Roy's Blog: July 2009

July 18, 2009

Unforgettable marketing practice - institutionalize customer learning

Every organization covets a competitive advantage.

The old adage “knowledge is power” has a specific application in an environment where competition is fierce, economic shifts dramatic and unpredictable and where customer wants and desires are changing relentlessly.

Most organizations employ market research as the tool for discovering the mood and needs of customer groups; the studies are typically performed by an external firm and are done periodically.

Market research has two limitations.

First, the fact that it is done periodically means that the rapid pace of changing needs could put organizations out of touch with what the current priorities are for the customer. What people desire today are likely different from what they yearned for yesterday.

Second, being outsourced to 3rd party contractors puts the management of customer knowledge outside the organization, and the understanding and application of it in the hands of a few employees. Marketing receives the customer data and decides what it means to their marketing programs.

A new research model is needed; one that leverages the gathering of customer insights “on the run” into being a core competency of an organization that is unmatched by others.

A core competency that applies the continuous stream of changing customer needs discovered to create solutions and experiences for the customer that others simply are unable to do.

Customer learning is done “every moment” and it is done by employees or technology.

The idea is that every time a customer “touches” the organization, it represents an opportunity to learn something about them. Insights are gathered from the engagement and are stored in a repository that can be used by marketing, customer service and any other organizational function that could use information to enrich the customer experience.

And the scope of customer learning is to look at the customer holistically. What is the person (not the product) all about? What life interests and desires do they have? How do they change over time? This applies equally to a businesses as it does to a consumer. The business issues could involve matters such as their competitive challenges, cash flow problems, employee engagement objectives and literally anything where a willing partner could help.

What are the sources of learning?

Call centers and credit and collections. Every customer contact individual is a source to discover customer insights. And pay particular attention to customer complaints. Dealing with complaining customers may not rank #1 on the rewarding experience scale, but they can, if listened to closely, produce useful information on how you can better serve your customers.

Call Center rep

Use your imagination here. Any customer touch point can yield productive learning if you consider it as a strategic learning opportunity rather than just another customer contact. The real issue is whether or not you engineer the contact to produce the maximum amount of learning

Design your web site to make it easy for visitors to provide “personal” information.

Invest in using social media to listen to and engage with people. But don’t just respond to a comment made on your organization, go further; engage and learn something (and save it) about the @person posting it.

If you’re not learning about your customers in real time, you’re missing an opportunity to serve them better and to standout from your competition.

Cheers,
Roy
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