At The Customer Closeness Company we believe that in today’s world you need to put customers at the centre of everything that you do in order to stay competitive. But we also believe that at the centre of the business alongside that consideration of customers needs to be a clear understanding of the company’s purpose.
Much of the work we do is focused on spreading consumer understanding beyond the Insight department so that everyone in the business has strong customer instinct on which to base their business decisions.
Unlike ad hoc research projects which tend to have a narrow focus relating to the issue they are trying to address, many ‘customer instinct’ building activities are more general in focus e.g. What do consumers want in this market? Who meets their needs well? Who doesn’t? What are their perceptions of us? How could we improve?
Customers are only too ready to open up and tell you what they expect and desire from organisations. And it’s fabulous to be able to get that type of insight live and direct. The challenge is that different customers want different things, and staff are often left convinced they need somehow to create an offer which is all things to all people.
You only have to watch Gordon Ramsay in Hell’s Kitchen once to know that’s not a recipe for success. Soaring costs, an over-complicated offer, half-baked products, slow service and complaining customers result. So how do you help staff prioritise what they hear?
This is where sense of self is critical. Having your brand’s purpose in consumers’ lives clear and present in the company culture helps staff to filter what they hear. It’s less about the general ‘what do consumers want?’ and more about ‘we’re about being the cheapest/most exciting/most trusted brand in this market. What is the most compelling form of ‘cheap/excitement/trust’ we can deliver?
Here's an example of what I'm talking about in practice... Nissan invited Nissan owners from the UK, France, Spain, Portugal and Germany to a gathering of their top 250 European managers in Lisbon.
The aim? To hear first hand what those owners thought of the Nissan customer experience.
Nissan’ purpose is to be the no 1 trusted Asian brand in Europe who make ‘innovation and excitement accessible to everyone’. Whilst Nissan owners had wide-ranging views and experiences to share, staff were particularly listening for evidence of and clues to strengthen how they deliver trust, innovation and excitement for drivers with all types of driving needs and budgets.
In Customer Closeness activity, lots of time is invested in finding consumers with the right profile and the right attitudes and behaviours to have rich and interesting conversations. We would argue that more time needs to be invested inside the organisation when scoping the activity and briefing staff to ensure that everyone is clear on how they should be listening to what they hear. Often, the key to clarity is counter-intuitive – businesses need to know who they are themselves if they are to get true value out of knowing who their customers are too.