5 Steps for Driving Sales with Customer Insights

5 Steps for Driving Sales with Customer Insights

Thanks to Cvent for their white paper “5 Steps to Driving Sales with Customer Insights” (http://bit.ly/neiBFC).

Proven strategies to ensure the success of your voice of the customer (VOC) program: 1) identifies what matters most to customers; 2) facilitates better business decision-making; and, 3) drives revenue.

  1. Set the stage.  Start with clear goals and objectives.  Get senior management agreement on the importance of obtaining and addressing  customer insights.  Empower employees to obtain and access customer insights.  By giving employees access to VOC results, you integrate and embed insights into the organization’s culture.  We did this in my company and the kudos the sales force received, as well as the consumer insights we obtained, were invaluable.  By asking employees to provide VOC feedback, you’re telling reinforcing the importance of VOC to your employees.
  2. Don’t be afraid to ask.  Many companies avoid implementing VOC programs because they want to avoid complaints.  Negative feedback is the most valuable insight.  Being told the organization is already awesome doesn’t drive innovation or change; however, it can reinforce positive behaviors like providing outstanding customer service.  Eighty percent of customers want to give feedback but less than 50% of organizations listen.  Would you rather your customers tell you about a problem or a way to improve, or tell their friends?  If customers don’t give you negative feedback, how will you know a problem needs to be addressed?
  3. Listen actively.  Integrate CRM and survey systems so you have a comprehensive look at customer satisfaction.  By integrating feedback from web-based surveys, transactional data from your CRM and case information from CSRs, a company can perform more in-depth analysis to uncover valuable consumer insights.  Create an FAQ for any question that is asked more than once to enable your customers to find answers for themselves.  By the way, the answers to these questions also make great blog topics.
  4. Measure your efforts.  Even the most eye-opening feedback means very little if it cannot be tied to financial gains.  Organizations need to link key feedback metrics to financial goals in order to have an impact on the organization’s growth and success.  We tracked our Net Promoter Score (NPS) with all of our other KPI’s.
  5. Act fast.  In today’s highly competitive global economy, organizations need to act fast, revise strategies, create timely marketing campaigns and respond quickly to changes in market trends and consumer preferences.  Monitoring feedback from VOC initiatives allows you to do this.  Real time monitoring and alerts help organizations capitalize on customer opinion shifts and stay ahead of the competition.

If VOC programs focus strictly on customer satisfaction, they can overlook insights into customers’ preferences.  We had two open-ended questions that gave respondents the opportunity to tell us what else was on their mind regarding how we could improve the products and services we’re delivering.

What are you doing to create a dialogue with your customer and obtain customer insights?

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8 Steps to Become a Better Listener

Consumer insights on listening

The following suggestions are provided by David Grossman of The Grossman Group.

Listening is a skill all of us can work on.  It’s also imperative in order to get better insights from employees and customers.


How to Listen So Your Employees, and Consumers, Talk

  1. Approach each dialogue with the goal to learn something. Think, “This person can teach me something.”

  2.  Stop talking and focus closely on the speaker. Suppress the urge to multitask or think about what you are going to say next.
  3. Open and guide the conversation with broad,open-ended questions such as “How do you envision…”or “Help me understand how you’re thinking about this.”
  4. Then, drill down to the details, where needed, by asking direct, specific questions that focus the conversation, such as “Tell me more about…,” “How would this work?”or “What challenges might we face?”
  5. Pay attention to your responses. Be aware of your body language and recognize that the way you respond to a question will facilitate further dialogue or limit what’s discussed by shutting someone down. Purposefully let someone know you’re listening and want to hear more from them through positive body or other verbal cues.  Doing so will encourage them to open up and tell you even more.
  6. Summarize what you’re hearing and ask questions to confirm your understanding, such as “Here’s what I hear you saying…” or “Let me summarize what I’m hearing…”
  7. Listen for total meaning. Recognize that, in addition to what is being said, the real message may be non-verbal; consider what’s not being said as critical to the message, too.
  8. I always like to end the conversation with a final open-ended question, “Is their anything else we may have missed that will add to or clarify our discussion?

Listening is a great way to empower your employees, as well as your consumers.

In the end, the goal is to better understand where someone is coming from, and get the information you need to take the next step and/or make a smart decision.

Which of these steps gets in your way most?

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How To Save 40% of Your Corporate ID Collateral Spend

Consumer insights on saving money

When I joined a professional services firm as their director of corporate marketing, I began collecting the business cards of the different consultants and investment bankers I met.

Something was wrong, very wrong to someone for whom brand identity is critical.  The business cards looked different — not drastically different but they didn’t make the company look very professional and all of the brand elements weren’t consistent.

It turns out the cards were printed by several different printers.  While all the printers tried to follow a template, each one was off in one way or another.

I proceeded to inventory all letterhead, envelopes, report covers and any other corporate identity materials the firm was using to promote itself or to communicate with customers and prospects.

I then determined the average amount of each piece that was used in a year and developed an RFP that I sent to seven printers.

When one of the administrative professionals in our Denver office heard what I was in the process of doing, she called to ask me if I was including Imperial Printing in my RFP.

I had never heard of Imperial Printing, they were four hours away in Charlotte.

Net, net, they came in 40% less than my next lowest bidder.  I checked references and they got rave reviews from their customers.

The best quote from a longtime customer was, “Stu has learned how to make money printing business cards.”  Boy had he.

I ended up saving my employer more than $150,000 over the course of three years.

How much are you spending on your corporate identity materials?

How would you like to save 40%?

Imperial Printing was purchased by ImageMark, they knew a good thing when they found it.

Ask for Gary Smith when you call.  He’s not a relative and he’s very responsive and reliable.

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Consumer Insights on Doing More With Your Brand

Consumer insights on doing more with your business

In Nancy Lublin’s new book “Zilch,” she suggests asking the following questions to make your brand strong, better and more authentic to customers.

Here you go:

1. If your brand were a car, what kind of car would it be? What color? Old, new, used? What price point? Would everyone in the company have a similar answer?

2. Can you describe your brand as the first, the only, faster, better or cheaper?  If not, you’re toast.

3. Who is your brand relevant to?  Describe him or her in as much detail as possible.  How old is he?  How does she spend her day?  Her nights?  Weekends?

4. Ask your office manager, your receptionist, and your cafeteria serving staff  to describe your company in one sentence.  Those people are your frontline soldiers who hear and see every department, at every level.  Really listen to how they answer the question.

5. When was the last time members of various work teams, at diverse levels of the company, spend more than two hours together just looking at data and talking about the brand — without a specific brainstorm topic on the table?

6. Who are your five most visible partners?  What do you think your target market thinks of them?

7. Do you have standards for selecting partners?  Are they based on multiple elements or just on price?  Size?  Convenience?

8. How does your mom or husband or child describe the company where you work?  Is it a more simple and accurate description than the one you’ve been instructed to recite?

9. Do you have written brand guidelines for your company?  A booklet?  A one-page memo?  An e-mail that was sent “to all” last year?  Who wrote it?  How was it put together?

10. Are there words that are nevers  for your brand?  (For example, in soccer you never use your hands unless you are the goalie.)  Do you have banned words?  Should you?

11. What does the data say?  When was the last time you asked yourself this question?

A lot of executives may see these questions as being “soft.”  I find that these executives are the same ones that either don’t understand or value the importance of differentiation.  The answers to these questions will help you differentiate your brand or understand how your customer differentiates your brand in their “considered set.”

How can you strengthen your brand?

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5 Ways to Improve Innovation

Consumer insights on ideas and innovation

Great insights, and suggestions, from Albert Lee, New York office head at Ideo, in the February edition of Fast Company.

In a discussion of ideas and innovation Albert shared five “lessons learned” at Ideo.  Here are his suggestions and my translation for any business marketer:

  1. “Get you hands dirty.”  Walk in your customers’ and prospects’ shoes.  Understand the user experience from their perspective and learn what you can do to improve upon it.  Ask your best customers what you can do better.  I once rode in a Class 8 truck from Ogden, Utah to Greensboro, North Carolina interviewing truck drivers along the way.  When the ride was over, we had key insights that drastically improved our marketing plan and saved my client a ton of potentially wasted marketing dollars.
  2. “Expand your competitive set.”  Don’t rely on your own definition of competitors, rely on your customers’ definitions.  Understand how your customers use your product or service and why versus who they define as your competitors.  Doing so will help you see who or what may be an opportunity for you to expand your product or service offering.
  3. “Cross-pollinate.”  Having worked with more than 80 clients in 18 different vertical industries, I’ve seen how problems experienced by telecommunications can be solved by solutions used in airlines, likewise how something you learn marketing Rolaids can be applied to Volvo Trucks.  People who have only worked in one industry are working with blinders when it comes to ideas and innovation.
  4. “Bring in fresh eyes.”  Good ideas, fresh ideas can come from anyone in your company — particularly those employees who are interacting with your customers every day.  You will benefit by empowering your employees to help you improve and innovate your product, service and customer experience.
  5. “Be quick to prototype.”  Make mistakes early and often, just don’t make the same mistake twice.  Test everything.  Keep what works and then keep trying to improve upon it.

What steps are you taking to improve ideas and innovation in your firm?

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LinkedIn For Sourcing and Savings

Consumer insights on being "nice"

As my former employer was reducing overhead, they asked me, the director of marketing, to take over responsibilities for operations as well.  This included procurement.

First up was the contract with our telecommunications provider — phone and internet.  Having two different providers there was certainly an opportunity to save by bundling the services.

I posted a query to the local LinkedIn business executives group that I was a member of and received between 15 and 20 recommendations on firms to consider.  I submitted an RFP to the top three and selected one which saved the company about $350/month.

Next up was the lease on the multi-purpose copier.  Same scenario, same result.  Similar savings.

My former employer manufactured wastewater treatment systems imported from Ireland.  I needed to find a resource who could assemble fiberglass tanks in the U.S. since it is much less expensive to ship unassembled tanks — less air.

I joined a fiberglass group on LinkedIn, monitored the conversation for a couple of weeks and then posted my query for a fiberglass assembler and found one within 90 miles of our facility with very competitive rates.

The most unusual, and successful, sourcing opportunity was for spent mussel shells.  My employer had developed an odor control technology in which the calcium carbonate in spent oyster, quahog and mussel shells was used to neutralize the rotten egg (hydrogen sulfide) smell in waste air streams.

The technology was selling so well in Europe that the supply of mussel shells from Denmark would not be able to meet the projected needs in the U.S.  As such, I joined a group of seafood professionals on LinkedIn and found people in China, New Zealand, Germany, Canada and Illinois with mussel shells.

Ultimately, the source in New Zealand had the best quality shells for a lower price than we were able to buy and ship them from Denmark and Ireland.

I later learned from my boss in Ireland that the 10 person procurement group at my parent company had been looking for alternate sources of mussel shells for more than three years.  LinkedIn provided several sources in less than three weeks.

How have you used LinkedIn to improve your business performance?

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People As The 5th P

Consumer insights on dialogue

Interesting points made in an article by Brian Solis, principal analyst at Altimeter Group, in the January edition of Marketing News.

“Understanding the needs and expectations of people inspires an important element often missing in day-to-day business strategy — empathy.”

It’s difficult, if not impossible, to get empathy from data and analytics.  Empathy comes from talking to customers and prospects to determine what their needs and wants are and why.

This requires a dialogue — in-person, on the phone, via email or social media.  This dialogue allows the marketer, or any employee for that matter, to ask a very important question — why?

You may have to ask a respondent “why” four or five times to get to the emotional driver behind their needs, their wants and their decisions.

Once you understand the emotional connection a consumer has, or wants to have with a product, service or brand, you can begin to deliver that emotional connection.  However, it must be done with humans, not data.

What are you doing to understand the emotional drivers of your customers and prospects?

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2012 in review

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2012 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

4,329 films were submitted to the 2012 Cannes Film Festival. This blog had 28,000 views in 2012. If each view were a film, this blog would power 6 Film Festivals

Click here to see the complete report.

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13 Behavioral Interview Questions

Consumer insights on behavioral interview questions

After being laid off due to the poor Irish economy, I’m back in “job search” mode looking for my next opportunity.

At a recent networking meeting, the topic of behavioral interview questions was raised.

Given that I’ve just been through an interview that involved behavioral interview questions, I’m sharing the questions so that others may prepare for interviews with similar questions.

The key to answering any behavioral interview question is to think through your answer, like you are writing a case study, before you begin speaking: 1) describe the situation; 2) describe the action(s) you took; and, 3) describe the result(s).  For simplicity sake, I combine the situation and task from the STAR technique in the opening graphic.

Following are the questions I received:

Tell me about a time when you(r)  . . .

  • Facilitated change
  • Had to overcome problems or difficulties in a business situation
  • Core values were challenged
  • Had to manage conflict with a co-worker
  • Had to motivate others in a difficult a situation
  • Had to challenge established procedures/processes
  • Had to involve others in making a decision
  • Had to objectively consider others’ ideas
  • Were not able to handle a new task
  • Had the opportunity to coach others
  • Had to adjust to a company reorganization
  • Had to make a split-second decision
  • Had to describe how to position a product for sale

What other behavioral interview questions have you received from which others may benefit by knowing, and preparing for, in advance?

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How Can Companies Emotionally Connect with Customers?

Consumer insights on emotional connection with customers

I noticed this topic just came up as a search term on my blog.

I have several suggestions:

  1. Treat your customers like they matter to you.  I had been a DirecTV customer for 15 years and pleaded with their CSRs and sent emails to their customer service department asking if there was anything they could do to help me get high-definition TV.  Nothing.  Now I get a 34 question survey about why I left DirecTV and my wife received a call telling us about high-definition solutions, after we moved to AT&T Uverse.  Either DirecTV didn’t care about me as a customer or their internal communications are so siloed, they need to be blown up.
  2. Have a dialogue with your customers.  DO NOT rely on “big data” to tell you what your customers need, want, are thinking or how emotionally involved they are with your brand.  After reaching out and complaining about reciprocity, Chipotle’s director of social media has done a good job of listening to, and responding to me, as a real person.  They know why I’m loyal to them and eat their food five days a week.
  3. Tell your customers what they can do to help you.  Customers that are “raving fans” want to see you be successful and want to help you be successful.  Figure out a way for your customers to help you.  I’ve done this with numerous blog posts, Facebook posts, Yelp reviews and Google+ reviews for Chipotle and Atlantic Avenue Tire.  Please tell me what else I can do.
  4. Address negative feedback directly, quickly and publicly.  In this day of social media, a “detractor” can really damage your brand.  As such, you need to address their concerns.  I suggest you reach out publicly on the same channel in which the complaint is made and then take the discussion and resolution offline via telephone, email or face-to-face if possible.  Your brand advocates will support you in social media and assuage any concerns raised by the detractor.  Your ultimate goal is to address the needs/complaints of the detractor in a way that they become a “promoter.”  There’s a lot of research showing that customers whose complaints are resolved become more loyal and profitable than those customers who never complain.

In summary, be real, be responsive and be reliable to emotionally connect with customers.

What other suggestions do you have for emotionally connecting with customers?

Note:  Please let me know if I can be of assistance to your, or your firm, with regards to connecting emotionally with your customers.

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