Using Customer Closeness to ignite change

Businesses often claim to be putting customers at their heart, but too often many stakeholders sit in a vacuum, far removed from the lives and needs of real people. Our experience tells us this is dangerous as the most powerful means of igniting consumers’ passion for a brand is to get closer to them. We’re increasingly helping many teams (from digital, to product buyers, to CEOs) to establish better dialogues with their customers – the key battle in winning hearts and minds. One thing is central to our whole approach to doing this – PLAY! 

Our central approach is based around play

“You can discover more about a person in an hour of play than in a year of conversation.” PLATO. We passionately believe play is the key to openness and learning. This is why, for us, playfulness sits centre stage in our customer closeness work. In-homes, workshops, immersion days or customer dinners become far more effective and revealing when fun is at their core. Our techniques involve projective thinking and embracing the type of silliness that can override rational judgements and get to the deeper, emotion led decision-making processes – the processes that actually do most to shape consumer behaviour. These techniques erode the human tendency to whisper to ourselves that we must ‘hold back, look normal’. Ultimately, they set our irrational, inner child free!

But, can messing about really aid initiatives to ‘put the customer at the heart of the business’? 

Pop the bubble

Surprise outcomes of Brexit and US Presidential votes have damaged the idea that societies are close-knit and in-touch. Judgement-free, generous listening allow us to confront our biases, challenge myths and expose the true feelings and motivations of those we thought we knew so well. 

Get real

In a bid to generate common understanding and aid memorability, businesses create caricatures of customers – leading to exaggerated truths that distort reality. Style, simplicity and tech may be of utmost importance to the priority segment, but this doesn’t extend perfectly into every corner of their life… play and openness shed light on the rickety old desktop PC they’re still clinging to, the magnolia living room they love and the ‘messy drawer’ they’re ashamed of.  

Step back

It’s easy for expert, dedicated Research teams to be blinded by the day-to-day. We can’t go back or unlearn – we’re stuck. Digital teams are perhaps the most effected. Isolated by their specialist expertise and long development timelines, and consumed by the intricacies of their work, they can find it hard to see the bigger picture. Customer closeness challenges this habitual separateness by exposing them to the wisdom, naivety, bluntness and originality of real people! The collision sparks new thinking.     

Tailored targets and actions makes it clear and easy for frontline store/restaurant/hotel/depot staff to work out where to focus attention on-the-go. Area managers and Head Office teams can quickly focus on stores/business units requiring attention and monitor their progress. Our closed loop system helps encourage actioning feedback – rescuing poor experiences but also celebrating success stories. 

Brave it

Being in touch means knowing consumers’ highs and the lows. Difficulties, stress points and concerns are important influences, but they don’t naturally scream ‘play-time’. However, appropriate techniques, which engage our playful side in a gentle, supportive way, give respondents the confidence speak. The promise of anonymity can see some respondents grab the chance to unburden themselves and talk at length and with great honesty.  

Fall in love

Being married to our core, current shoppers can make target-acquisition customers appear elusive, glossy and sexy. Customer closeness allows us to rediscover our existing shoppers and remove the rose-tinted glasses through which we view the target. This makes for better understanding and better decisions.