Geeks and Shrinks

May 7, 2008

Are you listening?

Umair Haque wrote about the new economics of brands, describing how Google and Nike are “choosing to invest in consumers, instead of carpet-bombing them with advertising.” But what is the return on this investment? “The decision to invest in consumer is also a decision to listen to consumers – instead of talk at them.”

One of the most difficult aspects of being a shrink is obtaining the Voice of the Customer, particularly in an unbiased fashion. Part of the problem is that surveys and focus groups only manage to take a snapshot, even though there are some solutions that provide continuous information, and it’s difficult to anticipate the entire spectrum of responses when designing the survey.

If a company makes the decision to listen to customers, as Umair described, the full richness of consumer reaction comes through, as long as it is implemented at all levels. For instance, in email marketing, it is possible for an individual to reply to an email. Some companies (still) have addresses that they do not monitor (occasionally leading to embarrassing results), some send them to call center/customer service for disposition – but how many segment the replies appropriately and use them in the product development process?

The ability for a company to connect with a large number of customers in a unprecedented personal(ized) fashion is a feature of the new economy. Those that exercise that ability will be able to obtain crucial information for fulfilling customers’ needs and enhancing their brands, and those that choose to ignore seemingly minor customer communication can end up with censure in public view.

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