For decades, some companies stayed relevant and gained market share by outspending, out-marketing, and out-advertising competitors. And for decades it worked.
Today, this is no longer the case. Relying on persuasion as the primary means to drive business growth ended right when the 21st century began.
The new reality is that our world is growing smaller, change is happening faster, and consumers – real people – are at the center of it all. Add to this hyper-connectivity that has transformed the global marketplace into a fiercely competitive, disruptive environment. Knowledge and information are distributed and co-opted by others. Everything – ideas, cultures, trends, social movements, commerce – moves fast and evolves even faster. If you need proof, look at Generation Z.
The companies that are truly relevant in their customers’ lives are those connected closely to them. Every employee feels it, and customers do too. The business operates as a customer-inspired organization, with empathy and understanding designed into every decision, action, message, product, service, and experience. Customer Inspired Growth is the result.
But, how do we identify which companies are truly customer-inspired and which ones are not? Even with all the measurement systems available to us today, it has proven challenging. Until now.
Customer Quotient™ (CQ™), C Space’s innovative approach to measuring the nature of the customer-company relationship, is grounded in what customers, not companies, really value. You can think of CQ as a customer’s “buying criteria,” or an emotional blueprint of what draws customers to certain brands or companies. It asks them not what they might do for companies, but what will companies do for them. CQ shows that those companies that genuinely understand and connect with customers outperform their competitors.
While the specifics of what customers want will continue to fragment and shift, how customers want to engage with companies is comparatively enduring. From the customer’s point of view, the companies that really “get” them each share certain characteristics, regardless of industry. The following five traits are ones that customers notice, value, and actively seek.
Having a meaningful two-way dialogue with customers (as opposed to continual, even incessant, messaging, surveying, and feedback requests) shows greater transparency and builds trust. Remaining open and accessible helps customers feel heard by the company. A great example is Southwest Airlines. Beloved by customers for its service and value, Southwest recently went so far as coining a new word: “transfarency.” They even have a website that openly compares the airline’s fees to those of the competition, and that encourages customer communication and creativity.
Companies that maintain an open dialogue with customers take great care to speak their language. They share their customers’ values. When companies speak in a way that customers can understand, people are more apt to want to open up and share more of themselves. Armed with this information, companies can then create messaging, products, services, and experiences that resonate and are relevant to customers’ lives and needs.
Customers want to feel that there are actual human beings at the company who understand them. As such, customer-inspired companies really feel what the customer feels – their pains, joys, frustrations, fears, and motivations. And it’s felt instinctually. Companies that empathize with their customers have better “customer intuition” than their competitors, and can act faster and with greater confidence as a result. A great story illustrating the power of empathy comes from one of C Space’s personal care clients. When a customer suggested that brand team members spend a day wearing adult diapers to truly feel what it’s like to live with incontinence, the team went for it. And, after 24 hours, they sure did “get” it.
Customer Inspired companies deliver superior customer experiences. They value their customers’ time and appreciate their loyalty. This may be done through a small gesture, like getting a free coffee at Starbucks on your birthday, or a larger one, like the helpful, friendly nature of Apple store employees. Making coherent and seamless customer experiences everyone’s responsibility (regardless of job function or level) shows customers that their needs are understood across the business, and that everyone at the company cares.
When companies provide emotional rewards, it makes people feel smart, proud, and validated for their decision to be a customer. They feel fulfilled and assured that they aren’t getting ripped off. Their needs are met in a way that no other company can. They feel like they are part of a special, savvy group, and as a result, they feel better about themselves.
On November 2nd, I’ll be leading a session at The Market Research Event (TMRE) in Orlando, Florida, to explain CQ and its significance in greater detail. I’ll also be joined by executives from Bose, Citi, Aetna, and Hallmark for a lively panel discussion on how they are infusing customer inspiration throughout their organizations. If you’d like to meet up at the conference, or would simply like to connect to learn more, please connect with me on LinkedIn.