Engaging Customers: Everyone is an Expert!

(The Problem Challenge)

We are in a society that is currently being largely influenced by the media; whether its cable television, internet radio, social media such as Facebook and Twitter. As the world gradually becomes a smaller global village, the inhabitants are generally developing a similar mindset of how business should be and gradually dropping the traditional methods of doing business- mind you the traditional values of loyalty, putting the customers first etc. generally don’t change, the only change is the way its message is being communicated to customers.

The average consumer today is well educated, more informed and more outspoken and opinionated. They’ll rather take a front seat when it comes to making decisions that would affect them.

We recently found that out when developing a nationwide campaign for behavioural change communications amongst individuals in various focus groups. Initially we thought we understood the brief given to us by the client. It seemed pretty much straight forward- do background research on the topic, do some thinking, draw up copy and pass on to the graphic designers to follow suit.

The Strategy

As an afterthought we decided to sample some of the slogans and graphic designs to our friends; the rationale then was for show-off rather than feedback. However when asked for their opinion on the advertorials, the response was somewhat quite different (not in a good way) from what we expected.

We decided to take it to the public and get comments. So we published a list of the various slogans for the various categories of people we were targeting and politely requested that our friends on Faceboook and followers on Twitter make votes as to which idea they wanted to see developed on a billboard or aired on their favourite televisison or radio station. After so many votes and a few tweaks here and there with more consultations from our “facebook friends turned consultants”, this turned out to be quite intuitive because needless to say our art direction was more insightful than our competition contending for the same job. We got the job!

The Outcome

We got more similar assignments from the same client as well as referral to a high-level CEO on a key account. Who knew Facebook does more than help you merely keep in touch with friends from primary school?

Lessons Learnt

There are 2 lessons here. One is never jump to conclusions. It would have been pretty easier option to just ignore the input of other people outside of our organizations’ creative team and researchers and tell ourselves that we are the experts not them. However if your business has to deal with the selling of products and services to other individuals outside of your organisation then maybe it’s a wise choice to start actively seeking their opinion and advice on issues that would affect them. The world is gradually evolving from the traditional approach of having the management board make a decision and then informing the customers about their decision. Nowadays the average customer wants to be part of the decision making exercise and have a sense of ownership. This rewards in turn by having more loyal customers that feel as keen as executive directors.

The second lesson is of course the fact that social media is becoming a widely accepted tool used by most of your customers and if you’re business is not already using it as a medium to communicate with customers and potential customers, then you’ll soon be regarded as outdated and old-fashioned by the time this year is over.

Questions to ask?

1. If you are experiencing challenges with any aspect of your business, who are the logical people to as about the source of the problem?

2. What is the most effective way of asking these people for their input? Is it something you can do yourself or would it make sense hiring an outside consultant to do the job?

Tips: Finding out what’s turning your customers on or off.

1. When people buy or don’t buy your products or service, ask them why. This has to be done in a non-obtrusive manner. Have a comment page on your website where they can leave recommendations or comments. Have a comment form drawn up and posted to them with a free pen asking them to fill the form and keep the pen.

2. Sometimes the best way to look at your business operations is by not looking at it from the inside. Get an outsider- a company with expertise in customer experience evaluation also known as mystery shopping to evaluate every part of the ideal customers experience and then give you their reports. Alternatively for smaller businesses you can ask friends or family members to go through the same experience as a customer would from the beginning to the end- from the telephone call to place an order, to making enquiries, to having a meal at your restaurant or spending the weekend at your hotel. There’s no reason why you shouldn’t put yourself in the customers shoes every once in a while.

Good Luck!

Ebuka Anichebe is theManagingDirector of Jean-Paul and Associates Consultancy. He has an uncommon approachto marketing media consulting, business development and customer experience evaluation. He’ll like to hear your views on this article and more, write to him at ebukaor call 08064393711

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are snarky, offensive, or off-topic.

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