Here at StratX ExL, we use experiential learning to develop customer centricity for Fortune 500 Companies. In this article, we shine the spotlight on notable B2C and B2B companies who prove that getting into the mind of the customer really is valuable for business.
What is customer insight and how is it useful?
Customer insight activities may seem quite simplistic on the outside, even obvious to some, but the art of learning to listen to your audience and responding effectively is not as straightforward as many brands would like. Many companies have so much self-belief in their products and services that they fail to tune in their ears to what their customers and the market is saying.
Acknowledging their audience, learning their tastes, values, opinions, and feelings, can help a business unlock massive opportunities. Here are some examples of organizations who have done exactly that.
B2C Example: Netflix
Customer-centric behaviour doesn’t require spreadsheets, surveys, and laboratory testing, in fact, it can be much simpler than that. Take Netflix for example, most of us have a login, either our own, or someone else’s, and each time we engage with Netflix, it learns us better, and can recommend shows that we are more likely to enjoy. This is no accident, it’s a customer-centric algorithm.
Personalization is key to tech, it’s why Amazon suggests related items when you’re making a purchase, and why Instagram prioritizes posts and stories from people it learns that you’re more interested or involved with. Machine learning allows businesses to use a tool to do the hard, data-driven customer research work for them, and build up a profile of the customer so that the product or service can be unique to them.
When you watch a trailer, finish a series, vote up or down, add to your list, or stop watching a movie after 10 minutes, it is learning about you as a user and a customer, so that it can improve its recommendation service. If Netflix had never learned or applied this approach, we might still be ordering series and movies to this day.
It’s thought that Netflix’s ‘customer obsession’ is rooted in their corporate culture thanks to former VP of Product, Gibson Biddle, who outlined five aspects of their approach:
- ‘Test and learn’ via consumer science
- Invent and deliver on unanticipated, future needs
- Aspire to long-term customer delight
- Pioneer new frontiers, with less competition
- Lead with customer delight, ensure work is hard-to-copy, higher margins will follow
B2B Example: IBM
IBM, which makes computers and IT technology for business, has become a market leader for all things tech, including cloud storage and hardware. It has been in the top 5 global B2B companies for many years, and has enjoyed healthy profits for even longer.
One of the ways they reached and stayed at the top was by listening to customer insights and using their knowledge of the customer journey to mould their B2B services. To do this, they hired customer-facing specialists who would pinpoint every detail of the customer experience. At IBM, new business accounts are given a team of specialists to work with to ease the integration process and help the customer optimise their product usage. This work improves engagement with the product, and customers who engage, often renew.
IBM has a system which involves working closely with their repeat customers to solve their unique problems, and in many cases, using this as an opportunity to upsell to a better and newer product. The loyal customers do upgrade, and thus do the profits. By listening and engaging with customers, their profits grow every year.
B2B Example: FedEx
You might know FedEx best for their private courier service, but it’s actually predominantly a B2B company, offering delivery and shipping services to countless business customers on a daily basis. Thanks to their customer-centric approach, they are regularly mentioned as one of the best, most successful, and most trusted brands in the world.
Owing to transparency, great communication, and providing excellent customer experiences in everything they do, they’ve grown a loyal customer base. By making sure to always follow up and resolve issues and respond to feedback as fast as possible (hours and days rather than weeks) they are able to see retention figures increase.
One case study from FedEx talks about how they experienced the problem of too many cooks spoiling the broth, with five agencies all working together to create their newsletter. They also experienced kickbacks from customers about their 13 emails per month, none of which related to their account or needs. So, what did they do? They learned from their experience and started again from scratch, making sure their communications reflected the needs and opinions of their audience. In this case, the opinion was that less is more when it comes to emails.
How did they use customer insight to design the new system? They brought in a Manager of Content Strategy who would build a customer-centric newsletter system. Content output was slashed by three quarters. Five teams were reduced to two. The whole internal marketing department became involved, using their interactions with customers to inspire ideas. The vision became aligned, and suddenly the newsletters started to convert more, receive more revenue, and cost less.
B2B Example: Qumulo
Finally, we have Qumulo, a Seattle-based data storage company who has proven the benefits of taking extra care when it comes to understanding customer experience. Their ethos is that by listening to the feedback and suggestions of their customer, they can create a customer journey that feels unique and personalised. Through some clever tricks and tools, they are able to create a purchasing experience that is ever-evolving and learning from what the community is saying.
Qumulo’s Director of Customer Success (the existence of this position itself signifying good thing) Chris Lisica, was quoted as saying “Ask your customers what they want and then give it to them”.
So, how did they give it to them?
- Knowledge Base: They made a bank of hundreds of resources and articles around their products, answering any and every question that could come up with, guiding users through all processes
- Code: Building a like-minded community that could help each other out, including sharing open-source code on GitHub
- Qumulo Care: Offering a support case ticket system, so that users could really describe their issue in detail and wait for actionable steps to resolve it
- Customer Stories: They share all of their best case studies and stories to show how their services work in a real application
Did it work? You can bet it did. In July 2020, their valuation exceeded $1bn for the first time.
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