Winters in San Francisco may be famously grey and rainy, but the heat was on at Vision Critical’s Insight Talk on February 28. More than 50 attendees came to hear how leaders from top technology and utilities brands are meeting the challenges and opportunities in building a customer-centric organization.
Speakers from this exclusive include representatives from LinkedIn, GoDaddy, VMware and Sacramento Municipal Utility District (SMUD).
The evening’s conversation highlighted how these leading organizations turn the idea of customer centricity into a reality at every level.
LinkedIn: Keep members’ needs in mind in every decision
Alexandra Cristea, product marketing manager at LinkedIn, shared how the company’s “members first” philosophy guides product decisions. To ensure members have the best experience, the product team engages with thousands of members on an ongoing basis. “We learn about what customers want and feed that back to our product development teams to answer specific customer pain points,” she explained.
In particular, member feedback has been useful in highlighting product enhancements that the company should prioritize, revealed Cristea. In a recent example, LinkedIn was working with Microsoft for a product users could use to create resumés. But when LinkedIn engaged its insight community, the product team identified a common challenge for LinkedIn users: how to write a resume. Users weren’t sure how to showcase the right skills for the jobs they wanted.
“Having the data to support my claims makes conversations with partners easier."
Previously unknown to LinkedIn, this insight inspired the product team to brainstorm features that would help users portray their qualifications more effectively. Without engaging with members, LinkedIn would have missed this critical pain point. “We got the type of insight that could be roadmapped into an actual product,” explained Cristea.
Ultimately, research helps different teams at LinkedIn get an objective view on what’s best for users. “Having the data to support my claims makes conversations with partners easier,” Cristea explained. “It helps when speaking about features that people like more than whatever we brainstormed internally.”
GoDaddy: Everyone should speak with a customer
At GoDaddy, one of America’s most recognizable tech brands, the directive to become customer centric comes from the very top—it’s CEO Scott Wagner. “Customer centricity means that everybody should be talking to customers,” explained Cassie Mally, GoDaddy’s director of UX research. This mandate means customer engagement is not just a market research or marketing thing—departments like legal and engineering need access to the customer.
“Customer centricity means that everybody should be talking to customers."
Because the UX research team is seen as the “gateway to customers,” this mandate to become more customer-led means there’s more demand for Mally’s team’s time and expertise. One of Mally’s biggest challenges is scaling customer engagement. To that end, she is piloting a program that matches employees with customers to enable deeper customer relationships.
The company’s insight community plays also plays key role in delivering timely customer-validated insight to different teams. “With our insight community, we’ve been able to help stakeholders talk with customers,” explained Mally. “GoDaddy is constantly working really quickly, and the presence of our insight community has spread across the company.”
One of the benefits of an insight community is speed. In a recent example, the brand and production team reached out to Mally’s team about a commercial that was going to air in a few days. The team needed help selecting a tagline, and they wanted data on the best course of action. Mally engaged the company’s insight community to test different messaging variations and quickly got thousands of feedback.
“I was able to get the team results within 24 hours, and we had enough critical mass to decide before the commercial aired,” shared Mally. “It was a big win to give the team what they needed, and it was shared all the way to our CMO.”
VMware: Stay ahead of your customers
VMware is a virtual machine company that’s been in business for 20 years. “For the first 10 years, everybody wanted what we were selling, but now we have to contend with competitors,” explained Valerie Brock, senior research manager. “We have to figure out what our customers want to do next so we can build it for them and have it waiting when they come to us.”
Staying ahead of your customers, especially with their IT needs, is a daunting task, but VMware’s insight community makes it possible. And according to Brock, having an insight community makes her feel like she gets to step into a super powerful sports car every morning.
"We have to figure out what our customers want to do next so we can build it for them."
Customer feedback often challenges assumptions at VMware—something that Brock is proud of. “A survey that took less than a week to implement and analyze told us that features of a product that we, internally, considered expendable, was actually a customer favorite,” she shared. This insight led to a decision that was directly linked to customer satisfaction, rather than the opinions and beliefs of the VMware team.
Brock said VMware truly walks the walk when it comes to customer centricity. She encouraged attendees to considering using their insight community to give customers a direct line to the executive team. “The customers can talk with the people in charge of pricing, and executives can understand the impact of talking with customers. That connection in invaluable.”
SMUD: Act in your customers’ best interest
As a non-profit, community-owned organization, SMUD must keep both its customers’ best interest in mind in all its decisions. “We try to make sure that our customers get value from their purchases and feel in control of their energy usage,” said Susan Corbelli, market research supervisor.
"We had to adopt more agile methodologies and better reporting tools."
For SMUD, disseminating insight to decision makers quickly is an important step to supporting initiatives in customer centricity. “We had to adopt more agile methodologies and better reporting tools,” Corbelli said. "We are moving away from 50-page PowerPoint decks in favor of more lightweight reporting, storytelling through the Vision Critical platform, and workshop-style meetings with a whiteboard and post-it notes."
This approach, Corbelli explained, has increased the speed of decision making and has enabled SMUD to keep up with customer demand.
Corbelli encouraged people in the room to engage customers early and frequently. “We’ve developed our most successful tools when we involved customers early in the process. Don’t wait.”