Even when companies insist that they want to know what their customers really think, believe, want, or need, there is often an innate desire to control the conversation. To argue. To defend. To explain. This can get in the way of true, open expression by the respondent (your customer). Combine this with the wish to ensure every question gets answered, every assumption explored, and any possibility accounted for, and soon you have…a survey. We’ve even seen focus groups, designed for open, creative exploration of feelings and ideas, turn into something more like interrogations – with numbered questions, insistent probes, long lists of information to be rated and ranked, and scales for nearly everything. The problem for the customer is that all of that seems like too much work. To be realistic, your customer simply doesn’t work that hard at deciding whether to investigate, like, or purchase your product. So how can you make your research process more like discovering, exploring, or shopping?
One way is to let your customer play. Serious games (games with a purpose) like Innovation Games™ make it possible for customers to have fun, and still answer important questions. Questions like:
How should our product evolve over time to give you the newest features you want or need?
Are there older features that aren’t important to you anymore, or that you never really used in the first place?
What sort of relationships would you like to see between our brand and the brands of others?
How do you want to interact with our company?
Do you feel like we really understand you?
What other products do you want to use in combination with our product?
Can you show us why the features of your ideal solution are important to you?
If we can’t give you everything you need right away, what should we give you first?
Do you use our product in ways we didn’t expect?
Is there something we’re doing that makes it difficult to use our product or service, instead of easy?
The reason games work is that they’re not work! They make the process of finding the answers to big (and small) questions more fun and engaging – for your customer, but also for you. Humans are naturally programmed to lean toward fun over work, so building entertainment into your research process is a proven method to getting excellent results.
Megann has been busy with her appointment at Queen’s this fall, teaching integrated marketing communications, along with her usual customer work here at Panoptika. It’s a great chance for her to get more involved with her alma mater, but it has also spurred some interesting discussions around our office about how we and our clients are communicating with customers. It also has us thinking more and more about the non-verbal communications between marketers and their prospective or current customers.
Well-integrated marketing communications plans consider what the company knows about the customer. They consider the best way to communicate (outbound), as well as how to be receptive to receiving messages and how they plan to get involved in a dialogue with users or consumers of their product or service. But we’ve been wondering…are companies really thinking about their non-verbal communication with customers?
Sure, marketers work on advertising. They think about public relations and how they or their brands are perceived. They’re always trying to find the newest and best way to get their message in front of the right audience, at the right time. But what if all their efforts are wildly successful, yet when the customer tries to actually purchase their product, or contract for their services, or even just give them feedback, the process of doing that is just too difficult? Does this sound like your organization, or are you a business facilitator – a company whose team spends real time figuring out ways to make it easier for their consumers or clients to do business with them?
As an example, Canadian customers found that shopping from U.S.-based catalogue retailers was increasingly appealing this year, in the face of a stronger Canadian dollar. But while some companies such as Crate & Barrel (through www.borderfree.ca)or Land’s End (through www.airmilesshops.ca or Sears stores) have gone out of their way to make shopping easier, other retailers haven’t been business facilitators. They’ve missed a tremendous opportunity.
Given the recent state of the economy, we’re betting you’re looking for ways to strengthen your relationships with customers. We’d like to suggest you give some thought to how you can make your organization a business facilitator.
Here’s to all our customers; may they be well-served,