How to nurture a customer-centric culture

A shift has occurred in the market research landscape over the last decade or so. Technology has spurred on this progression, but a change in culture has been equally significant. Vox Pops International have worked alongside many leading brands throughout their journeys to become more customer-centric. Along the way, we have noticed some shared techniques and approaches. This blog takes a look at 4 key steps that are central to developing a more customer-centric culture. But first of all, let’s take a look at why market research is changing.

The Historical Limitations of Market Research

Many of the market research theories and techniques behind today’s customer insight programmes (behavioural analysis, motivational research, attitudinal research, market segmentation and so on,) have been around for decades.

However, due to speed and cost limitations, market research would often be limited to problem solving. Does this packaging work? Is our design eye-catching enough? Is this typeface clear to read? This is a way of developing products or concepts to optimise them for a customer. But the idea or proposal in itself isn’t necessarily a customer-centric one.

“If we want to meet our customer’s needs, we have to understand her… her life, her motivations, her home, her family. The only way we can get that close to the consumer is to bring the consumer to us, via video.”

Unilever – Global CMI

Technology has made research faster, less costly and more accessible

Nowadays, customer insight can be accessed on-demand. Insights are being presented in ever more engaging ways, such as video research. Internal systems have made research accessible not just to the key decision-makers, but everyone across an organisation, from the bottom up. For organisations with this kind of insight infrastructure, customer-centricity may have been somewhat of a natural development. For example…

As customer insight becomes more accessible, engaging and actionable, demand for insight from across a business increases. With higher consumption of insight resources, a shared understanding of the target customer sets in. From this place of understanding, ideas and concepts can begin to be naturally formed from the customer’s perspective. The problems are no longer business problems. The focus is now on solving the customers’ problems.

Believe it or not, this kind of runaway shift in culture has actually taken place within some of the organisations we work with. Hear it from our clients at Sky and Unilever in the video case studies below. It is probably also a bit unfair on these organisations to call this shift in culture a natural development. So how did these leading organisations achieve a significant cultural shift towards customer-centricity? Well, the scenario above can be broken down into 4 key steps…

1. Customer Understanding

The first step to improving customer intimacy is to ensure that staff know the customers that they serve. Not as data, quotes or categories – but as real people. This level of base-understanding is essential as it allows ideas to be formulated around customers, rather than profits. Why? Customer-centric organisations are on average 60% more profitable.

Staff need to be ideating from the customer’s perspective. Of course, research and data should be used to validify ideas (which comes under stage 2), but working from a point of understanding initially will do wonders for improving your success rate.

To embed this level of shared understanding among all of your staff/colleagues, you need to be emotive. People don’t remember dry data or information. People remember stories, a smile, a revelation, a joke. You need to create an emotional response to the information. This will allow the viewer to empathise with your customer, adding ‘the why’, giving context to behaviours and attitudes.

At VPI we specialise in using video.

2. Customer Feedback

The next stage is to make sure that customers’ expectations are actually being met. Staff might have a fantastic understanding of their customers needs and motivations. That doesn’t mean they will always get it right.

It is important to gather customer feedback at different stages throughout any significant decision making process or customer experience. These stages can typically be broken down into pre-action and post-action.

For example, pre-action might involve collecting feedback on design mockups before the launch of a marketing campaign. Similarly, post-action might involve finding out how customers feel about recently adjusted in-store merchandising.

Another common addition is customer experience research, which looks at collecting feedback from customers across an entire customer journey.

People change, consumers are a part of that. This information allows organisations to continue to grow with the needs of their customers.

3. Insight Engagement

How insights are communicated is at least as important as the quality of the insights themselves. This is perhaps a controversial phrase in the world of market research. Ultimately, though, the greatest insight in the world will make no difference whatsoever if nobody engages with it. Making insights engaging and concise helps staff incorporate consumer insights into their own day-to-day lives with more ease and enthusiasm.

Video is a fantastic way to improve insight engagement among your colleagues. However, we also understand that video can’t be used for every research project. Not only would this require very large research budgets and lots of human resources to manage, but the lack of variety would also likely decrease insight engagement if video was your only tool in the box.

This stage is about creativity. Use the appropriate style of video for your significant research projects and for specific objectives. When video isn’t possible, try to keep it exciting and engaging. Some interesting approaches taken by our clients include:

  • ‘Meet the customer sessions’ where staff are invited to interact directly with customers at dinner events or days out.
  • Interactive, in-office experiences, where customer insight based infographics, posters, quotes (right the way through to VR headsets) are installed for staff to engage with.
  • In-person or online games such as ‘Consumer Guess Who’.
  • Customer pen profiles and illustrations.
  • Written customer storytelling where short anecdotes are shared on a regular basis.
  • Dramatised in-office productions involving acted out scenarios.

4. Customer Presence

If insight engagement is about creativity of insights, customer presence is about consistency.
To really make an impact on the way your business runs, you need to promote the voice of the customer as if you were a marketing department. Place portraits of your customers around your office. Post regular video content on your internal systems. Tell interesting stories. Create infographics. Make it impossible for your colleagues not to interact with insight on a daily basis.

One key factor here is ease of access. Staff should be able to quickly and easily find insights to shape their thinking on any manner of topics. Adding resources to an overcrowded and poorly organised shared drive isn’t good enough. Insights should be searchable, filterable, categorised and readily available at the click of a button.

Vox Pops International have helped clients such as Unilever, Just Eat and Highways England overcome this problem by creating interactive insight channels or video portals. This is a great way to publish insights onto a ‘1-stop-shop’ where your colleagues can go to quickly and easily access the insights they need.

In Summary

  1. Increase the base level of customer understanding shared by staff to allow for customer-centric ideation.
  2. Collect customer feedback to make sure your customers’ expectations are actually being met.
  3. Present your insights creatively to increase engagement and demand.
  4. Make it impossible for your colleagues to do anything without being confronted by the needs of your customers.

For more information on how you can achieve this using video as a tool, download our Free E-book: A Guide To Video Research.

If you have a research project on the horizon and you’d like to incorporate video or create your own insight channel, get in touch to speak with one of the VPI team.

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