- On January 23, 2020
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Wonderflow – the customer feedback solution that turns the Voice of the Customer into actionable insights – recently did an interview with me, as part of a series that aims to inspire and aid true customer-centricity. The series looks to highlight the implementation and integration of customer experience and the voice of the customer in different sectors and industries.
How has marketing evolved in the last decade? What are the main differences compared to today?
If we go back to 2009 when I was still at Procter and Gamble, it was an interesting time because we were looking at how to approach the new marketing mix social media and eCommerce opportunities.
Of course, as with anything new, we were immediately questioning the potential ROIs, and wondering whether we had to embrace these new channels and to follow the trend. And, as I look back on the last ten years, obviously a lot has changed – the conversation has changed. Today, companies must have a more sophisticated marketing mix, where digital is not just about the digital channels but the technology that enables them.
For example, mobile devices have entered our everyday lives, retailers and our shops. Marketing has completely transformed from having a few channels to now having a multitude of them – and they require companies to do more than ever before to be more consumer-centric.
Marketers now have a real challenge on their hands – how can they cope with so many new channels and technologies and adopt approaches to marketing that are increasingly data-driven, and less and less about gut feeling? At the same time, though, they have to work on brand building, brand awareness and brand relevance, as companies are no longer challenged by the multinational usual suspects but by new startups and digital-native brands.
Marketers therefore have to juggle quite a few balls in building consumer-centric brands through lots of channels and technologies. It’s certainly a more complex landscape than it was 10 years ago.
Is customer feedback a big part of marketing for companies today?
I am a big advocate of customer feedback as a key part of a truly consumer-centric mentality in business.
However, a lot of companies out there are still product-driven. They think of customers as a consequence of doing a good job of selling. While this is still critical, of course, it’s vital to make customers part of the conversation.
You need to listen to customer feedback; and not just make this a marketing function but something that every department in the business becomes part of.
“When Elon Musk tweeted to ask his audience which features they’d like to see in the new Tesla Cybertruck, he received 26,000 responses offering suggestions – how about that for consumer R&D and consumer-driven product creation?”
Do you think customer feedback analysis is relevant in B2B marketing?
Absolutely. The beauty of B2B is that you have a buyer and many users, allowing you to see how people are using your products, solutions and services.
Their feedback is extremely valuable because these people are using your product to do their job better, be more productive, sell more, be more efficient or to produce something new. All of which has a direct and very measurable impact.
As a matter a fact, it gives product and service providers an invaluable source of insight that can be used for R&D for sales and marketing after-sales customer services to help anticipate potential problems and turn them into opportunities.
What are the biggest challenges B2B marketing is facing?
B2B has been seen by marketers as the ‘unwanted child’. I think this is changing because B2B marketing – thanks to digitalization, digital channels and technology – has become far more sophisticated.
If you do a good job, you can follow the interaction of potential customers from the very beginning of the journey; and see how your content, sales, and customer service are impacting your customer.
I see an opportunity for B2B companies that are serving businesses to place marketing in a more central role. They could truly embrace technology-driven modern marketing techniques while still retaining strong account-based marketing. But they could also leverage the opportunity to adopt a more B2C approach by building brand and reputation through listening more attentively to the customer, talking to them and putting them at the centre of the marketing mix.
A B2B buyer is not just a customer when he is buying the product or service, but also beforehand, when doing their research on what to purchase; and also after buying the product or service and when considering repurchase later down the line.
Do you believe that customer-centricity is the way forward for today’s companies?
Clearly, customer-centricity is a way of building products and services with the consumer in mind; and we are shifting towards an experiential society where people are looking for great experiences.
We need to build products and services that are based on the consumer journey. Therefore, customer-centricity has to be central to any successful marketing activity.
As a marketing expert, you see companies getting more and more interested in customer feedback, but what should they really do to become customer-centric? Can customer feedback be risky for a company?
If a company is transparent and honest, there is no risk, as even negative feedback is positive – it can help a company improve. Of course, if you are not transparent or honest and are hiding something, you might not want feedback because it may expose you.
The challenge with being customer-centric is that you have to be more strategic.
If you are a product-driven company where everything relates to shipping out products, it’s hard to make a shift to becoming consumer-centric because it changes how you operate. So, shifting a company’s mentality to becoming more consumer or customer-centric is a C-level decision. Doing that takes an understanding of how the market is shifting and a willingness to embrace the journey, as getting everybody on board to change the management process is not a short-term thing.
It is common in some industries for feedback not to be widely used, resulting in some companies struggling to get people to provide feedback. What do you think the problem is here – feedback collection or analysis? Culture?
I think it is even bigger than that – I think, again, that it is a lack of understanding of the customer journey. A company must understand what consumers are doing at each stage of the journey – starting from discovery to making up their mind about what kind of product or service they want to purchase; and from experiencing the product, to recommendation, to repurchase.
If companies haven’t done their job in designing and understanding the journey, they don’t know the stage at which customers might perhaps be willing to talk to the company in the form of feedback. Therefore, they are not ready to listen or are not open to listening. I have seen companies that are not even looking into the wealth of knowledge that is stored in ratings and reviews in the eCommerce platform.
I don’t think it is down to the lack of a feedback culture but to a broader lack of a culture that tells them to follow the consumer along the journey and recognize that, at some point, people are ready to leave feedback – feedback that can be harvested and analyzed. At a later stage, those insights can be used to improve the customer journey.
What is the best way to collect customer feedback? In the interview we conducted with Joost Niepoth, he spoke about how a lot of companies are doing it really badly with consumers by intimidating them. For instance, when they click a button and suddenly receive a survey in their inbox. Is there a better way to collect feedback than doing surveys and similar tactics?
I think feedback is something that’s not necessarily liked by customers: alright, let me put aside fifteen minutes to answer a survey or questionnaire, or whatever it is. Because that is not natural.
I think a better way of doing it is to fragment requests for feedback along the journey. And if that means that at some point you are asking only one question and you have consumers answering that question – via email webform, Messenger, WhatsApp or another chat tool – then so be it.
Whatever feedback channel they prefer, the question must catch them at the right time and be very specifically relevant to them. For example, if I am receiving a product at home, and it’s a simple question that is relevant and related to the product when it arrives safely. And then you might – depending on the type of product – have another question relating to the experience of using it for the first time. Then a third – relevant – question later on.
Fragmentation of feedback is one way. Another way is to just make it a survey that’s easy for the user to contribute to: “Can you make it a multitude of tools that simplify and make it easy for me? Can I take the survey while I’m on the bus or metro? And I can do it on Whatsapp?”
Given the volume of reviews and feedback companies could potentially receive, how often should you be analysing it?
Given that it depends on the product and the usage frequency of the product as well, I think that, more than how often feedback should be reviewed, it’s a question of how to integrate insights generated from feedback into business operations.
So, for example, if I am working on the development of a new product or service, there will be stages when it is best to take a deep dive into the collection of insights specific to product or service development. If I am in the after-sales and customer support team, I probably need to have a regular look at that feedback because they might reveal hidden information or insights from customers I have just sold products to. If I am in marketing, I might time it in relation to a campaign’s communication content calendar.
So, I don’t think that there is a one-size-fits-all answer as to when feedback should be reviewed, but rather you should adapt to it according to your role within the company.
This interview first appeared on Wonderflow and is reproduced here with their kind permission.
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