As leaders of our businesses and organizations, do we really know what our customers want? When is the last time you asked your customers what benefits they experience by using your product or service? One of my favorite parts of the work we do on behalf of our clients is customer interviews. I enjoy asking questions and probing for more, uncovering the core benefits of a brand and the emotional drives causing action that may be “too close” for the client to see. It is our job to discover key descriptors and differentiators – words and phrases that drive value and ultimately action through their authenticity. The essence of a company’s value comes through in our conversations with real customers.
At Orange Label, we call this process the View from the Field, which provides a first-hand glimpse of a brand from the perspective of customers, prospects and stakeholders. The View from the Field is crucial because it provides valuable, honest insight into the benefits and emotional drives behind purchase behavior of products and services. It requires multiple interviews that cover specific topics about a brand’s identity, from first impressions to key benefits the brand provides. There may be upwards of 60 interviews in a single View from the Field analysis, each providing unique data that candidly encapsulates a brand’s value and appeal.
The beauty of the View from the Field is that it breaks down complex ideas into their most basic forms. Rather than compiling a list of lengthy concepts, analysts tally common themes, key words and phrases. Points like “Goes the extra mile for customers” or “Could respond more promptly” are listed and then ranked according to frequency mentioned. This paints an easily digestible picture of how an audience feels about a brand, capturing key benefits and areas of improvement. In order to accrue long-term loyalty, brands must determine what it takes to instill a sense of belonging, fulfillment and peace of mind among their customers. The View from the Field creates a snapshot of a brand’s emotional value and the perceptions that stem from it.
Customer service and experience is undoubtedly a topic covered in a View from the Field interview. ThinkJar, a customer strategy thinktank, identifies a customer-focused business model as one that chooses on long-term value over short-term revenue and known expectations over managed expectations. In its CX for Executives report, ThinkJar notes that 70 percent of companies that deliver “best in class” customer experiences rely heavily on customer feedback. This same study notes that 66 percent of customers switched brands due to poor customer service; 85 percent of these negative interactions could have been prevented.
Customer service and experience are pretty easy to spot, however, other areas of improvement are not always obvious and can be hinted at by customers in the View from the Field interviews. The global market is dynamic and constantly changing, serving up a laundry list of innovative technologies, shifting best practices and new competitors. Qualities that may have once brought success may no longer prove relevant in the current market. For example, the dawn of social media has taken customer service to a new level, allowing more responsive communication than ever before. Social media customer service is so common, customers have come to expect it and companies that choose to avoid this will fall behind the curve.
The View from the Field forces brands to look at themselves from every angle, pinpointing what is working in that moment and where value can be added. Routine is comfortable but it’s not responsive. Comfort may feel warm and fuzzy, but, ultimately, it can torpedo your business model. It is detrimental to businesses because it discourages new endeavors. Harvard Business Review published a model called “The Dynamic of Failure,” which outlines why successful companies fail. The model identifies factors like stagnancy, rigidity and blind dedication to company values as the main culprits. Harvard Business Review notes that these once-thriving companies refused to take a sober look at their current business strategy and answer core questions like “What business are we in?” “How do we create value?” and “Who are our competitors?”
As these points indicate, customer input is crucial to optimizing a brand’s impact in the marketplace. It can build – or dissolve – a customer base. During the View from the Field, we use customer input to uncover and refine a brand’s core message – what we call The Juice. In our next blog, What You Say and Look Like Matters, we cover this pivotal step in the Orange Exploration and outline exactly why messaging is so important.