Anyone who’s ever had a bruising experience with a brand is probably familiar with the angry fantasy that follows in which they give a senior stakeholder a piece of their mind.
Whether they work in brand or not, as a customer caught in the moment all they want is to air their grievances and have their opinions heard. It’s a fair point. Listening directly to customers’ opinions and feedback is one of the most powerful ways that a brand can connect with their core purpose.
Running customer closeness workshops go to the heart of Quadrangle’s most important customer consultancy principle: know your customers and understand them as people. Customer closeness workshops help a brand to reconnect with what their customers think. Undeniably, they can bring some ‘and-breathe’ points and can be pretty humbling. Ultimately though we rarely run one that doesn’t have a series of light bulb moments that push clients to a new point of discovery.
We’ve conducted a number of full-day customer closeness workshops for our clients, from helping the executive get closer to customers’ needs to ideating for product development.
The sessions are run across a formula that starts with ‘listening’, evolves to ‘asking’, builds in ‘observing’ and ends with ‘connecting’:
Listening – stakeholders view focus groups in the morning to understand customers’ functional and emotional
Asking – one-on-ones and speed dating exercises to allow stakeholders to gain greater depth in areas key to them
Observing – understanding what matters to customers (e.g. creation by customers of ‘New Rules for Banking’ for a financial services client)
Connecting – presenting proposition ideas to customers and getting the happy or unhappy emoji treatment live in the room… ouch!
The day creates great engagement. Some of the feedback that makes us glow includes, “The next day, everyone was still buzzing and raving about the workshop”.
Speed-dating and hearing stories
Customer “speed dating” is a fun way to engage with customers and has been popular with several of our clients.
As part of a broader programme of customer segmentation for a large UK utility, this company commissioned Quadrangle to deliver a series of events that genuinely brought senior stakeholders closer to their customers. The aim was for the business to understand more fully the challenges and priorities involved in running an SME business and where energy fits into this.
This took the form of a series of ‘speed dating’ events, where stakeholders were given 4-5 minute quickfire sessions with a range of SME types. Stakeholders could see first-hand the diversity of businesses and personalities making up their customer base.
An exhilarating programme that got stakeholders well and truly engaged with the SME audience – and thinking hard about how current business practices were at odds with needs.
The brand made changes to their SME offer directly owing to the impact of these sessions.
Insight from the edge
A lot of the customer closeness work we do involves the edge of organisations, where the real customer interactions take place – e.g. in store, on the phone, via webchats and on social media.
We’ve taken clients on retail safaris with customers, had them watch customers surf the internet, sit in on calls with customers, and work with their internal colleagues who – ahem! – deal with customers all the time and know the customer war stories and brand deficiencies backwards.
Another client has set up regular store time for their customer experience team, which has helped them to see how frustrating things can be.
Of course, each project needs to be fit for purpose, but one of our braver clients let us conduct three-way immersion workshops. In this, product and marketing teams, branch colleagues and customers worked together to evoke and seek to fix customer bugbears and pain points. A bit heated in places, but hugely insightful and transformative.
With the right approach, customers will share a wealth of information and insight. A customer closeness workshop is not just about addressing pain points. Treating customers as equals in the conversation invites them to reveal the inner workings of their life. When brands explore and understand these intersections, they can add value to their customers – and, symbiotically and powerfully, add value to the brand itself.