Most small businesses still collect customer insights in real-time. Every time a customer steps into a store, the owner can watch where the customer goes, offer help, and ensure they’re satisfied. Small businesses ask customers what they’re looking for and what they like, all as part of a casual conversation.
Informal as it may be, most small business owners will tell you that these conversations are the heartbeat of the business. The information they collect from customers every day influence every aspect of their business, from staff training to purchasing to display.
Unfortunately, most large businesses have lost this connection with the customer. The conversations might still be happening at the front lines, but unlike small business, the customer conversations are not adding intelligence to the business. Valuable customer insights are lost.
Companies typically think of the value of customer insights in a strategic sense for competitive positioning; hence, billions of dollars are collectively spent on market research to gain some insight from customers, even if those insights are skewed or manufactured due to the built-in constraints of surveys, focus groups and mystery shopping.
There’s little value in “arms length” relationships that fail to recognize the sophistication, knowledge and technical competence of the customer. Big business needs to recognize that advances in technology now make it possible to capture these conversations once again and use them to make business – and the people who drive it – smarter about the way customers are engaged, every day.
Given the chance, customers will use phones, IVR, SMS, email, the web – and yes, even face-to-face interactions – to tell you what they want, when and how. At ResponseTek, we are helping our clients absorb, collate, analyze and distribute customer insights – both structured and unstructured – so they become part of your company’s customer intelligence By opening up as many channels of communication as possible to collect customer insights, companies can stop viewing insights as problems, and start seeing them as opportunities for innovation.
We have seen that companies that recognize the need for continuous front line customer insights ( example: Lastminute.com) have a greater chance of getting back to the mentality of the continually improving and adjusting small business owner. The biggest challenge? Getting companies to recognize this as the preferred alternative to ‘traditional’ paradigm of periodic, centralized customer research, before it’s too late.
After all, in this economy, there’s always another company out there who’s willing – and able – to listen to your customers.