the person as a while.

Megan Kehr, analytics insights associate manager at PepsiCO, mentioned that insights professionals have talked about understanding “the person behind our consumer.”

“For example, take somebody like me and not just seeing me as a Pepsi drinker… and while my consumption behavior is part of who I am; I’m also a wife, a sister, a daughter, I’m a cat mom,” she said. “There are all these other aspects of my life outside of the beverage I drink that make up who I am.”

She said the idea of getting closer to the consumer isn’t new, “COVID has accelerated it and in the last year everyone’s lives have basically changed overnight. And what better way to do that than hearing from the customers?”

Read next: How Megan and her team use video surveys to understand the customer and the person 

“To that end speed is super important,” she said. “Keeping our ears to the ground to understand what’s shifting and changing in our consumers’ lives.”

Truly understanding the customer also goes deeper than demographics, she explained. Megan called that the gift analogy. If you were told to buy a gift for a mom of a certain age group, that’s not highly useful information to get them a meaningful gift, she said.

“But then if you consider buying a gift for somebody much closer to you, it’s much easier to pick a gift that they really like because you know them on that deeper level,” Megan said. “Applying that analogy to a brand, it’s the same. If we don’t know our consumers at that deeper level then how are we going to do marketing campaigns or make brand decisions?”

Read next: Marketing teams: Who owns customer insights?

Understanding the customer’s life tensions

Megan gave the example of a mom who wasn’t taking her medication because she felt that was tainting her picture of “Super Mom” in her children’s eyes. Once you understand that you can consider product updates.

“Maybe a patch would be better here,” Megan said.

But how do you get to that level of depth?

“There are so many layers that you can peel back,” Jenn added in her podcast chat with Megan. “So many stop at that first layer. What’s the best approach to peel back those layers and best understand the drivers and motivations?”

There certainly is value in asking specific questions about the products and the experience, Megan said. But also consider asking about family, lifestyles and tensions.

“When we do certain qualitative work, don’t just focus on the tactical,” Megan added. “We are putting blinders on when we do that.”

Consumer behaviors change

Things have changed so much. When the pandemic shut downtown metro areas, people weren’t working downtown, which affected bars, restaurants, all businesses in the area.

“It impacts snacking behavior, how people aren’t commuting, sports,” Dave added. “All of that is having an impact on clients. Many of our clients are seeing this as an opportunity to reinvent their business.”

Consumer insights can help them enter into and innovate in those open areas.

“This innovation shouldn’t happen in a silo,” Dave said. “The customer needs to be front and center in that change.”

React to what consumers are doing

Can Cheetos be stretched into Mac and Cheese, for example? Yes and consumers were already mixing the two, said Jennifer, the PepsiCo CMO.

“There was a pull for it and there was permission from consumers,” Jennifer said. “There was a need in the market to infuse this tasty treat into a product. A great place for a brand to stretch.”

Sometimes the answer is yes to try new things. Sometimes it’s no and sometimes we may have to readjust.

Always listen to the customer base and its mood.

“What are people feeling?” Jennifer said. “That’s really important to brands like ours. They move with culture. We have to understand and also look to the future.”

Understanding new persons as your customers

Sometimes new customers are buying your products. I still remember when Under Armour was really just for professional athletes, then other athletes started wearing it. Today, I sit here wearing Under Armour shoes and pants. So now writers wear high-performance gear, too. Don’t forget about all the kids wearing the brand now. So brands and their customers can evolve. In

Ross Wainwright, CEO at Alida, one of our partners, mentioned the story of Red Bull on an episode of “Reel Talk: The Customer Insights Show.”

Red Bull was focusing on high-energy type sports and experiences in their marketing and then they realized that another group drinks Red Bull energy drinks as well: Moms. Ross said moms were drinking several Red Bulls to get through the day.

“If you listen to your customers they will tell you what they want.”

Personalization at scale and data privacy

Understanding our customers also means that companies know more about them.

“We always see these articles that consumers want personalized messaging but also want their data protected,” Ryan said.

That can be a challenging balance.

“Consumers do want to see things that are relevant,” Jennifer said.

But, that also means companies know a lot about their customers.

“There’s definitely a tension,” she said. “And it’s also what people feel comfortable with. There might be some data that some people have no issue sharing and others want to keep it quite close.”

Be transparent how you’ll use data and share that, Jennifer said.

“With personalization there’s a lot of opportunity but there’s also a great responsibility,” she said. “The best thing is that we can just be transparent in what we are doing and what safeguards we have in place.”

How can consumer insights help brands adjust to new trends?

“Brand loyalty has been under attack, in my opinion,” Dave said. “We just have an abundance of brands, and the cost to switch for consumers is so easy. In this kind of time period, we – consumers – are open to exploring new opportunities.”

You have to look at the signal-noise ratio, Dave explained.

“What’s a temporary change, and what is a trend that we can actually see?” Dave said. “That’s been a focus for our clients. What’s a knee-jerk reaction to a situation we are under … how can I really understand what’s happening?”

Good consumer insights come back to being empathetic to consumers.

product timeline“What are people going through, and how can we help them?” Dave said. “We certainly have seen a quick move to technology. How can we still stay in touch with others during the pandemic?”

  • Come up with a hypothesis
  • Quickly test it with customers
  • Evolve

“We are seeing product life cycles being trimmed down,” Dave said. “What used to be 18 months is now two to three months.”

Some businesses even pivoted completely in a short time.

“Had they not been able to bring the customer into the process, they would have gotten it wrong,” Dave said. “They would have made assumptions. But now with the plethora of marketing research tech, … I don’t want to say it’s easy, but it’s easier than before all this technology existed.”

Read next: How to use video surveys for market research

“A lot of the trends we are seeing are just an acceleration of what’s already in place,” Jenn added. “It’s interesting to see that from necessity we need to build more empathy with people,  and now we have the technology to help us with that.”

Before the pandemic, there were basically two cohorts:

  • Traditional methods businesses used
  • Outliers trying some new things

“Now we have more people moving into the future,” Dave said. “Like with anything new, people at first can be skeptical. Remember the first time you got into an Uber? So I’m just going to get into this random guy’s car? He drives me where I want to go? And that’s safe?”

And now we don’t even think about getting into an Uber.

What does the future of consumer insights look like?

“What this pandemic has done is re-establish the importance of the market research industry,” Dave said. “Now we have to build upon that momentum we’ve created for ourselves. That’s about understanding the consumer and creating that bridge to the customer. We also don’t want these insights to live in eight different places.”

Brenna Ivey also discussed how to create that bridge in this episode of our podcast.

The pandemic also has reminded us how quickly things can change and how long those changes can persist.

Take March 2020 when the pandemic took off in full swing in the United States. “We said ‘things will be back to normal in September,” Dave said. A year later, COVID-related issues still are top of mind.

“Even with the rollout of the vaccine, the effects of it will still be felt for the next 12 to 14 months or so,” he added.

In the future, technology will continue to help brands have the voice of the customer at the table.

Technology now allows us to turn consumer insights around in 24 hours or less. For example, in a 2021 Valentine’s Day campaign, we gathered 100 love letters from consumers to brands in just a few hours.

“There will be opportunities for brands that are listening,” Dave said. “And to take market share away from their competitors.”

Added Jenn: “Understanding customers, consumers, people is no longer just an important thing. It’s an essential thing. Businesses will not survive without being really connected with consumer needs and empathizing with them.”

How to make consumer insights more of a priority

Review some of the examples of people who already do insights well. That includes:

Then look at what your tech stack looks like. What tools do you use internally that can help you be more successful?

Companies that do consumer insights well have their plan together. They use the right tools internally, with a mix of outside help, with the right people, with the right mindset, in place.

“Change management can be a big hill to climb, but there are a lot of examples of people that have done it well,” Jenn said.

“It’s not easy to drive forward, but if you get it right, the results can be exponential,” Dave added.

Consumer insights also have to be presented in a “snackable” way to decision makers.

“There’s no reason insights can’t be presented in a two-minute clip,” Dave said. “And if you can’t, it’s not an insight. It’s data, and people don’t care about data. We are just overwhelmed with data. We need to deliver insights, data and value.”

Insights for non-insights roles

Ryan, the president of Zappi, mentioned that other roles are now also being are being asked to do a lot more when it comes to customer understanding.

Read next: Marketing teams: Who owns customer insights?

“Do you have any advise for those people on how to cross that and to maybe even unlearn some skills they’ve already developed?” Ryan asked.

“The most important characteristic a marketer and insights professional needs to have is curiosity,” Jennifer said. “A curiosity for the world. Curiosity to learn.”

Read books, learn the skills and keep growing, Jennifer said.

Read next: Building teams that work to understand your customers better

“Learn the fundamentals,” she said.

When marketing roles use insights to drive results the rest of the company is also seeing the investment and how strategic marketing can pay off.

“It allows people to see that we are building our brand and build those connections with our consumers for the long-term,” she said. “And that it’s very much worthwhile.”

Also, be sure to really need to consider your options when testing.

“If you are only testing to get to ‘yes’ you are only looking for that, but if you are taking a moment to be reflective and understand the ‘why’ and pour that into all the work you are doing,” Jennifer said. “It’s a very different mindset if you are testing to learn versus testing to check a box.”

But remember the basics…

Essentially customer insights is about understanding people and turning that insightfulness into a competitive advantage.Even though behaviors and industries change quickly, Elisabeth Trawinski, an insights professional at Reckitt, reminded us on a “Reel Talk” episode that yes, things are changing, but the purpose of customer insights is not.

Essentially customer insights is about understanding people and turning that insightfulness into a competitive advantage, she said. 

“That’s always been the role of insights and in some ways becomes more and more critical each year as the world changes,” she said. “But there are so many different ways to understand our customers now – like video surveys – that didn’t exist years ago.”

Customer-led product development through design thinking

Be open to what the market is trying to tell youDoing what’s best for our customers certainly can help our brands be successful long-term. But what are the best strategies to help us get there? Design thinking is one and can make our products better for customers. In the context of design thinking, it also helps to think about the customer as a person with problems and needs that your product or service can solve and help with.

“It’s so easy for that to sometimes get missed,” said Voxpopme CTO and Co-Founder Andy Barraclough about thinking of your customers as people on an episode of “Reel Talk: The Customer Insights Show.” “In a tech business you refer to your users and the connection to the customer gets lost a little. So for me it’s really about who that person is that is interacting with that product.”

Then of course, you want to keep that focus and alignment going across all the teams.

“It’s so easy to look at a number, a user, a usage stat,” Andy said. “But it’s really about that person you are trying to empathize with.”

How important is it to involve customers in product development?

“It’s fundamental and it’s so key of what we do when we innovate on any product,” Andy said.

We go through stages and think about what stage we are in with a specific product. Let’s look at what is design thinking, and how do you bring customers into each stage. The stages are:

  • Empathize
  • Define
  • Ideate
  • Prototype
  • Test

“And I think the real key is – all those stages feed into each other,” Andy said.

Rand Fishkin, founder of Spark Toro, mentioned on another episode of “Reel Talk” that a good number of target customers will judge a product on its first impression for the foreseeable future, which makes it even more important to roll out in a way that appeals to customers.

“If you launch a minimal viable product and many people see it for the first time they will remember their experience with that product,” Rand said. “They will not go ‘I see this is a promising product and some day it can be great so let me give the team time.'”

Rand said he took that to heart when they launched Spark Toro. They wanted it to be as close to perfect for an initial rollout as possible. They invited Beta testers and went from there.

“We did two rounds of that Beta and invited several hundred folks to play with and try the product for free,” Rand said. “That first version looked and felt completely different. And we got a lot of feedback about that.”

Read next: What business growth strategies are best for my business?

Empathizing with your customers

Let’s take the empathize stage. This is where you really need to understand the customer’s problems and how you are trying to solve them. This can be easier to do when you face the same problem as a consumer.

“This is where we need to immerse ourselves into the environment of our customers,” Andy said. “And then how do we socialize that internally.”

Then use the feedback you are getting to make improvements that are beneficial to your customers.

understand your customers better now

Jenn Vogel, vice president of marketing at Voxpopme and host of “Reel Talk” said that companies truly need to empathize with their customers. Companies can tell when empathy isn’t meant.

Defining a human-centered problem statement

From there, create a problem statement that focuses on the person.

“When you start with the empathize stage you can then think about that actual human at the end of the product,” Andy said. “What’s that problem statement we are trying to solve for that individual? And a lot of that is gathered from the empathize stage.”

This process helps the team analyze and synthesize observations.

The wording also matters here. For example, Voxpopme has a process to gather customer feedback and internal ideas. Years ago this was called “feature request,” a term that was abandoned because it wasn’t focusing on a human-centered problem, said Jenn.

“Using the term feature request or idea was skipping the empathy stage and it went right into ‘I have an idea’,” Jenn said. “It’s really important to understand the problem.”

Some internal teams don’t hear directly from customers which makes this approach even more important, Andy added.

If a product team gets asked to create features they can do that, but it’s also easy to miss an opportunity for improvement if they don’t know about the reason a feature should exist.

“You have to make a conscious effort to disseminate that information,” Jenn said.

Elisabeth Trawinski, director of insights and analytics at Reckitt on an episode of “Reel Talk: The Customer Insights Show,” also mentioned that her team uses video surveys in this early stage of the customer journey.

“To get some understanding from people what the reality is,” she said. “Getting their language and understanding.”

Her team also uses video surveys to even understand what else to dive into deeper as the process evolves.

“What are the questions we should ask,” she said. “Video insights have been quick and very consumer focused to start that learning process.”

David Kidder, CEO of Bionic and who spoke at the 2021 Virtual Insight Summit, said companies need to stop making things for customers but instead “solve with them. Shoulder to shoulder. With trust. And be with them.”

Ideas for product improvements

What problem is being solved for the customer“From there we feed into ideation,” Andy said. “Ideation is also about volume.”

Brings lots of ideas, brainstorm and then also get feedback – for example through video surveys – form your customers. One way to come up with a lot of ideas is to have “Worst Possible Ideas” sessions.

“I first learned about Worst Possible Ideas sessions from you a couple of years ago,” said Jenn. “And I love doing them… even outside of product development.”

Since many great ideas, start with horrible ones this is a great way to get people to be comfortable, get in the right mindset and start sharing things that they may consider a terrible idea but that is actually a good one. Or could turn into a good one.

“We need to get our teams to put the customer at the forefront of these ideas,” Andy added. In addition to using video surveys, remember to talk to others in your organization to find out what customers are saying. That includes really anyone who talks to and hears from customers:

“All of those perspectives can really feed into the ideation of that idea,” Andy said.

Gia Laudi, co-founder at Forget the Funnel, says it’s important to give your teams freedom and “ironically you do that by given them constraints,” Gia said on another episode of the podcast. That can then help them understand the moment when customers take the leap of faith to buy your product.” 

Prototyping

That’s where we come up with inexpensive versions of what we think we want to do. For example, wireframes.

Testing

Then in the testing phase we can see if it can work. “Are we accomplishing what we are trying to accomplish?” Andy said. “Did it meet our expectations with what we are trying to do with the problem statement?”

Getting customer feedback

A lot of times companies wait to the testing phase – or later – to get customer feedback. But as part of the design thinking process, getting feedback at different stages can help with making products better one step at a time, Andy explained.

How to get feedback

In a software product, you can ask for feedback in specific places in the platform where it makes sense. Asynchronous video surveys are another way.

“It’s also good to understand where to to get that customer feedback,” Andy said. “What best suits your customer to want to give you that feedback. It’s always great to see how many customers want to give feedback.”

It helps with the relationship, too, Andy added. They feel listened to and this can even impact positively the quality of their feedback.

“That’s a really good distinction – how does the customer want to be involved?” Jenn added. “What medium do they want to use and what’s the timing and really being conscious of that?”

It’s certainly a big win when a customer notices a new feature and mentions that the previous feature was a challenge for them.

“The customers saying ‘you solved my problem’ that’s the goal,” Jenn said.

Once that feedback comes back, make sure it’s shared internally to the right people. “That’s when you get that energy going,” Andy said.

Overcoming biases

Of course, we all have our own biases. That also applies to product development. The closer we are to the product, the harder it can be to spot some problems and perspectives.

“That’s really something to be conscious of,” Andy said. “Especially at the start of an idea. You want it to succeed. You want that to be the answer. It’s so easy to be blinded by that idea.”

Especially when starting a new company or a new product this can come into play. “You want that to be the answer, but you have to bring it back to reality a little bit,” Andy said. “You have to check yourself.”

It’s also helpful to have diversity on the team to and get different ideas and perspectives.

Also look at the numbers. If changes lead to worse business metrics, that’s not a good way to grow the business, Jenn added.

“Be open to what the market is trying to tell you it needs,” Jenn said. “I know we think our ideas are the best ones but rooting them into customer feedback will help us continue growing and creating something better.”

Andy added that it’s important to be truthful with the data you are getting. “It’s so easy to just dismiss it,” he said. “And it’s so easy to twist data to twist your narrative.”

Many times that’s not even done on purpose, Andy said. “It just kind of creeps in.”

How do we know the roadmap is on the right way?

Road mapping and prioritization can be a challenge.

“I think it’s about getting to that next step where you can get some feedback,” Andy said. “We try to get things out to our customers’ hands to see it.”

Andy says he makes it a goal of getting the update to a 6 and not a 10 to get it out the door so that feedback can be gathered and the roadmap can be evaluated on a continuous basis.

“It compounds and compounds,” Andy said. “For me it’s about getting things into the hands of our customers.”

And as companies grow it does feel like your process is slowing down, but there are different expectations from customers once they have experienced your product, Andy said.

“The risk piece is a big challenge,” Jenn said. “Are we happy doing something 80 percent or 70 percent? As a smaller business you have a bit more freedom to do these things.”

“But bringing in the customer at every step can help you with that,” Andy said. “The risk isn’t about going to market. But it’s about where you could have been had you brought the customer in earlier.”

Getting customer feedback into your day-to-day

The trick now is to get the feedback process into your daily work.

“Many think of customer feedback as getting in the way,” Andy said. “At the start it feels like it’s something that’s difficult to do. But if you get into the habit of doing it at every stage I feel like it’s something you can do.”

Doing a study or getting feedback doesn’t really slow you down that much when the process is defined and part of the workflow.

Take a look at this Valentine’s Day love letter campaign, for example. We gathered feedback from 100 consumers for dozens of brands in just a few hours. The analysis was mostly automated. To review it took moments.

To get started, see what you are already doing and then start from there. It won’t take as long as you might think and it can help you be more customer-centric.

Learn more about video feedback through Voxpopme here.

To run an omnichannel customer experience strategy you have to know where customers are

Everything we do, we do with our customers in mind.Preferences where customers want to interact, evaluate or buy your product certainly can be wide ranging. And ever changing. An omnichannel customer experience strategy can help to truly understand customer preferences.

That of course is an ever-evolving strategy. Where customers want to interact with us changes and evolves. For example, I’ve been eating gummy bears my whole life. I used to buy them in retail locations growing up in Germany. Today, I have them set as a Save and Subscribe item on Amazon and a new batch arrives every few months. I love it. I don’t even have to leave my house.

Customer preferences – like mine – change and with all these options comes competition. If we don’t understand our omnichannel customer experience and drive a useful strategy around it a competitor or emerging player might.

What’s an omnichannel customer experience anyway?

At the most basic level, it’s about understanding where our customers engage and connect with our products and services. The nuances of channels and touchpoints is important to remember as you are building and evolving the strategy. Since customer preferences change it’s also important to keep a pulse on customer feedback and what changes it signals.

Read next: Customer-led product development through design thinking

Omnichannel customer experience at Ring

We’ve all heard of Ring, the consumer security camera. Ring has seen huge growth in recent years, and you probably won’t be surprised to hear that a deep understanding of consumer needs is at the heart of that story.  Mimi Swain, Ring’s CRO, sits right at the center of marketing, sales, and customer teams. Voxpopme Vice President of Marketing Jenn Vogel chatted with Mimi at the 2021 Virtual Insight Summit.

Visual notes created  on 04/22/2021 titled Making Insights Simple when Revenue Streams and Customer Groups are Complex.

 

“In the early days we were focused on the broader distribution strategy and took every opportunity to show up in our relevant channels,” Mimi said. “And that shaped our omnichannel approach across the verticals. And today, we are easily in 10,000-plus retail locations.”

In addition, to retail, Ring sells direct on Ring.com, Amazon and through installation services that will set up the cameras for consumers.

It’s really a fantastic example of knowing your customers and reaching and catering to different customer preferences. I’m not very handy around the house honestly but did install my own Ring cameras. I simply ordered them on Amazon and hopped on a ladder to set them up. But having do-it-yourself options and the option to hire a handyperson are examples of having a great omnichannel customer experience strategy in place.

“And we’ve done a ton of work in broadcast channels like HSN and QVC and I think that medium has been so great to demonstrate our product,” Mimi said. “We do this to give our customers, which we call neighbors, choice and selection where they buy.”

Read next: Responsiveness in customer service matters, so why are some brands struggling?

How to manage the multitude of channels

Things can certainly get pretty complex when using an omnichannel distribution model, Mimi said.

“You have to straddle this fine line of running your business holistically but also ensuring that each partner, each retailer can have their unique levers,” she said.

That also includes understanding how Ring can offer unique value to different partners.

Changes

It's such a different retail landscape in such a short time.Keep on top of changes and new trends constantly. Especially when the COVID-19 pandemic took over, we saw a lot of changes in shopping behavior.

“We are always looking to evolve our approach,” said Mimi. “I’ve really loved being part of this evolution of retailers getting products to customers differently.”

Examples include curbside pickup and different delivery platforms – like Instacart. Ring partnered with Instacart through Best Buy to deliver Ring cameras.

“I love that. That’s so meeting customer needs,” Jenn added. “I’ve been thinking of Instacart as a grocery delivery service. I use it to get my groceries and don’t go to the store anymore. That’s a new behavior for me.”

It all comes back to understanding your customers, knowing what is going on in their lives that your product relates to and making it a seamless experience.

For Ring that means, from the shopping experience, to installation to after-care.

“If they have issues we take care of them,” Mimi said.

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How customers are using the product

Ring has an advantage here as the cameras literally records things in front of them. Some customer stories recordings are about security, some are weird and some are just humanly interesting. Many clips are submitted by customers and highlighted on the Ring social channels. Media picks up some stories as well.

“They trust us with these moments and that’s a real honor,” Mimi said. “It’s really unique for a company to see its product in action and how it’s making an impact.”

How Ring listens to customers

"There's a push from the team that we are talking to customers."Mimi’s team reads reviews every day.

“The good ones, the bad ones – what people are saying and how they are experiencing things,” she said. “We also keep a close pulse on what’s coming in through social media and customer success channels. And we look if we can identify an insight. Sometimes there are things we learn that we apply to a future launch.”

For example, the doorbell camera came on its own bracket at first. Now, it uses the existing bracket, Mimi said.

“So you can just take off the old one and put on the new one,” she said. “There are those little things we think about. How do we remove friction and delight our neighbors?”

In-store

Mimi’s team also visits stores when possible to get feedback that way.

“When Black Friday was an in-person thing we would be in stores working at the Best Buys and Costcos,” she said. “There’s this push to staying really connected to what’s happening on the ground. That’s how we stay customer obsessed.”

Responding to customers

Responsiveness is hard for some brands, but Ring responds in moments to customers with questions on social media. For example, when I asked about solar panels.

Or when it’s about the lighter side of use.

The CEO and founder’s email address is also listed on every box as an open invitation for customers to send in feedback, Mimi said.

“That’s how in tune he is with that he wants to hear from customers,” she said. “The emails range from super positive of what they love, things that happened at their home and also very vocal about things they feel disappointed by. It’s a great tool to get a good pulse on what’s happening and how we can do better.”

Jenn adds that Ring uses all these different ways to get customer feedback, which is also a good part of an omnichannel customer experience strategy. Connect with customers where they want to connect with you!

“There’s a gap of people willing to participate in research or filling out an NPS survey and all the rest of the customers that don’t give their feedback,” Jenn added. “So being there in store, reading the reviews just fills that gap of the people that wouldn’t take a particular type of survey.”

Mimi added that there is value in validating what was learned through traditional research methods. And there are some innovative strategy ideas that traditional focus groups wouldn’t capture.

“Think about the Echo devices,” Mimi said. “If you had asked a customer six or seven years ago ‘would you want a thing that looks like a Pringles can that talks to you – would you want that in your kitchen?’ Most would be like ‘no’.”

Some innovations are so new to the world that consumers might not realize they are ready for it.

“It’s that balance of asking the right questions and understanding the need, understanding the behavior and innovating for that,” Jenn added. “That doesn’t mean don’t do the research. It means to go deeper.”

Mimi added that customers will reward companies with business when the experience gets better for them.

Set goals

David Cancel, CEO of Drift, said during the 2021 Virtual Insight Summit that his company looks at how much time everyone is spending with customers.

“We measure that on a yearly basis, weekly, monthly and daily,” he said. “Want people to be close to the customer because that’s when you hear the pain and when the truth comes out.”

“We are all in business and businesses exist to serve the customer,” David said. “You need to hear the words that they are using. Not the words that you are using, but the words they are using. The words they are using to describe their problem. Not your problem. Their problem.”

Social media groups

Jean-Michel Hoffman
Jean-Michel Hoffman

Jean-Michel Hoffman, vice president of brand marketing at SoFi, said during the 2021 Virtual Insight Summit, that the company started with face-to-face events across the country. The concept of connecting conversationally with customers, which SoFi calls members, was then translated into a Facebook Group, which now has 55,000 members. Ten thousand of those are active.

“It’s exclusive to our members,” he said. “They have to be a member to join it. And they are all talking about the key topics around their finances. We moderate that community and observe that community. And we prompt questions to them.”

He added he checks it daily to get a pulse on what members are talking about.

“There’s this feeling to be part of the community,” he said.

Staying focused

It can be hard to stay focused and customer obsessed when teams move fast through the multitude of channels.

“Teams can get stuck in the idea that we just need to get this done,” she said. “Teams at Ring are very collaborative the way we work together. We give team members the ownership to do what’s best for customers.”

Read next: Building teams that work to understand your customers better

Prioritization also plays a role here. With so much customer feedback coming in, it is important to figure out how to prioritize follow-up and updates to the customer experience.

“We certainly look for pattern matching,” Mimi said. “Sometimes there are things mentioned that are that light bulb moment. Yes, that completely makes sense.”

Certainly, not everything can be prioritized to the top of the list but the Ring team tries to focus on the tasks that have the biggest impact on customer experience.

“The prioritization question is a hard one,” added Jenn. “We want to do everything, but can’t do everything. We measure everything on an effort-impact scale. There are a hundred things could do, but really can only do five well.”

Read next: Learn about the risk vs. rigor model in our tech assessment article

“I always ask the team if it’s something that can move the needle,” Mimi added. “And what are we trying to learn from it?”

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Getting leadership support — and keeping it — for internal market research

To make internal market research projects a success, it’s important to have leadership support and set the right expectations.

One of the internal expectations often is that market research happens fast! And, indeed, it can happen much faster than years ago.

  • Send out video surveys to your customers.
  • Get responses in moments.

But the data, even though it comes in highly digestible formats — transcripts, sentiment analysis — still needs to be analyzed.

“Data is fast, insight is not as fast,” said Elisabeth Trawinski, director of insights and analytics at Reckitt on an episode of “Reel Talk: The Customer Insights Show.”

“That doesn’t mean insight is slow,” she said. “Insight is something you come to that shines the light on something that not everyone knows.”

Also keep in mind that getting feedback isn’t that difficult — at its core — as long as you are willing to ask the right questions of the right people.

“Insight professionals just love learning,” Elisabeth said. “The key is to learn something new and not just keep repeating things.”

Elisabeth’s award-winning “Outside In” video surveys fall into that category. The company learns, on an ongoing basis, how customer rituals and behaviors change. It then shares that information internally.

“One of the things that has worked for us with this program is that it’s light touch and easy,” she said.

In the past, consumer insight projects were more intensive, she said, with:

  • Everyone having to go out into the field.
  • Then a day of work.
  • A debrief.

“It’s this whole thing, and I don’t say that to mean it doesn’t have value. It does have value, but it’s resource intensive in terms of people’s time, and it can be expensive.”

In Elisabeth’s video surveys’ project, they ask questions of their customers through the Voxpopme video surveys platform, and the responses are summarized in short videos presented to stakeholders.

“And they come out once a week or once every two weeks,” she said. “We are asking for a little time to give you a lot.”

Stakeholders and leadership often are stretched to the max with meetings, PowerPoints and the like. The ability to send them short videos makes your points quickly.get a demo

Making decisions off video survey insights

Elisabeth said these tidbits of ongoing, shared information can help stakeholders and leaders make decisions on a daily basis.

“It’s in those smaller everyday decisions — those gut decisions,” Elisabeth said. “There are so many decisions that we make every day. As a seasoned marketer, you can make those decisions and often be right, but what is informing your decision is your experience in the market.”

Remembering insights from customers can influence those decisions in a positive way.

Leaders — and, really, many people — often make decisions based on their own experiences, even when they aren’t exactly like their target customer. That can create problems, and hearing directly from customers through video can influence decisions beyond personal preference.

“That’s so true,” added Jenn Vogel, vice president of marketing at Voxpopme and host of “Reel Talk.” “When I have an opinion about something based on my own experience, I say ‘I’m a sample of one, but this is how I feel about this.’ ”

“There’s this thing in research where people sometimes say, ‘Well, that’s an outlier,’ ” Elisabeth said. “And they dismiss it. If it doesn’t connect with what I already know, then I’m going to dismiss it. And yes, sometimes you should, of course. But that’s really the interesting part to dig into.”

What insights are most helpful?

“Everything,” Elisabeth said. “I want to know everything about you, but I can’t, and I’m joking. It shouldn’t be about everything. And that’s part of what’s important about insight teams.”

What can be learned is what actually can make a difference in our decision-making and, ultimately, our business results, Elisabeth continued.

“And a lot of it is trying to figure out what will tell us something new,” she said. “What will be that new lens or that new understanding that will really unlock something.”

It’s not always easy to figure that out, but when it works, it’s another step to ongoing leadership support.

Remember that before even jumping into gathering data to determine what problem you are trying to address. What do you need to find out?

“What problem are we trying to solve?” Elisabeth said. “Is there an opportunity we are trying to take advantage of? What do we know about it already? What are the questions that, if we get answers to them, will make a difference?”

How to keep leaders and stakeholders informed

What really sticks with people is when they hear a story. That's where I think video surveys can help bring your insights to light.The substance of the information and the way it’s presented can be equally important. That can include the subject lines of emails sent to leaders.

“Results from survey 2021-21-55 are now available” might be technically correct but not very engaging.

“Top 10 improvements customers want NOW!” or “100 customers share their top features” might get more opens, for example.

Once a leader opens your communication, the insights need to be easily digestible, to the point and relevant.

“What really sticks with people is when they hear a story,” Elisabeth said. “And when they are in somebody’s home, that sticks with people for years sometimes.

“That’s where I think video surveys can help bring your insights to light,” she said. “Make people informed, but also make it stick in their brain a little bit better.”

Making insights easier to remember also makes them easier for people to play back. That can be a huge advantage. Imagine leaders and other stakeholders being able to easily share the successes and, with that, internally market the research product.

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