Vision Critical

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The Customer Intelligence Summit brings together some of the brightest minds in research, marketing, customer experience and product innovation to discuss the latest trends, share best practices and discover the newest innovations in the industry. This year’s Summit took place in Washington, D.C. and featured renowned speakers such as Seth Godin, Kindra Hall and Alexandra Samuel.

Over the next few weeks, we’ll be sharing recaps of different sessions from Summit. In the meantime, here are some of our key takeaways.

1. Do work that matters.

Author Seth Godin challenged people in the room to create remarkable work. Marketing’s goal today, according to Godin, isn’t merely to build awareness; rather, the objective is to create a community and do work that matters.

“Marketing is about work that matters for people who care,” Godin argued in his presentation. He said interrupting consumers to get their attention will no longer work in today’s business landscape. Marketers need to really understand who they’re trying to change. “As marketers, our best work is making change happen.”

Godin also challenged the assumption that to be effective, marketers need to reach the biggest audience possible. “The biggest brands today didn’t start for the masses,” he explained. “The stories you tell won’t resonate with everyone. And that’s ok.”

2. Listen to the voice of the customer to future-proof your business.

In his keynote, Vision Critical CEO Scott Miller said orienting your business around the voice of the customer is the best way to future-proof your company in a fast-moving world. Scott said there's a big opportunity for customer intelligence professionals to provide more value to the organization and take thei career to the next level as a result. People from VMware, Twitch, Jam City, Red Bull and Cleveland Clinic have been able to drive ROI by delivering insight that improved marketing campaigns, product development and the customer experience.

3. Be an expert in ethical customer data management.

Technology researcher Alexandra Samuel shared her thoughts on the Cambridge Analytica scandal and its implications for marketers and researchers. She said now is the time for insight professionals to raise their voice and position their teams as experts in the management of customer data.

“It’s our job to help people understand what we know about treating data with integrity, and that means we all have to learn how to become teachers as well as practitioners in the area of good data culture,” she said.

Taking a relationship-based approach is a good start. “Customer data should only be collected with the customer’s consent.”

4. Tell real stories.

When used right, storytelling can help customer intelligence professionals maximize the value of their work. When insights are turned into stories, you can better capture the attention and imagination of our customers, stakeholders and decision-makers.

But for storytelling to work, you have to tell real stories. That’s according to Kindra Hall, a keynote speaker and storytelling expert. Hall said a story is not bullet points of information, a persona, or even compelling data. Rather, a story happens in a particular moment and has both emotions and characters. Real stories also have a beginning, middle and end.

5. Make authenticity count.

Twitch, the world’s leading social video service and community for gamers, won this year’s Visionary Awards for Business Transformation for its Twitch RPG Community. At Summit, Colan Neese, the company’s senior manager of audience insights, shared how authentic engagement helps Twitch engage more than 50,000 Gen Z and millennial consumers in the community. From the way you reward your community members to how you communicate with them, there are many ways of demonstrating authenticity with your community.

6. Earn the right to lead.

Many research teams deserve more visibility in the organization, but they don’t always get the credit they deserve. That’s not the case at Red Bull, this year’s Visionary Award winner for marketing effectiveness. The Shopper Insights team at the company has earned the right to lead the organization by delivering insight that drive revenue.

At Summit, Laura-Lynn Freck, director of shopper insights, and Sarah Shain, shopper insights analyst, said understanding Red Bull’s business context and prioritizing the community experience in the company’s energy drink community have enabled the team to provide both stakeholders and retail partners the agile insight they need to make better decisions.

7. Be open to partnerships and feedback.

Cleveland Clinic, winner of the Visionary Award for customer experience, is a pioneer in patient centricity. It was the first health care organization to hire a Chief Experience Officer, develop an Office of Patient Experience and launch an insight community.

At Summit, Michelle Gandolf, director of market research and insights, shared stories from Cleveland Clinic’s journey. She reiterated the importance of forging mutually beneficial partnerships with stakeholders. Human connections are important. Rather than relying on email alone, for instance, have in-person kick-off meetings and final presentations when possible. Being open to feedback—both the good and the bad—from other departments also helps build your team’s reputation.

8. Scale your research with technology.

Cassie Mally, director UX research, shared how GoDaddy’s research has been able to scale their programs. GoDaddy has a 6-person research team (including Cassie herself), makes it challenging to support the entire organization. Because GoDaddy is customer obsessed, different departments are eager to engage with customers.

To avoid becoming a bottleneck, GoDaddy’s research team has instituted a do-it-yourself (DIY) program that enables people to reach customers. GoDaddy is leveraging a couple of new features on the Sparq platform to support this DIY approach. For instance, the ability to assign stakeholders author roles let people draft activities that the research team can vet before deploying. Sparq’s new text analytics tool allows Cassie and her team to leverage open-ended feedback more frequently and get and analyze richer feedback.

9. Don’t let CX stagnate.

Forrester Principal Analyst Rick Parrish took the stage to talk about customer experience (CX) transformation. Sharing data from a recent Forrester report, Parrish said CX improvements across many industries have stagnated, creating a leadership gap.

To improve, companies need to revisit their strategy. But things like dashboards and even a company reorganization aren’t necessarily the answers. “There is no right way to organize to be a customer-obsessed company,” he said. Rather companies need to find ways of bringing the voice of the customer into the current structure.

Parrish reiterated the important role all employees play in delivering better customer experience. “Even behind-the-scenes employees do things that trickle out or affect the customer experience.”

10. Listen to multiple audiences to get a more complete view.

Susan Corbelli, the Sacramento Municipal Utility District’s (SMUD’s) principal market research supervisor, spoke about her experience managing three communities to engage various audiences. SMUD is a community-owned utility electric utility, so it needs to consider both residential and commercial customers. The organization also recognized the need to listen to employees.

The ability to engage all these three different audiences enables SMUD to consider various perspectives in its business decisions. According to Susan, many new initiatives wouldn’t have been as successful without getting a 360-degree view.

11. Champion insight-led decision making.

John Musgrove, head of research from Southern Cross Austereo (SCA), and Jasmine Beech, the company’s national sales research manager, shared their thoughts on creating an insight-driven business. According to them, it’s important to educate the organization what actually constitutes insight. Insight is evidence-based, new and unique thinking that captures a previously unrecognized fundamental human truth, reiterated John and Jasmine. Real insight causes people to go “wow” and creates an ongoing narrative.

12. Institute the foundations of customer centricity.

During the product keynote, Vision Critical CTO shared our perspective on the fundamentals of building customer understanding. According to him, speed, relevance and engagement are table stakes when it comes to getting actionable, fast customer insight.

Alan said new enhancements to the Sparq platform—including the new text analytics feature, Stakeholder Hubs and new Salesforce integration—are all developed with feedback from Vision Critical customers. “How I’d like to drive the product is by engaging you and hearing what it is you need,” Alan explained, encouraging people in the room to continue to provide feedback through Sparq Next, Vision Critical’s customer community.

The enterprise guide to customer experience

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