People want to share. And they want to share their experiences with brands. It makes them feel good. They feel especially valued when you demonstrate that you care about their input. So, when’s the last time your company gave customers the opportunity to share?
Findings from the last nine months of customer experience-focused voice-of-the-customer research conducted by our firm, ERDM, indicate that customers passionately want to be recognized, included, and encouraged to provide their opinions and recommendations. Customers stated that providing these benefits strengthens relationships with the brand and leads customers to become advocates. This, of course, results in stronger lifetime value.
Our research also found that customers want a relationship that is best-suited to their individual needs. The most effective way to achieve this level of personalization is to offer consumers the ability to opt in and share their preferences, opinions, experiences, and ideas. This is viewed by customers as a benefit and reinforces their feelings of being recognized and appreciated.
To succeed at this level of consumer sharing, brands should consider three core actions that set the stage for engagement:
When you make consumers feel that they are being listened to, with corresponding actions that directly address core values, they will trust your brand. The key is giving consumers the platform to verbalize their company connection to demonstrate why they buy from and support the brand.
Inviting select consumers to be part of an advisory panel evokes a feeling of “specialness” from consumers. Our research indicates that both highly engaged and less engaged consumers provide higher-than-expected rates of participation.
Here are three tips to remember when setting up an advisory panel:
- Keep the group to a set number of participants, some who are active buyers and others who are lapsed buyers.
- Advisory panels do not replace more structured surveys; however, they offer a valuable method of testing ideas and gaining insights.
- Keep in mind that upping a consumer’s engagement will most likely increase the person’s purchase rate. So periodically examine the mix of your panel and augment your segments to keep them balanced according to your group parameters.
In your communication with consumers, make sure that they discover and are aware of your brand story and that they have a clear understanding of why they should put their efforts into advocacy. Once they have that, they can then develop their own brand-involvement story that gives them a reason to become long-term fans.
Here is what a consumer told us regarding the feeling of inclusion and being asked for feedback: “It was different than I anticipated. I assumed it was just a once in a while shopping thing, so the surveying and what not has been different than I expected. Surprising, in a good way. I had assumed it was just a retail promotion–I didn’t expect them to elicit feedback as part of the program, so that was different than anything else I’ve ever seen in the space.”
When consumers take the time to answer surveys, it is essential to acknowledge their efforts and send a thank you note or gift. Consumers want to feel as though they are appreciated. It is a clear differentiator for a brand to give consumers the ability for feedback, followed by acknowledgement. This makes consumers feel they have a vested interest in the company because they have a voice.
Consumers appreciate being listened to and acknowledged. They told us:
- “It’s been fun answering questions about products … It makes me more likely to check out the new items and stay on top of what they are offering.”
- “I really like that [I] get to do the survey and have a say … I don’t think a lot of companies do that.”
And here’s what a consumer told us about the surprise of an unexpected thank you: “… I feel a company actually values me when they do something that’s unexpected rather than some structured program … an occasional thank you for your loyalty …You order online and you put down for standard shipping and it shows up as overnight as a thank you. Stuff like that is what people notice …”
3. Accelerate Growth
You want to grow a culture of fans who know what the company stands for and actively support it by providing their feedback and then tell others about their great experience.
Here are three tips for offering consumers the ability to provide feedback:
- Offer feedback boxes on your website, but don’t be intrusive or interrupt the shopping flow.
- Be sure that your interpretation algorithms adequately address the way consumers refer to your brand and products, as their own titles may differ from your formal naming conventions.
- Be sure to thank consumers for their time and input.
Customers who feel appreciated by a brand they support share the story of your brand with others because they feel confident that others will have the same good experience. Here’s a comment we heard from a consumer: “… It affects purchasing because I generally share the emails with my family members, who often purchase as well …”
Consumers have a lot to say, and brands can gain a significant advantage by listening. When companies provide the opportunity for sharing, they gain invaluable insights into what their customers like, don’t like, want, and need in regard to their brand experience. But having that information is only the first step. Sharing must then be followed by acting on these customer insights.