Has The Romance Gone From Your Customer Relationship?

Zoë Dowling, Ph.D., SVP Research, FocusVision

At some point in our lives, we’ve all fallen in love with a brand. And by this, I mean properly fallen head over heels where you are passionate about what they do, actively seek out news about them, exalt their greatness to anyone that will listen, believe they can do no wrong. Right now, this is me and Peloton. I am enamored by my bike, the instructors, the community, the disruptive business model and, as a handy side benefit, I love that I’m fitter than I’ve been for a while.

Time will only tell whether I remain besotted. I hope we’ll maintain a healthy relationship for many years to come. But perhaps the feelings will wane. This could happen if they fail to continue to captivate my attention with engaging new content, helpful innovations, or being a brand that I believe in.

Much like the way a person may stop asking and listening to the needs of their significant other and takes him or her for granted, brands can also stop asking and listening to their customer, losing the ability to adapt to their changing needs. If they only rely on the plethora of clickstream data feeding their marketing dashboard it can be easy for marketers to lose track of the actual “people” within their customer base.

Data touches and enhances most aspects of our lives, and in ways that we take for granted. My boss is an Amazon fanatic. She loves the recommendation engine and the useful ability to replenish items without having to think about it, together with suggested products that she never realized she needed but found valuable. She earnestly confessed to me today that she would be lost if Amazon ever went away. This is all thanks to their clever use of data.

At other times, data isn’t so useful. It can become outdated before a brand can truly take advantage. We have all been stalked by an irresponsibly impractical pair of shoes that you viewed online on a whim. Or the camping equipment that continues to attempt to convince you to buy it, even when it’s snowing in January. Or worse, the pair of shoes that you’ve already bought follows you around the web. This is where good data can turn bad and affect your impression of your brand partner who has lost track of what you hold dear. There are also cases where big data may not tell the full story. Information, no matter how plentiful, and insight are increasingly two different things.

These days customers and their worlds are in a constant state of evolution. Things about customers that once seemed obvious to a marketer are not necessarily so intuitive. And too often we rely on assumption to fill an information gap, because we’re all consumers, right? But in nearly two decades as a researcher, I continually see in-going assumptions challenged by actual findings. My wish for my brand relationship managers and other marketers is to encourage a childlike wonder and to constantly ask “why?” to help show that they care while trying to understand the world our customers live in.

Not all brands are guilty of not listening or asking questions, but like in a relationship, the answers can be very different if their question rationales are centered around “what am I doing well?” or “how much do you like me”, as per a typical customer satisfaction or brand study, versus taking the time to understand the customer opinion and what can impact their sentiment. Data for customer insights can take many forms.

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