Creating experiences useful to people interested in understanding their customers | Top 100 CX thought leader | Top 5% Global Podcaster | Livestreamer | "Going Live: Livestream your podcast to reach more people" author |
Survey fatigue is real. I see it all the time when I’m diving into surveys. The questions go on and on and on. Is this survey over yet? Nope! We are only at 3 percent complete, according to the little – literally – bar at the bottom. It’s not making things easier that the design is horrible and the survey is hard to read.
While survey fatigue can affect our customers, it also affects us – the insights professionals. After all, we need customer feedback – their opinions and thoughts on updates to products and their customer experience in general. But when consumers are fatigued and aren’t taking the time to give us feedback, we are a long ways from gathering insights.
Survey fatigue and the trouble with traditional surveys
“Please fill out this survey to give us your feedback” has been a common strategy. But when that turns into a never-ending game of 20 questions, no wonder consumers get tired of it.
Some surveys ask to provide more feedback through the written word. The idea is simple: It’s giving people the option to elaborate on their thoughts. But it also feels a bit like school. I’m a writer and I don’t like to write those out. Text-based surveys are often cumbersome, restrictive, and tricky to fill in.
Our best attempt to go beyond scores and scales has been open-ended questions that ask for written responses, with the idea being that text-based responses give people the chance to elaborate on their thoughts and feelings and give more insights than scores alone.
However, unfortunately, the reality is that text-based surveys are actually cumbersome, restrictive, and tricky to fill in – which only adds to mounting fatigue.
Can I just send you a quick selfie video with my response? I just got off a FaceTime call so I have some time.
Open text boxes usually deliver responses of just three or four words and nearly always less than 50 characters. Or they are skipped completely.
As a result, questions go unanswered, participants become disengaged and survey fatigue continues to grow, and all the while researchers are still none the wiser on how they can understand, excite and engage their target audience. But there is another way…
Video is a quick and easy way for people to express themselves and for you to get a real understanding of what drives them. It goes way beyond the confines of scores and rating scales by revealing the why behind the numbers.
Video surveys make your customers feel important
Video makes your customers feel like their opinions are important. That they are being listened to and that they are more than just data.
Easier for expression
Instead of answering closed questions or typing out tired text responses, video gives respondents a quick and easy way to express themselves.
It’s more personal than ticking boxes
Rather than just ticking boxes and getting lost in a sea of data, video adds a personal aspect to communication that engages respondents.
Video lets your respondents get to the point fast, so it can easily fit in around their busy lives.
Video responses can be recorded anytime, anywhere
Respondents can record video any time, any place, from their preferred digital device. That means that in-depth stories can be shared with ease and on the go. Or while sitting on the couch at home. Or during break at work. You get the idea!
Body language and facial expressions allow your respondents to show how they really feel. How do you read emotion in text-based answers? It’s a lot harder!
Younger audiences are used to video
Younger audiences are keen to express their opinions across various media and making a quick video reviewing a product or recounting an experience.
Avoid survey fatigue like this…
Insights professionals can at times be nervous about how long video will take. However today’s video market research allows you to capture hundreds of videos from your target audience in less than an hour.
By just adding a simple block of code to whatever platform you’re using, you can integrate video-open ends and capture video insights alongside or after a survey to boost the impact of your results.
You can embed video open ends into any survey on any platform, website or app to enable video responses across any device – and you can even tap into our app that make video the entire survey and give you access to video feedback communities.
You can utilize video in a new or existing study, collect videos alongside or after a survey.
In just a few clicks you can capture, analyze and share compelling customer stories across an array of quant and qual studies to boost the impact of your results.
And once your videos have been recorded and uploaded, we’ll use time-coded, automated transcription to make analysis even easier for you.
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.
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.
“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.”
“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.
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
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?”
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.”
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.
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, 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.
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.”
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.”
I write a lot about talking to our customers directly on here. Of course, that’s important. I mean, if I only get their feedback second or third-hand, that game of telephone can turn a bath product into something that’s supposed to be eaten for dinner. I wouldn’t recommend that, but there is value in finding out who your customer influencers are. Those are the people your customers listen to on the web and social media.
Personally, I hate when people ask me:
Who do you follow?
Who influences your decisions?
Heck, I don’t know. I scroll through Twitter and whomever is there is there. So how accurate and inclusive can my answer really be?
That’s where software platforms like SparkToro come in handy and can help you identify the people and brands your customers are listening to without you having to ask them. SparkToro was created by Rand Fishkin, who previously built Moz – a search engine optimization platform. Rand joined us on “Reel Talk: The Customer Insights Show” to talk about this latest endeavor to help brands identify customer influencers.
Using public social media and web data to identify these connections is easier to identify influencers than asking people, Rand said.
“I follow all kinds of interesting people and read their content,” said Voxpopme Vice President of Marketing Jenn Vogel. “But sometimes I can’t tell you what their name is.”
Or the name doesn’t come top of mind when somebody asks about it.
“You’ll get all kinds of bias baked into that question,” Rand added. “Those answers in a survey are very difficult. But when you get this data from thousands of public profiles – or tens of thousands depending on your audience size, you can really dig into the nitty gritty.”
From there, brands can connect with those influencers, maybe do co-marketing, speak at events, submit guest content and collaborate in other ways.
“There’s just a lot of opportunities in those spaces – unexecuted marketing opportunities – because it’s really hard to discover those sources,” Rand said.
When are customer influencers most helpful?
At Moz, Fiskin’s team worked on search engine optimization strategies, which is a strategy that usually looks like this:
You know what your company can offer to customers and what problems you can solve for customers
Your SEO strategy determines what the terms are your customers search for on Google and other search engines
The brand creates useful content around the topic in an effort to show up organically when potential customers search for the topic.
An SEO strategy works really well when people are already searching for topics, products and services related to it.
A customer influencers strategy on the other hand comes in handy when potential customers are not yet searching for that product or service.
“I can rank No. 1 for a keyword that nobody is searching for,” added Jenn. “But it doesn’t benefit you in any way shape or form.”
“The reality is nobody is specifically looking for this precise product,” Rand said. “Nobody is looking for exactly what you have to offer. So you need to reach your customers not through search but some other methodology. Through some source of influence that they are already paying attention to.”
Uncovering those customer influencers can be difficult when it’s done manually. That led to the creation of SparkToro, which analyzes public profiles and maps relationships.
Connecting product influencers, brands and customers
Rand gave the example of an engineering firm that created a new product for architects. The firm can then find out who architects listen to on social media, what websites they visit and perhaps what podcasts they listen to.
On the web, many people list their professional titles, job functions and more. On many networks you can also see whom they follow. In addition, you can see who engages with what content. Likes, shares and comments can all give you an idea of who appears to be influential.
Aggregating that public information then puts together information for brands that are trying to find out who is influencing who.
But aren’t most people just on social media to talk crap to each other about politics and the latest news headlines? Some days it seems like my feeds are dominated by that kind of discussion. SparkToro found that to be a problem at first, but filters out irrelevant information.
Keep in mind that people use networks for a variety of reasons – including – business. Even when they sometimes discuss politics.
SparkToro also doesn’t show global celebrities by default in searches. Yes, a lot of architects might be following a global superstar, but that following has little to do with their professional interests. Millions of people follow them.
Rand compared partnering with a global influencer to running an ad in the New York Times.
“Will some architects see it? Sure, but is that really worth your money?” he said. “Unless you are a big consumer brand company it doesn’t make sense. The targeting is off.”
If an account is globally popular and a high percentage of all users follow and engage with them, then we need to not show it by default, he said.
“Once we did that the results just became stellar and highly relevant.”
Not all brands would find targeting like this helpful, Rand explained.
For example, if you are targeting people that have a mortgage that’s a lot of people to begin with and few – if any – list that in their social media profiles.
“If you want to reach real estate agents, SparkToro is great,” Rand said. “If you want to reach homeowners, SparkToro is kind of terrible.”
It’s good to remember the strengths and weaknesses of platforms and what goals you are trying to solve.
Analyzing what target audiences do online can also help brands create personas that are more data-driven. Instead of making educated guesses you can determine what their interests are based on:
who they follow
what content they engage with
the content they share themselves
“I have this frustration with classic persona models,” Rand said. “My sense is that they are very stereotyping and reductive.”
Some of the traditional consumption information often included in personas can be helpful, though. For example, knowing what publications they read or what content they consume on the web can give you great insights into the language they use, what they are interested in and where you might be able to reach them.
“Now I know what phrases will be completely over their heads and what will resonate,” Rand said. “I see what hashtags they follow. What social accounts they follow. I have a sense of the zeitgeist of that customer group. I like that kind of persona better than ‘here’s CFO Charlie and here’s how many dogs he has.’”
The threshold is reached when brands know something about customers that customers feel should be private.
“There are two vectors where I have concerns. One is when it violates privacy that people really care about,” Rand said. “When a lot of marketers talk about privacy they talk about digital footprints and following people around the web.”
For example, when consumers visit your website and then see an ad. Some people say that’s creepy, but Rand counters that there’s really no security violation in that scenario.
“The risk of harm – nothing bad can or will happen to you from exclusively that,” he said, adding that there can be a potential issue if people can be individually identified – especially when it involves a vulnerable group of people.
At the end of the day, knowing the right amount of information about our customers can help us create better experiences for them.
I get that there’s a time and place for in-person focus groups. But the advantage of online focus groups can’t be denied.
You can reach a wider group of consumers, no matter their location or availability.
Responses are truly personal. You can see their facial expressions as they share their authentic feedback.
The analysis is easy and already in a digital format, which makes all aspects of analysis and sharing quick.
The emergence of video
Mobile and video technology have been changing the way people interact and the way we research.
More people are working with video than ever before. Even before COVID-19, a total of 93 percent of companies were using video for multiple use cases. A year into the pandemic, video communication has become even more prevalent.
Advancements in technology mean there’s no longer any need for research to take weeks or months to generate insightful results. In fact, today’s technology advancements mean researchers can uncover complex thoughts and deliver compelling insights faster than ever.
Using online focus groups allows you to uncover customer stories and get closer to what people really think. From there you can make informed customer-centric decisions.
Not only that, but video for the consumer is fun, quick and easy to use. It allows users to show emotion and express how they feel.
Video research can also fit in around respondents’ busy lives, which means there’s less need for time-consuming traditional research methods. Instead, customers can now share their thoughts and feelings easily at a time that suits them, giving you the data you need to deliver in-depth insights across your entire organization.
Capture online focus groups in a way that is convenient
Today’s technology and capture solutions of our online focus group software allow you to create the group on your time. From there consumers can answer on their own time. In theory, that could mean they’ll take their time, but they don’t.
Take this online focus group survey I ran for a Valentine’s Day campaign. It took just a few hours to get all the responses I needed. The next day we shared the results with the brands.
Analyze data instantly
There’s no need to wait weeks or even days for videos to be analyzed. Today’s technology means that responses are transcribed within minutes of being recorded and video can be delivered and analyzed shortly thereafter.
Not only that, but your videos can also be filtered and easily searched with interactive charts and word clouds, making it easier than ever before to analyze and explore your online focus group.
Share powerful customer stories
There’s no need to worry about lengthy editing processes because it’s so easy to create your own showreels and share your results.
Today’s technology means that it’s easier than ever before to unlock and share powerful insights.
I wrote today’s article by blinking at my car dashboard and making the right gestures from time to time. No need to @ me, friends! I broke no laws and it’s just an example of how the future of communications may look.
Sounds crazy today, but many new ideas do.
Of course, it can be hard to even imagine the future of communications. Voice strategy expert Scot Westwater reminded me that many of the common ways of communication today felt weird when we first heard about them years ago:
Talking to our phones? Sounded strange.
Being alerted by voice of traffic accidents, traffic enforcement and red light cameras ahead of us directly from our phones.
Me texting my 13-year-old while we are both in the same house, but on different floors. (Some people still say that’s strange, but I think it’s highly efficient!)
Creating content through voice dictation
The list goes on of how technology has changed how we communicate. But what does the future hold? What’s the next level up for the future of communications? Will it be voice, gestures, something else? Maybe a glare?
Maher Beltaifa, human insights manager at Faurecia, won a Viddy for researching the future of communications in cars. He’s on a mission to understand what customers want in the future.
“We are looking at new ways to interact in cars,” Maher said on an episode of “Reel Talk: The Customer Insights Show.” “Not for tomorrow, but the day after tomorrow. Moving from touching screens, touching buttons and using voice and maybe moving to something else and to something different – maybe gesture. And how it all fits together and basically elevates the experience of the car.”
Maher explained that market research and developing usable insights is an important strategy for Faurecia to be customer centric.
“It’s a small team and we are studying with humility and do the best we can,” he said. “It’s a very exciting journey.”
Certainly communication will continue to evolve and that includes in cars. Will it include gestures, eye movement and motion and what else? Video surveys helped Maher and team get ideas from customers on what they thought about a host of potential advancements.
“The project we did with Voxpopme was really pivotal at the beginning to just get ideas out right,” he said.
Getting feedback from consumers along the way, helped the team understand what forward-looking ideas might be worth moving forward.
Why video surveys worked
The big advantage was to show people and what they have to say, something that is easy to do with video surveys. Consumers record their responses to questions asked by brands directly in the app, which can then be reviewed by the brand employees.
“People have preconceived ideas of what’s good and what’s bad for consumers,” Maher said. “At this stage I really wanted to show them what it’s like for a normal consumer. Someone who drives in a car and lives a normal life and not someone who works at Faurecia.”
And it did the job. The insights team could show customer feedback directly to product development.
“‘Oh right!’ You get those kind of reactions,” Maher said. “OK, maybe we went a step too far. We aren’t saying it’s a bad idea but maybe we need to take a step-by-step approach.”
In the not-so-distant past, qualitative research wouldn’t have been used this early in a process because of cost and amount of effort in implementation, added Jenn Vogel, vice president of marketing at Voxpopme and host of “Reel Talk.”
“Agile qual is not just about being fast or cheap but about being iterative and this is such a great example of that,” she said. “It’s just at the core of the innovation life cycle.”
“It’s really important to get your ideas in order,” Maher added, citing this lengthy workflow from the past:
Write a brief. Get that approved.
Write the questions. Get those approved.
Send questions to the agency to start the survey.
“Before you actually start a project you need two months,” he said. “And sometimes you may still need to do that, but oftentimes – especially early on – it’s good to get a feel for things.”
Put some hypothesis on paper early and figure out what idea is most likely to succeed – by talking to customers.
How to get the best insights on forward-looking projects
“It definitely has to be an iterative process,” Maher said, adding that Faurecia also uses other types of research – including a mix of qual and quant. “We anchor consumer intelligence at the front of each project to really understand what is going on. Then we ideate from there.”
From there the team moves into the user experience design phase and focuses on trying to create experiences that actually solve consumer tensions. From there, the team goes back and forth with the consumers to see what their reaction is to an improvement.
“It’s user testing – using machines, using interviews, using all possible techniques to keep that intimacy with the consumer going,” Maher said.
“It sounds like you are using a lot of methods,” Jenn said. “How do you decide now is the time for quant or this is the situation where we need a focus group versus a video survey? How do you determine the best method for the objective in front of you?”
It can depend on what internal stakeholders already know and determining what they need to know, Maher said. It also depends on budget.
The method also depends on if you have to show something to stakeholders or customers. For example, with video surveys, the Faurecia team can just show a quick reel highlighting customer feedback in a few moments.
“We know what people think and we’ve done our feedback and we can actually show you,” Maher said. “I would love to use video feedback for that.”
Video surveys are more memorable than PowerPoints
Elisabeth Trawinski, of Reckitt, hasheard that many times: Stories heard directly from customers have a much bigger impact than words on a PowerPoint slide.
Understanding the segments
Customer feedback also can help companies understand what segment a customer falls into.
Functional. Some cars express function. Is this working? Does it do what I need it to do?
Emotional. Some cars express an emotion, Maher explained. That could include feeling in control, save and comfortable.
Choice of interaction. Some cars express the different ways of communication. Think about the on-board touchscreen vs. in-car iPhone screen vs. voice commands vs. gesture.
Without those categories there are also different needs. For example, people who use their cars only to go fishing by themselves or as a couple, that second row of seats isn’t used. It might as well become more storage area for the fishing gear, Maher said.
Personally, I’m not in the fishing audience as I chauffeur kids around while hauling their softball gear.
Of course, that’s why it’s important to understand the different customer segments. Different needs require different product configurations.
“How much personalization do cars need?” Maher said, adding that many cars basically look the same – two seats in the front, more in the back and a trunk. “Could it be any different?”
How do you balance what people are asking for versus what they need?
You have to balance the two, said Maher, but it’s about understanding the specific need.
Makes sense to me: When people asked me years ago if I needed high-definition television, I said: “No, this is fine.” Do I need an iPad Pro? Not necessarily. But both of them solve specific problems and evolved the future of communications. I love watching sporting events on the big-screen HDTV. My iPad Pro allows me to lie on the couch and communicate much easier than was possible just a few years ago. Forget about the rotary phone on the kitchen wall. Producing “Reel Talk” is also much easier on my iPad Pro.
When it comes to the future of communications in cars, Maher said, customers already have a good amount of pain points that Faurecia can focus on.
“We need to keep an eye on the signals from customers, the emerging trends and we need to do that all the time,” Maher said. “We don’t want to miss the boat. If it’s happening we want to be aware of it. Design of the future is about being in-sync with the early adopters.”
Traditionally, people have thought of cars to be able to drive from A to B, from home to work, but there are so many other things to consider now. With the average commute time in the United States being about 30 minutes, people certainly spend a good amount of time in their cars. I couldn’t find any stats regarding driving kids to sport practices and the like, but those are additional hours – easily eight hours or more a week, depending on where games are.
“People use cars for so many different purposes now, you can’t imagine,” he said.
When should we look back for customer feedback?
Certainly we should use the customer insights we have for future development and updates. In-the-moment adjustments to experience are also a good idea to improve customer experience as we discussed here.
Looking at past behaviors is important, Maher said, but keep in mind that it’s still important to track that close to when an interaction occurred.
“Because we started tracking immediately then we have that reflection on the past,” Maher said. “Tracking those behaviors is really key for designing for the future.”
While the future isn’t as clear as it could be at times. One thing is clear: How we communicate will continue to evolve and why not give customers a voice at the table when your team is creating innovative experiences?
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.”
What’s hard about being a disruptive brand?
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?”
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.”
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.
Let’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.”
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.”
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.
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.
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.
Poor 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.
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.
But what we call them can make a difference.
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.
From a customer experience perspective, it comes down to how easy it is for customers to interact with your brand. That can include:
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.
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.
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?
“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.
“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.
“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.”
With 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.”
“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.
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.”
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.”
“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.
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:
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:
The most advanced programs solve for:
share of wallet
customer lifetime value
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.”
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?
“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.”
“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.
“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.
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.”
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?
“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.
“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.
“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.
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
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.