Countless brands talk about customer centricity as being a part of their culture, and that trend is growing. Forrester predicts that the number of customer experience (CX) executives will grow by 25% in 2020 as “CX initiatives move out of the experimental phase and prove their contributions to top- and bottom-line growth.”
However, Forrester continues, many will “find themselves in a tenuous position” if they fail to reach new levels of influence among customers. Many do struggle with operationalizing the actions necessary to realize this goal across their organization. Brands must create new habits among teams and stakeholders by regularly connecting with consumers for deeper insights.
Adapt Business Processes to Include Customer Conversations
Central to the success of any new product is how well it addresses a consumer need. Often, innovation teams have served as “voice of the customer” champions within their organizations. However, this has meant that inviting consumers into the process tends to be limited to the early ideation stages of new product development, rather than incorporated into everyday best practices.
“Organizations [often] mirror their in-house processes towards the customer without regard to whether this makes sense for the customer,” says Deloitte. “You can become better at designing experiences by adopting a customer mindset. Apply curiosity and empathy to understand what your customer really wants and use creativity to reimagine the experience.”
Regular, democratized access to consumers can empower innovation leads, researchers, marketers, brand managers, and all stakeholders in the brand’s success. Deloitte recommends that brands “execute some of the research yourself, preferably when talking with and listening to real customers. This is where you will get the most interesting insights and get into the skin of the customer.” A regular, repeatable process for engaging consumers and developing a greater understanding of consumers’ needs in this way enables the organization to build and deliver better, more successful products and customer experiences.
A Platform That Makes It Easier to Form These Good Habits
But how can brands achieve this practically and at scale; and how can they embed the process as a habit in the way all teams approach their daily activities? Without a practical platform to enable consumer conversations, interactions with consumers are often compartmentalized—they are not practical or affordable at scale, nor could stakeholders access the results for further analysis and activation.
Fortunately, such a platform exists. Discuss.io empowers both trained researchers and other stakeholders to access consumers for ad hoc, spontaneous conversations. Using live video, Discuss.io is fast and easy for consumers to access for conversations in their own environments, no matter where they are in the world.
Start by Understanding the Power of Habit
Brands must harness such tools to institutionalize the practice of having stakeholders regularly connect and talk with customers. But how can leaders ensure regular consumer engagement becomes a central part of their marketing and innovation habits?
In his book The Power of Habit, Pulitzer-Prize winning reporter Charles Duhigg says that there are three main components to habit formation: cue, routine, and reward. He described these phenomena in an interview with Harvard Business Review:
There’s a cue, which is like a trigger for the behavior to start unfolding; a routine, which is the habit itself, the behavior, the automatic sort of doing what you do when you do a habit; and then at the end, there’s a reward. And the reward is how our neurology learns to encode this pattern for the future . . . Most people, when they think about habits, they focus on the behavior or the routine. But what we’ve learned is that it’s the cue and the reward that really determine why a habit unfolds.
The routine, in this case, is speaking with consumers on a regular basis. At Discuss.io, we have seen firsthand how companies can successfully cue these essential conversations. Some teams mandate consumer conversations before strategic meetings to better inform their decisions. One vice president schedules regionally appropriate conversations before traveling abroad to build his comprehension of that culture. Others regularly and proactively schedule consumer conversations for all their team members.
As consumer conversations become a habit among brands’ stakeholder teams, they become a natural part of business processes. Once champions and advocates perceive and socialize their value throughout the organization, routine can take hold. The reward? Deeper consumer understanding and the discovery of key insights, which can inform decision-making and result in better products, improved consumer experiences, and more successful marketing.
Jim Longo is the VP of Research Solutions at Discuss.io, a consumer-connection platform for market research. He brings over 25 years of domain expertise in the market research industry. Jim is considered a thought leader with regards to online behavior and market research technology. He has consulted with brands and research agencies around the world on how to have insightful online conversations and was instrumental in building the first global online qualitative research practice at Harris Interactive (acquired by Nielsen). There, he led a team that conducted more than one thousand online groups in the first three years of its existence.