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Jim Longo is the co-founder and chief strategy officer at Discuss, with over 25 years of market research expertise.

Customer feedback can drive seismic change for leading global brands. Some companies understand this, and for several decades, they’ve leveraged customer voices through traditional market research, including scaling focus groups and in-depth interviews to drive better business outcomes. Today, tech has enabled companies, agencies and consultancies of all sizes to access the customer’s voice, quantify the feedback and share insights like never before.

We know that having the right customer context and understanding the “why” of their opinions and emotions can influence everything from product innovation and R&D to marketing and brand awareness. That’s why it’s projected that 60% of organizations will supplement traditional surveys with voice-of-the-customer (VoC) programs that analyze voice and text exchanges by 2025. Being close to customers not only drives organizational change for the better, but it’s critical for businesses to create exceptional customer experiences.

Post-pandemic, we’re living in an experience economy, where customer experience (CX) is outpacing the value of products and services themselves. Only the companies that place substantial efforts into understanding their customers’ experiences can win in this environment.

To better explain what true customer closeness looks like, I’ve highlighted the following companies that are doing outstanding work to understand their customers. They’re dedicated to knowing their customers in the long-term, and they’re agile in leveraging customer feedback for continual improvements to their products and services (especially through the pandemic). They’re also visionaries—they know that to prepare for the future, they need cutting-edge tools to get them there.

Here are five of the top companies that are using tech to elevate customer voices. Hopefully, their use of technology will help inspire you to consider ways you can employ tech tools for your own VoC program. (Full disclosure: Disney, Mastercard and Ford are all clients of Discuss.)

1. Nike: Nike’s brand loyalty is legendary, with die-hard “sneakerheads” treating new Nike product releases as a major event (i.e., waiting in lines for several hours to purchase new kicks). Yet, resting on its laurels isn’t something that Nike seems inclined to do, creating exceptional “phygital” experiences in many of its more than 700 physical stores worldwide. The company has made huge gains in personalization for its customers through its app, which not only helps direct users to its workshops and special events, but enhances the in-person shopping experience as well (generating critical customer data for its insights teams along the way).

2. Disney: Disney topped the list for the second time in MBLM’s Brand Intimacy 2022 Study, a leading study of brands and emotions. It’s no secret that the company excels in personalization and unique customer experiences at its theme parks, where every employee from the C-suite to tram operators is given the directive, “Make people happy.” Disney is constantly finding new ways to gather customer voices in order to do so, with dedicated teams receiving customer service suggestions through direct communications—whether that’s an app, emails or in-depth, follow-up interviews.

3. Mastercard: Mastercard was named an MIT Culture Champion for how the company balances a culture of agile performance with integrity, collaboration and diversity. When it comes to serving its 2.3 billion customers, Mastercard has created a robust CX program utilizing tools such as speech and text analytics, chatbots, artificial intelligence, biometrics, predictive intelligence and digital SMS. By leveraging tech, they ensure that employees have full transparency into how customers use their services, developing empathy throughout the business and giving employees across departments the customer data they need to act with agility to improve CX.

4. Ford Motor Company: In 2019, Ford made a big bet on CX by investing significantly in customer data and analytics to transform all customer interactions and pivot to focus on customers as individuals. “Seeing customers, knowing them, and acting in meaningful ways on their behalf” was the driver of that transformation, according to Ford VP Paul Ballew. As digital media and analytics continue to force change upon the typical dealership experience, Ford is partnering with Google, not only to incorporate the tech giant’s Android operating system into its vehicles but to form a strategic partnership called Team Upshift to develop unique showroom experiences and ownership offers, as well as other services, for Ford customers.

5. Samsung: As a result of Covid-19, in 2020, Samsung launched its live virtual assistant—a video-powered app that captures customer data from its many consumer touchpoints, from online to in-store interactions. That same year, Samsung also revamped its help site and chat features by leveraging new tech that included a multi-algorithm approach to online searches, increasing overall customer engagement by 19%.

Understanding customers as their lifestyles and preferences change over time isn’t a luxury anymore, as organizations must work harder than ever to win their customer loyalty. Although most customers expect companies to listen and anticipate their needs, only “28% of executives said their organization has a very good understanding of customer satisfaction across all phases of the customer journey.” People need to be seen and heard—and often. With new tools and platforms to drive customer-centricity across the organization, now is the time to bring people’s voices back into focus to drive better insights and outcomes.


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