Vision Critical

The customer insight platform
for customer-centric companies

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“How do you keep people engaged when you’re collecting ongoing insight?” is a common question we get asked. The only way to maintain fast, agile access to a group of opted-in, richly profiled customers that you can collect feedback from over time, is to find the magic to engage them so that you continue to obtain their consent. 

One of our long-standing, energy utility customers shared their perspective on engagement and how to evolve into a fully customer-centric brand that puts the customer at the heart of everything they do. You can apply these lessons in any category and with any audience to ensure you can continue to have fast, agile access to feedback from people who have a strong affinity to your brand or category. 

First, let’s look at the numbers. When you excel at engagement you could see impressive numbers like this as well: response rates in the 50% range, 2000+ people who are representative of the company’s retail customer base coming back for more after four years and 100+ activities. Typical turnaround times are just two to three days from launch to results delivered to stakeholders. Wow! Let’s see how you can achieve the same results. 

Activate stakeholders

If your stakeholders aren’t engaged, then you won’t have any requests for insight or a need to engage your customers for feedback. So start there. Here are some ideas you can implement to build your initial pipeline of activities:

  • Roadshow with internal presentations to your executive, management team, and key stakeholders (e.g. marketing, product, customer service, and support).
  • Showcase what you built, who you can access, how it works, speed of turnaround, and set expectations that the customer experience of giving feedback is an extension of your brand.
  • Give examples of the value you can deliver based on what you know about strategic priorities and initiatives.
  • Find early wins by providing insights for high visibility projects and corporate-wide initiatives.

Establish process and workflow 

This may be the first time you’re in-housing an insight solution where you own the full process from start to finish. It’s critical to figure out a process and workflow that will work for you, support your stakeholders' need for fast insight, and provide a pipeline of activities to keep members engaged.

  • Maintain a schedule. Create a calendar that aligns to the cadence and frequency of activities you’ve promised your members. Can you handle two activities or 10? Communicate that so it’s easy to see if there’s space in your calendar or not.
  • Make it easy for stakeholders to submit requests. Use an intake form that stakeholders fill in before a project is initiated.
  • Deliver on what you promise. Establish a reputation for turnaround time from when the activity is launched to customers to delivering results. In the case of this utility, they turn around insights in three days after launching a study.
  • Involve stakeholders in design approvals. Stakeholders can review and sign off on the questions, so they can tweak to align as closely as possible to their needs.
  • Build a team to leverage the platform. Have a few people who know the ins and outs across teams. 

Here’s an example activity workflow:

  1. Stakeholder completes intake form.
  2. Form sent to insight team’s inbox.
  3. Book a meeting to discuss goals and need.
  4. Write questions for activity.
  5. Stakeholder reviews and approves.
  6. Marketing reviews for brand alignment.
  7. Insight team programs and tests.
  8. Stakeholder, marketing, insight team does one final review.
  9. Launch! 
  10. Three day turnaround from launch to delivering results. 

Be a good shepherd and customer advocate

As an insight professional, your job isn’t just to gather data. Staying involved as the insights percolate across the business will elevate customer understanding, enrich customer empathy, and future proof your role. It also means you need to advocate on the customers' behalf to ensure their experience is always considered in the process. 

  • Request a seat at the table when stakeholders discuss needs and present on projects. This gives the insight team more visibility, better understanding of business needs, enriches customer empathy and understanding, and speeds innovation. Questions get answered right away and there’s no broken telephone. 
  • Shepherding the insight also means the team gets more context to share back to customers. Closing the feedback loop is the main tenant of customer engagement. Customers want to know how they’re influencing decisions and improving customer experience. 
  • You may have to turn down some requests. Set the precedent that you won’t ask any questions unless the insight will drive action. Don’t just ask nice to know information. If no action is intended or possible, then customers are not asked the questions. 
  • Assign an owner to each persona. The owner then acts as the voice of that persona in the business and considers their perspective in decision making. 
  • Identify internal champions. These people will advocate for the customer and encourage the business to engage with customers before making decisions. 
  • Share insights broadly. Making insight available across the organization helps the business become more customer centric. This could be in the form of Intranet, lunch and learns, champions sharing results out, etc. 
  • Seal of approval. Some companies develop a brand stamp so that everyone in the business knows where the insights came from. Then they’ll associate the value with something they can ask for again. 

Deliver an exceptional insight experience to customers

Recognize that collecting customer insight is an extension of your brand and can improve or hurt you depending on the relationship you foster with your customer.

  • Sharing back is the biggest driver of engagement. People want to understand how their voice influences the decisions you make. Closing the feedback loop about what you learn is very important so that people feel they are truly special advisors for your brand. You can also give people a sneak peek or look under the hood about how your business operates to enhance that VIP feeling. 
  • Build on what you already know. Don’t ask questions you already know the answers to from previous activities or from your system of record (e.g. CRM, loyalty program, transactional system).
  • Do shorter activities. Seven to eight minutes is far too long; Two to three minutes is perfect. Keep in mind, each open end takes 45–60 seconds to complete. 
  • Ask for feedback. Review community member feedback from your Member Experience Evaluation to figure out what they can do better. You could also consider an effort score and NPS for every activity which you can action to make improvements. 
  • Experiment with sending activities out at different times. Our utility customer was surprised to see the highest response rates when they send out activities mid-afternoon on Fridays during the school year, with reminders on the Tuesday prior. And during the summer, they find Mondays and Tuesdays are the best times to send invitations. 
  • Consider a multi-pronged approach for initial join invitations. There are many ways to invite people to participate. You can use email accounts, billing statements, point of sale, website, social channels, and in-person events.
  • Set the expectation with members about the cadence and volume of activities. If you start doing more than they were expecting, you may lose some engagement due to fatigue. If you do need to do more frequent activities consider sending out to smaller groups or communicating why there will be a short, high volume period. 

Through careful consideration and empathy for the customer’s experience, you can apply these same lessons to the repeatable customer engagement model you’re building for insight. When you activate stakeholders, establish process and workflow, become a shepherd and advocate of the customer’s voice, and deliver an exceptional experience to customers during the insight gathering process, you will continue to have engaged people who consent to give you ongoing feedback. And with a direct connection to the people you care about for actionable insight, you’ll be well on your way to becoming a more customer-centric organization. 

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Jason Baldree

Jason leads the global Customer Success Management team, responsible for the value realization from the Vision Critical platform by our customers. Passionate about customers, Jason is intuitively aware of customer sentiment, achievements, areas of growth, and how Vision Critical will work towards helping them exceed their business goals. His practical expertise on the challenges and best practices for deploying, adopting, and using technologies has evolved over his 20 years in enterprise software.

A highly regarded industry speaker, Jason has spoken at dozens of technology events, primarily focused in the enterprise software space. When Jason isn’t discovering new service-oriented solutions for customers, find him sharing ghost stories with his wife and two kids about his hometown, Pawleys Island, on the east coast of South Carolina.
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