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When new Vision Critical customers sign on with us, one of the first things I talk to them about is the ART of customer engagement. To get the most value out of insight communities, you need to have the right approach. ART is a simple, intuitive and effective framework to use.

So what does ART stand for?

A - Authenticity
R - Respect
T - Transparency

While the ART approach is effective in the context of insight communities, it's also applicable to marketing and business in general. In an age when products and services are increasingly becoming commoditized, your biggest differentiator is having an understanding of your customers - and the ART framework gets you one step closer to that understanding. Here's how.


We usually encourage Vision Critical customers to drop the formal language when sending out surveys or starting discussion forums in their communities. We advocate for this because we know from our research that people like a more casual tone. People want to know they're engaging with other people, not with a faceless entity. Being authentic in the language you use helps people easily comprehend the type of information you're looking for, and it makes their participation more pleasant.

Authenticity in your surveys counts, but it's even more integral in your marketing approach. When you talk to customers, do they hear the personalized voice or will they perceive branded jargon?

As marketers, it's easy for us to get lost in jargon, in words that we think communicate what we have to offer. Our products are "innovative" or "leading edge." But as Vision Critical's Tyler Douglas recently said in a MarketingProfs article, using vague buzzwords only does us harm when it comes to getting closer to the customer.

"Marketing lingo is vague, and it does little to build public trust." (CLICK TO TWEET)

Last Black Friday, card game Cards Against Humanity demonstrated how authentic language can help companies stand out and win people's business. Instead of following other companies' lead and offering a discount, the people behind the game did the opposite: it increased its prices.

"Today only! All Cards Against Humanity products are $5 more," the copy read. The unusual offer remained true to the game's satirical tone and approach, and the "promotion" resulted in a sales spike.


Whether writing your next survey or creating copy for an upcoming campaign, remember that people expect authenticity. Speak human.


Recently, I had to call a company's customer service department to resolve an issue. To talk to a person, I had to go through several menus and options. After about 4 minutes on the phone, I still hadn't been able to reach a customer service rep. I was lead to endless pathways, and it wasn't clear that I was going to get a resolution. By the time I reached a person to talk to, I was already fuming because of the tiring process.

Reflecting on this experience, I quickly discovered why it infuriated me. By not having the right tools, the company didn't show respect for my time. And by failing to consider how my experience would affect me, the company didn't show respect for its employee, who now had to deal with an infuriated customer.

Respect is not just about using polite words or offering a smile to a customer. As my experience shows, it's also about having the right tools and processes to show that you respect people's time.

"Respect is not just about using polite words or offering a smile to a customer." (CLICK TO TWEET)

Sometimes, showing customers you respect them entails surprising and delighting them. After all, there's no higher form of respect than recognizing the people that care most about your brand: your customers. Uber's stunt marketing campaigns offer a nice illustration. Whether it be delivering ice cream or mariachi bands, they deliver a social experience 'off-line' that delights customers. Uber campaigns serve to re-enforce their core offering while creating memorable experiences that inevitably generate social buzz for the brand.


In the post-Snowden world, customers want more visibility into what you're doing with their data. It's not enough to ask for input: you have to tell them what you're doing with that information.

The most successful insight communities close the feedback loop well. These companies have a roster of options in their feedback toolkit, such as sharing findings through infographics, or having an executive do a quick video explaining how customers' input is having an impact on the company's decision making. Contrast that to old-school market research where customers would get asked questions but they have no idea why. In an insight community, you are asking people to be part of the community, and companies openly tell people about the purpose of the community.

Marketers, too, can do a better job of closing the feedback loop. Havells, an appliance manufacturing company from India, recently released a tongue-in-cheek campaign that tells its audience to "respect women." The campaign came about as a direct result of customer engagement - something that the company is openly talking about.

"In the small appliances segment people don't really want to see the features in full we decided to talk to the people who use it the most - the women," said Vijay Narayanan, VP Marketing, Havells India. "The communication also gelled with our own brand philosophy."

I love this Havells example not just because it asks people to respect women, but also because the company is transparent in explaining where the idea came from.

The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) is another great example of how transparency can look like today. The government agency is embracing Instagram to tell its story by sharing images of some items it confiscates. Using the hashtag #TSACatch, the agency is educating its Instagram community about prohibited items. That type of transparency is something that people love: in fact, most of the TSA's posts get hundreds of 'likes' and many comments.

In the age of the empowered customer, companies need to recognize that smart people are outside their own four walls: they have to be humble and be open to feedback. Ultimately, showing humility is an art - and art that requires companies to speak authentic language, to respect people's time, and to embrace transparency.

How to Use an Insight Community to Improve Customer Experience

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