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Eighty degrees and a nice breeze – check.

Evening rooftop in New York City and specialty cocktails – check.

More than 180 attendees including leaders in media, technology, CPG, beauty and auto – check.

At CX and the City on July 18th, industry leaders from Refinery29, Bustle, Elizabeth Arden and Audible shared how they are approaching the biggest challenges and opportunities in customer experience. This meetup was the first of many networking events that Vision Critical will be hosting and rolling out throughout the year in various cities to promote networking, relationship-building and knowledge exchange among customers and thought leaders.

The night’s engaging conversation revealed how top brands keep pace with the digital-first customer and enhance their lifetime value. Here are some takeaways.

Elizabeth Arden: Stay ahead of your customer

Celia Tombalakian, senior director of global marketing at Elizabeth Arden, said the evolution in customer experience has changed the way the company approaches everything from product development to marketing. “We need to be perfect”, she said, “[because] a customer has access to thousands of new products every year.”

According to Tombalakian, Elizabeth Arden’s challenge is figuring out “where she’s [the customer| going next”. To that end, the company leverages an insight community to engage throughout all stages of the customer cycle. The community enables them to get feedback and build closer relationships with beauty enthusiasts. “It’s not just a research tool; it’s an extension of our brand experience.”

Unless you’re talking to your target customer on all sorts of decisions, you’re not consumer-centric.

Tombalakian concluded, “Unless you’re talking to your target customer on all sorts of decisions, you’re not consumer-centric. You have to walk the walk.”

Bustle: Take calculated risks with data from your insight community

Bustle, one of the leading voices for young women today, is tapping to the insight of its audience to improve content and deliver more value to readers and advertisers. It’s doing so with a newly launched community—a tool enabling the company to get to know their audience on on a much deeper level.

“Our insight community is essential for data and strategy guidance,” shared Jessica Tarlov, senior director of research and consumer insight at Bustle. With insight from the community, Bustle is more confident when it takes risks with content, videos and Instagram.

This is important because part of Bustle’s mission is to produce content that speaks authentically to its audience. “You don’t want to betray your reader or push into a space that the reader doesn’t like,” Tarlov explained. “We follow our readers’ values but push them to take a risk without breaking their trust.”

If you build a brand that is worthy of being trusted, you’re getting customers for life.

To get that balance, listening is key. “People will voluntarily share their insights, data and personal information if you actually care. If you build a brand that is worthy of being trusted, you’re getting customers for life.”

Refinery29: Be future-facing and optimistic

Refinery29 is a cross-platform content publisher that moves from online to real life, and back online again. "Our consistent tone and visual aesthetic is how we build trust with our readers," Candace Whye, insights manager at Refinery29, shared. "This consistency enables us to find new audiences without alienating our core reader, and to work with advertisers by showing them that it works before their ad is even on our site."

Refinery29 strives to be proactive by staying ahead of what’s happening in the market, according to Whye. To that end, the company’s user experience and CX teams are tightly tied, because the customer experience is ultimately the reading experience.

We all have experts in our teams, but the consumer will tell you what she likes and what she doesn’t.

"We all have experts in our teams, but the consumer will tell you what she likes and what she doesn’t," Whye added.

Audible: Don’t treat your paying customers as beta testers

Marcus Lofthouse, senior director of user experience at Audible, a seller and producer of spoken audio entertainment and programming, shared his insights from a subscription service perspective. “On our team, everyone is clear that our customers aren’t paying to be beta testers,” he said. That said, the company understands that users want to provide feedback, and Audible must listen in order to improve experience.

Every person in the company has an impact.

“Make sure everyone in the organization understands that they’re fundamentally responsible for the customer experience,” Lofthouse said. "Every person in the company has an impact."

He also noted that Audible has begun applying CX models and processes to user experience development. “Since UX has a limited capacity, broadening it through CX models lets us develop a customer experience vision that applies across the entire organization.”

Harness the power of customer insight

To learn how these companies leverage customer relationships for better insight, check out our stories featuring Elizabeth Arden and Refinery29.

How to Use an Insight Community to Improve Customer Experience

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Katie Colombo

Katie Colombo is a Director at Vision Critical covering media and entertainment accounts based out of the New York office. She focuses on digital and analytics driven companies and those in the process of transforming as audiences and viewership continues to rapidly evolve. Her experience includes big data, analytics and media, both traditional and non-traditional. Katie is most passionate about enabling organizations to develop a complete view of their customer and leverage the data to generate new revenue streams, improve content, innovate and launch successful new products.
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