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Customer Centricity Round Table

Tune in today on Real-World Branding Podcast for a special treat this week! Finch Brands’ very own John Ferreira, SVP, Insights and Innovation, and Tim DeGennaro, AVP Insights Communities, join us today for the Customer Centricity Round Table.

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Bill Gullan: Greetings, one and all. This is Real World Branding. I’m Bill Gullan the President of Finch Brands, a premiere boutique brand consultancy. Thank you for joining us.

Bill: It’s hard to avoid because everyone seems to be talking about customer-centricity. They talk about it through a variety of lens in a variety of ways, but there seems to be a prevailing sense across functions and industries and sizes that everybody is trying to get more customer-centric, whatever that means. And so, we’re here to demystify that a little bit today and I’ve enlisted a couple of our foundational thought leaders, so John Ferreira who’s our SVP of Insights & Innovations and Tim DeGennaro who’s our AVP of Insights Community are going to speak about customer-centricity today and some of the ways that we are helping our clients become more customer-centric and reap the benefits in terms of love and affection as well as business performance.

Bill: Before we get into it, I mean, there is an inside game and an outside game here, which John will introduce in a minute. Customer-centricity is not just about coordinating consumer-facing touchpoints or externally facing touchpoints. It’s about a way of being. It’s about a belief system. Why don’t we start there, John? First of all, why is this so important? Why do you think it’s on everybody’s lips, why today and why this?

John Ferreira: I mean, I would say, it’s more important than ever. It’s always been important, but it’s more important now than it’s ever been and it’s going to be more important tomorrow than it is today because I mean, just read the headlines and look at the news, who is not getting disrupted? Whose business model is not getting completely turned on its head by some macro force, whether it’s technology or changing consumer’s lives, or just the dominoes are falling in a way that no industry is safe anymore, so if you don’t have a really stable, rock-solid foundation, and you don’t have a really clear North Star for where you’re headed, disruption is coming for you.

Bill: Right.

John: If it hasn’t already.

Bill: Right. You hear customer-centricity as phrase, but you also hear customer experience a lot. Does a focus on CX, to use shorthand, does that entail some level of shift, it sounds like, from maybe where it used to be about customer service in the past, is there a shift kind of reflected in that too?

John: Yeah. I mean, I would say, by virtue of all this disruption brand leaders and now CX leadership roles are joining leadership teams and being executive level functions. I mean, it is being thought of much more broadly and much more holistically and I think people are waking up to that. This is bigger than customer service. It’s not just reactionary stuff. You need to think about not just the rational side of things, but what is the full suite of feelings that any of your current customers or any of your prospects are feeling in that moment because ultimately that’s what your company is.

John: That’s what your brand is. It’s all the feelings that are flowing through those people based on every individual touchpoint, whether that’s a conversation, whether that’s an interstitial screen on your website, whether that’s a component on your mobile app, whether that’s the quality of your products. It all weaves together.

Bill: Right, okay. And so, as is frequently the case when a topic rise to the fore in the business press and among executive teams, there are billions of dollars that are being spent. While not getting specific, anything we’ve observed about how effectively they are or are not being spent today?

John: I mean, I think it depends on the company.

Bill: Sure.

John: Each company is unique in how they do this, but there is certainly, I would say, billions of dollars being wasted, just being thrown at customer experience to see what sticks. That’s because in many organizations it’s still very disjointed and disconnected and it’s really project based, so hey, we have this problem. It’s sort of like a game of whack-a-mole. Like, oh, there is issue that pops up, boom, let’s pound that one, another one pops up and there is no connectivity. So, I think companies that view customer experience more broadly and cohesively view them as all interconnected versus just disparate pieces.

John: I’d say companies right now are doing a better job outside in of gathering customer feedback and applying that in ways to drive businesses, but they’re not doing as good a job of turning that into something that’s going to be gone tomorrow, so you know it’s here today. Is it really going to be there tomorrow? Very few organizations are good at sustained customer experience excellence.

Bill: Right. As I mentioned in the introduction, we believe, at Finch, that there is an internal piece of this and an external piece of this. You put your finger on, and we’re going to hear a lot from Tim, I think about how to capture, manage, filter and apply customer input, or marketplace input as a way to activate the full potential of a brand in business. But, on the internal side, which I think we’ll start with and we’ll ask you to walk us through it. First of all, I hear customer experience, customers are outside of the company. What does it even mean that there is an internal piece of that?

John: Yeah, so when we study the world’s most effective customer experience organizations, they nail the internal piece, and that’s really the fuel that powers the sustained excellence. That it’s not just throwing money at problems or throwing money at opportunities, but there is embedded cultural clarity and cohesion and unanimous focus through the organization that turns them into a customer-obsessed culture, so regardless of how many resources your department has, regardless of your shifting objectives on your IDPs, everyone understands that at all times, customer-obsession is the lifeblood of what flows through the organization. We call it the voice of the company as a paired concept with the voice of the customer, and that it’s that intersection of the voice of the company and the voice of the customer where you reached that point where you know that you’re on a constant, steady, drumbeat march to deliver customer experience excellence and you’re going to be even better tomorrow than you are today.

Bill: Are you suggesting that the internal pieces in some ways is what fuels the external piece? That organizations that are customer-obsessed have a culture where one of the paramount touchstones of it is to take care of customers. And so, there is a map, it sounds like, or a linkage between that internal sense of purpose and the enrollment around it and the understanding of it, and how customers ultimately get treated?

John: Exactly. I mean, it’s what gets employees to be clear that this really matters. That, that leadership really cares about it. That you should really care about it. And that everything that the company does is going to be set up to point the compass in that direction. It’s not enough to just be listening to your customers. You have to have your employees constantly looking for new opportunities, new ways to put the customer at the center of everything that they’re doing.

John: The internal piece isn’t enough either. I mean, you could have people entirely motivated to go and put the customer first, but if you don’t put the tools and the resources in their hands to properly embed the voice of the customer into designing the best possible customer experience across all touchpoints then, it’s all for naught.

Bill: I know we’re actively, under your leadership, studying best practices and whether that’s organizational case studies or the latest literature and data on issues like this, but a couple of companies that you think have been particularly successful at delivering remarkable customer experiences through inside out approaches and mindsets?

John: Yeah. I mean, I would say, Amazon does a fantastic job of this. They’re laser-focused within where everyone is headed all the time and their purpose is to be the world’s most customer-centric company, so everything that they do flows through that lens whether it’s a new industry that they’re looking to get into, or applying data that they know about someone in one aspect of their life and that how do they translate that into delivering more value in another direction, or just continuing to do things that no one thought was possible like delivering books cost effectively over the internet and delivering all the other consumer goods that they’ve expanded into. And then, while it’s not possible to send a product in two days and now it’s not possible to send a product in a day. Now I heard they’re testing same-day grocery delivery.

Bill: Yeah, right.

John: And, they’re not going to charge a fee for it. It’s like, who would do that other than an organization that’s aspiring to be the world’s most customer-centric organization?

Bill: Right. Amazon is one good example. There is others that you hear about. Talk about Nordstrom.

John: Really, Nordstrom, it’s just an embedded philosophy all through the organization. They even have an upside down pyramid where it’s, they put the staff really at the highest level of esteem within the organization because they’re the people that are the closest to the customer.

Bill: Particularly customer-facing staff, yes.

John: Yeah, yeah. It’s leadership last. It’s that servant-leadership idea, but they value the input and the contributions of the people that are closest to the customer above all else.

Bill: Right, okay. This isn’t just us saying it, although we say it. Hopefully, you certainly do, John very persuasively. But I know there is some data out there around how a clear sense of purpose maps to organizational financial performance. Could you speak a little bit about what you found as you scoured the literature?

John: Yeah. I mean, this is a really interesting area. It’s always been a squishy topic and I think because of that reason a lot of leaders have written off the value of purpose or vision, or mission and values, or all those components over the years. I’ve certainly heard it.

John: But recently, in the past two or three years there has been a lot more research in this area. Just recently, Harvard released a new study on corporate purpose and financial performance. They found that the companies that really, not only declare that they’re purpose-driven, but use it as a really practical tool to drive clarity through the organization, see significantly higher financial outcomes and stock market performance.

John: The key to it was not just that leadership bought in, but it was that middle management in particular. When middle management really understood where things were aligned and bought into that purpose and felt that purpose, that was the distinction that drove the higher level of performance.

Bill: Right. Go ahead, sorry.

John: More recently, there have been, there’s been other survey work. A recent survey of 1500 global C-suite executive and have found that organizations that really define and act with a sense of purpose outperform the market by 42%. Companies who, I would say, talked a good game and they declared a purpose, but didn’t really follow through with it, there was no difference. And then, organization that stated a purpose, but then actively… The actions that they took were inconsistent with what they said they stood for actually saw a negative performance.

Bill: Right. Wow! Before we get into the building blocks, and we’ll go through them one at a time, purpose, mission and values, purpose sometimes is used interchangeably with vision, I know that we have shifted towards rebranding, if you will vision as purpose because it seems people get it more, it seems deeper and more, less fluffy, for whatever reason, but before we get into those building blocks, which we will in a minute, I know that there is some things that we noticed that get in the way of even the most well-meaning leadership teams of driving a process around this and having it stick. Could you talk about some of the pitfalls of this that we seem to run into or observe again and again?

John: Yeah. When we did a full audit of the entire Fortune 500, a lot of companies really treat their purpose or vision statement as the kitchen sink, so it’s, well, we have to get our employees in here, but we have to get our customers.

Bill: Yeah, right.

John: And don’t forget the investors because if the investors don’t see it in there, they’re going to think that we don’t care about them. So, it becomes this check the box, all things to everyone, nothing burger of a statement that ends up adding no value to their organization, and really this is something that should be super clear, super inspirational, very focused. What we saw was on average there were three to four different concepts embedded within an average firm’s vision or purpose statement, which just means that, what does it really stand for if it stands for that many things?

Bill: Right. I know you like to use the analogy of a compass.

John: I do. I mean, a compass points, it points in one direction, so if the compass is pointing in multiple directions with multiple concepts all interwoven it’s like, well, where do you turn in the jungle.

Bill: Right. Sure, sure. We’re going to talk about how to think about those statements, but I know that the statements in and of themselves are just scratching the surface of what it means to operationalize that, so before we talk about the significance of these statements as day in, day out artifacts that drive decision making and comprise that twinkling North Star for everyone, let’s just parse them. Let’s talk about the three different ones. Let’s talk about purpose or it’s sometimes referred to as vision. Let’s talk about mission. And then let’s talk about values one at a time. So, what are the relevant roles of purpose and mission, or vision and mission in your eyes?

John: Yeah, so purpose is really, I would say, it’s focused on dreaming. It’s your ambition. It’s that North Star. It guides big bets. And it has to be inspirational for your organization to buy into it and embrace it and get excited about it. And also, increasingly the purpose is visible to your customers or consumers in the marketplace, so it’s got to connect with them emotionally as well. It’s feature-focused. It’s long-term. You never really get there, but every day it gets closer to within your grasp and crafted well. This is not just some inspirational poster statement. This is a central component to driving all of your corporate strategy and in particular your brand strategy. But even decision like, should we merge with this other company, should we acquire this other firm?

John: Does it get you closer to your purpose that you’re looking to achieve, or not? If it does then, hey, you should probably continue that conversation. That’s where Microsoft and LinkedIn, that’s where the conversation started. It was at that purpose and vision level, and they found that they were really looking to achieve the same things. And if this acquisition or partnership, whatever it might be, is not going to get you closer to where you want to be than why are you doing it?

Bill: Yeah, sure, so okay. That’s purpose. What about mission?

John: If purpose is focused on dreaming, mission is focused on doing. It’s how do you achieve that? What are you doing for who and how? It should also be inspirational, but most importantly, it should guide the day-to-day decisions of employees. So, if someone started at your company tomorrow and did not go through any orientation or any training, if they saw, okay, here’s the mission, here’s how we do what we do, they would do the right thing 90% of the time. It’s focused on the here and now and it’s ongoing.

John: I would add, purpose, if you do it really well, it probably should never change. That’s one artifact of your brand that should be just this unchanging really strong, really clear foundation. The mission, as the marketplace evolves, how you do what you do and how you get there and how you chase that dream that you’ve established could change. It probably should change. You should be looking at it every three to five years because what got you there is not necessarily what is going to get you to the next level.

Bill: Okay. And then values, the third part of the triumvirate, what are the roles of values and what are some best practices that we’ve uncovered around how to develop values that stick?

John: Yeah, so values translate the concepts within the mission into super clear behaviors for employees to follow, so it’s really focused on living the brand, living the organization’s promise and getting you… mapping how people can take day-to-day actions to bring the purpose to life. So, a general school of thought here is, these should be phrased in an active way and make it really easy for people to understand what can I do today in this moment to make the right decision that’s going to help us move forward?

John: Simon Sinek, I think has some great material out there on the notion that values are verbs. So traditionally it’s always been, we value innovation. That’s like good luck trying to get your employee to wrap your head around-

Bill: What that means.

John: … Well, how do I innovate today? A classic example, which has now become unfortunately funny is Facebook. One of their early values was move fast and break things was how they phrased… How they got people to their engineers, software engineers, to really understand, okay, this isn’t just the company wants me to innovate. They are giving me encouragement and license and incentivizing me to take chances to turn this into a billion dollar company. And then ultimately, they broke-

Bill: Yeah, they broke some things.

John: … a lot of stuff.

Bill: Right.

John: So, they’ve evolved their value to just move fast to encourage agility and really, I mean when you have a company as big as Facebook is now, you can’t have software engineers going around tinkering with things and break a platform that has billions of users on it, right. So, your values just as your mission can and should evolve, you should take a fresh look at your values over time as well.

Bill: We got these building blocks. Those are processes to develop the content that we seek to elevate as noted a moment ago. That content is a surface-scratcher. There is so much that lies beneath, so let’s shift into how these aspirations drive operations and how we make them real, enduring, living elements within how a company goes to market? Could you talk a little bit more about, a little bit about how to make these more than posters on a wall, or plaques in the conference room?

John: Yeah. I mean, this was essential to the research that’s rolling out that’s showing, which organizations outperform through the use of effective use of purpose. I think you said it well. It needs to be more than the poster on the wall. If it doesn’t change how you’re going about doing what you’re doing, it’s not going to improve financial outcomes for the organizations.

John: I mean, done well these components should influence things like hiring practices, and behavioral interview questions, and employee orientations and trainings along the way. It could inform additional layers of operating principles. Like, Nordstrom is famous for a rule of service using good judgment in all situations. The only reason that they can… that, that adds value to their organization is they’ve operationalized it. They only hire people who use good judgment…

Bill: Right.

John: … in all situations. So, their entire hiring process is designed to ensure that they’re bringing the people in who can live into that promise that they make.

Bill: Right.

John: Also, I would say incentives and rewards. How are you incentivizing and aligning and recognizing when people are following your values and fulfilling those right behaviors? Organizations need to put feedback mechanisms in place to really keep people on track.

Bill: Yeah. When it comes to the process of selecting values there is probably, I don’t know, 50 or 100 things that anybody wants another colleague to live up to, show up on time, work hard, do what you say you’re going to do, things like that. Values, though, in this case are really the handful of behaviors that we seek to elevate as being central to the execution of purpose and mission, and they really become norms. I guess that’s just how we are and how we work and what our culture consists of, the things that we value.

John: There are different types of values, so for some of the organizations that we work with the, you certainly need to figure out what’s special about the way they operate today and the behaviors that they follow that have driven them to the success that they’ve achieved thus far. But, then there are also what we would call stretch values where, okay, we’re somewhere along the journey of this, but we really need to take this further to the next level if you want the company to get to where we all believe it can and should be. So, I think the best combination is having, sorry, critical mass of what’s working for you today, but having at least one or two stretch values that bring the organization along their journey to becoming that next version of itself that’s going to be even better.

Bill: Right, so those are calls to action. Those are areas that are of particular focus. Before we wrap and switch over to the external side of this, you said earlier and I think one of the things that is so important here is, this is about everyone feeling it and living it. Process-wise when we help clients and think through the process of getting this done, this being a lot of constituent parts, but the overall discipline, is there a risk in this being a top-down exercise? Management writes it in a room and then it, the tablets come forth, the white smoke rises, all the metaphors I can mix. Are there ways that we have found to efficiently, yet inclusively involve the broader organization in processes like this?

John: Yeah. I’ve experienced on the client side examples of the white smoke goes off.

Bill: Yeah.

John: Something appears on a slide in a town hall and suddenly, hey, we’re all pointing in this direction.

Bill: Right, right.

John: And you’re just like, where did this come from?

Bill: Right, right.

John: And why should I believe in it? The right process is, I would say, organizationally specific, so we always seek to custom tailor it to the dynamics of the leadership team, the organizational structure culturally, where are they at today? But generally, it is a balance of a really engaged leadership team that’s bought in with workshopping that is fueled by the voice of the employee. So, we seek to gather inputs before we engage working with the leadership team in workshops from different functions and different… What are some front line employees who are really in tune with the customer and you want to make sure your back office employees also feel valued and that they’re really part of this and are enrolled as well because the people in the front can only do what they do if the people on the back have their back. So, we do look to have this be a collaborative process. I’d say, in particular the values.

Bill: Yeah.

John: So, big picture purpose, I’d say more of that responsibility should be on the leadership team to really define that with some input from more broadly from the organization. And potentially even some input from some customers and what really, what did they really care about at the end of the day? But, the values really, really have to connect with individuals throughout the company in a very personal way, so it’s great to gather input from that audience.

Bill: Excellent. So, sum it up. If you could limit this whole thing, and I know there is a lot more that’s available on our site, and we’ll be glad to anybody that’s wants to talk about this, we’re really excited and we’re really passionate about it, could you maybe narrow it down to three takeaways for folks who are thinking on the internal side on this about how to deploy something this powerful within their organization?

John: Yeah. I would say, if you want to drive sustained excellence in customer experience where it’s not just here today and potentially gone tomorrow, you got to start with a focused, purpose-driven aspiration for the future. What are you really looking to achieve that’s a bigger picture, impactful, or a human idea?

John: How do you make that then crystal clear to employees by virtue of having it be articulated, but also through a mission and values that show them how they can really bring these, this to life and how they can all chase this exciting vision for the future together?

John: The third piece would be operationalizing the brand purpose, so it drives all your internal operations from your staffing to your training to oftentimes even your product and service innovation, really all throughout the organization to ensure that it’s not just that poster on the wall, but this really changes what the organization is doing to take everything to the next level.

Bill: Thank you, John. Shifting gears, so Tim DeGennaro, our AVP of Insights Communities has been waiting patiently looking great as always, emoting, but is excited I think to have his bite of the apple. So, the internal piece that John walked through as being an essential force multiplier when it comes to what the customer ultimately feels.

Bill: Tim is a member of the team whose tenure with us coincides, and Tim has been a leader in this regard, in our really concerted initiative around a particular research structure. We’ve been doing custom research for decades and decades, but there is an area of research and the structure of research called insights communities that you’ve pioneered throughout your career and now we’re grateful to say you’re pioneering it within our walls and on behalf of our clients.

Bill: So, if the voice of the company that John described is about engaging that internal team, let’s talk to you about the voice of the customer. I think that may be more linear in terms of people understanding why that matters to the customer experience. But, talk a little bit about some philosophies that underlie how you look at it.

Tim DeGennaro: Yeah. Well, people talk about voice of the customer in a lot of different ways and it’s been talked about differently probably a decade ago than it is talked about today. I think it began really believed to be… I think the way it was internalized was, it was doing more market research.

Bill: Right, right.

Tim: The innovation and marketing team is doing more market research. But, where it’s become is now customer-obsession. That’s actually a phrase that’s in a lot of mantras for companies today as part of their internal adoption of such a thing. What that really means is constant learning, constant feedback and really putting the customer at the center of decisions big and small. So, it’s not just testing a new product idea to see if it sticks. It’s exploring more about what are these people’s lives like? How are they interacting with our brands, competitor brands? And even down to smaller things like if you’re… We’re sending you an email to tell you, you’ve been rejected for a loan. How does our wording make you feel?

Bill: Right, right.

Tim: It’s something that expands not just to marketing innovation, but also back office functions as well, even the technology teams. The decisions they make in technology investments, how well do those support the CX vision?

Bill: Right. It makes sense. You talked about how for some organizations that may be more traditional, customer-centricity means more market research, bigger budgets, more projects. We, under your leadership, have turned that a little bit on its head and we’ve really been pioneering this insights community methodology. How is that different? We’ll talk about what it is in a minute and some of the benefits of it. But fundamentally and on a philosophical level, what’s the difference between an insight community and just a standard series of market research projects?

Tim: I think it’s not about a series of projects anymore, but an overall learning program.

Bill: Right.

Tim: Where the program is aimed at making customer-obsession real. At the core of what these insights communities are is essentially it’s a private panel that is built of customers recruited from customer lists, or third-party panels. They really fit the profile of who your customers are, or who they could be, or who you might want to convert into becoming your customers. It’s really about making sure you have a 24/7 always on access to ask them whatever it is, big or small, and have no barriers in between you and them to really give you a level of intimate understanding about them from decisions big and small.

Bill: Right. And so, compared to traditional research where maybe you do a big survey, or you do a bunch of focus groups, how does the methodological mix and potential of an insights community differ from what folks may be used to?

Tim: Yeah, so I think if they … how a typical research program goes there is a whole lot of scoping and a whole lot of survey writing and a whole lot of striking up the band to get the panel partners onboard and everything programmed, and that eats up a lot of time. And time is what is probably prevents most companies from actually executing on their vision of being customer-obsessed.

Bill: Right.

Tim: Because who has the time to do something like that? The insights community works entirely different. There is access to a suite of tools from surveys to mobile missions to chats to IEIs that are just at your fingertips with people ready to talk to you. So, it really takes the amount of time and investment down to actually talk to them.

Bill: Right.

Tim: Which makes talking to them for even small little things possible.

Bill: And so, some of the advantages of this structure, you mentioned speed. Presumably if these folks are waiting on demand, you can get in and out of the field pretty quickly if you have a couple of questions.

Tim: Yeah. We have clients that rely on us. Our timelines are hours not weeks.

Bill: Yeah, right, right. That’s one advantage. You spoke about the cost savings compared to all the strike up the band elements, the time that it takes, but also the budget that it burns for traditional research, so that makes sense. What are some other benefits of the community methodology as opposed to ad hoc or custom research?

Tim: Yeah, so one of the things about research in the past was that it was very much you’d get a response from someone and that was it. You never were able to talk to that person again and probe and ask more and go deeper with that person and understand their situation on their experience.

Tim: With communities, you can go deep, right. If we have a set of people who for whatever reason their net promoter score for our brand has dropped from being a promoter to now being a passive, we can go deep with them. We can understand what happened. And so, it allows you to really go back and explore things in more detail.

Tim: There is more tools, so we’re not just having them answer survey questions. We’re having them think about drawing us pictures, submitting videos, and doing things that really help us bring that consumer into the board room and help them, help their ideas really sing across the organization.

Bill: Right. We would talk about how much of the world, one of the reasons why customer centricity matters so much is that mobile and digital life. How do insights communities address consumers on the go, or mobile phones, or texts, or some of the other things that are important to how people act today?

Tim: Yeah, so I mean, they’re all mobile-friendly, so we know that a lot of folks who do participate, participate on their mobile phones as well as just having functionality that lets us tap them wherever they are with that mobile phone. Sending them to stores to take pictures of a shopping trip, or take videos of an experience, or just take surveys about going to a retail store and what was going well and what was going poorly on that visit while in the store allows us to take advantage of that trend and really convert it into customer-obsessed data.

Bill: You’ve been a wizard on behalf of our clients when it comes to new ways and new techniques to collect genuine insight. I know consumers aren’t always the most reliable narrators of their behavior or of their intended behavior, but what are some techniques that we’ve been able to deploy, or you have throughout your career to find better ways to really understand what people are thinking in ways that they may not be able to put their own finger on?

Tim: Yeah, so this happens particularly with, in the world of beer.

Bill: Sure.

Tim: Which is a place where I have worked in and continue to work in. You ask guys why they buy beer and it’s because it tastes good.

Bill: It tastes good.

Tim: And the price is right. You have to help people get around those censors. So, we deploy things like projective techniques to really understand the relationship to the brand, the appropriate occasions, the jobs to be done that these brands fulfill as a brand, not as a liquid, but as a brand.

Bill: Sure, sure, yeah.

Tim: So, we’ll ask them things like, what is a brand’s spirit animal, or what is an ode to your favorite chocolate? Things like that help people express their relationship to a brand and the things that are hidden and internalized that are difficult to talk about if you just ask them…

Bill: Some of the fun things you’ve done, I know that we’ve talked about you had a group of consumers who were separated in the beer example into Bottle and Can debate teams. I know that in some cases you’ve built comic books that really dramatize and socialize the learning, so that internal leadership teams are able to really get their arms around what it is that they’re hearing.

Tim: Yeah and just as much as it’s important to, as an internal organization, adopt customer-obsession and have that tools, the tools to do it, is it also has to be spread across the organization. What you’re hearing back has to be socialized. So, there are many different ways to do that beyond just sharing a PowerPoint that dies on a server somewhere.

Bill: Right.

Tim: It’s, why can’t we have these experiences bringing consumers in, or as I say, bringing that consumer into the board room through videos, through pictures, through immersion within a room, just having quotes and pictures surrounding you to really help you understand what are these customers trying to tell us?

Bill: Right.

Tim: And where do we go next?

Bill: Now, so that’s all well and good and fun and interesting, and comic books and other things, but back to our main centricity point, what are some ways that insights communities are distinctly relevant to understanding in deeper more textured ways how consumers see the world? You mentioned a few of them. I mean, when it comes to new product innovation, when it comes to really getting to know their customer, not just to ask them more frequently or more quickly whether they like blue or red, but to really get to know them as people? What are some ways that insights communities help further that goal?

Tim: Yeah, so we do a lot of iterative research, so instead of just presenting a concept and seeing whether it does poorly or negatively, we actually do some work beforehand to understand what consumers are really interested in and what their lives are like. And then follow those customers along a journey to then figure out when we do eventually show them-

Bill: Right.

Tim: … an idea that we co-develop with them, how do they react to it? Did the people who were having this problem respond positively. Did it solve their issue? Is it solving it in a way that’s better than what was they were presenting earlier?

Bill: You mentioned earlier that one of the limitations of traditional research is that you ask them once, they get paid for that survey or that focus group, and they disappear into the night never to be seen again, hopefully by their friends and family, but never by the research team. Is there something about insights communities that enable a more robust pathway of research touchpoints? You mentioned innovation a minute ago. Talk a little bit about how we’re able to intimate with consumers in a way that traditionally wouldn’t have been a possibility.

Tim: Yeah. I think one of the main things that’s offered in an insights community is tools to gather different forms of information beyond just survey data. So, if we did have an idea, we can have the customer’s mark it up, highlight it, beat it up, give us feedback, use highlighter tools, things like that, do dial testing if it’s video and actually learn from that feedback very quickly and present them something new and have them beat it up and ask them, is this better than before? It’s like going to the eye doctor. Is it lens one or lens two, which one is better? We can do that same thing with customers and really solve any problem iteratively with them at a very high speed.

Bill: Cool. One of the other things that’s notable, I mean we talk about the toolkit when it comes to customer satisfaction and customer experience. There are pretty popular concepts like NPS for example, net promoter score, that are dashboards. But one of the interesting things of that communities is that it transcends the mere measure and it becomes something far more remedial. Could you talk about what, how communities bring NPS to life?

Tim: Sure.

Bill: And how we can understand…

Tim: Yeah. Well, NPS is actually useless if, unless you’re able to track it on an account level, right. If you’re able to see, oh, our NPS dropped, we can maybe figure out why, but not for whom. I think in a community setting, we have the power to track things like NPS over time of an individual and we’re able to look back and see, did this person have a change and really go deep and understand what drove that change, which is really how you figure out what are the actual drivers of net promoter score, not just did it change or not?

Bill: Sure.

Tim: That’s something that a lot of our clients had, had difficulty activating upon until they were able to capture that information in a community setting.

Bill: Yeah. I know, so examples in large communities and panels, one of the standard questions that we would ask somebody is NPS and we were enabled by virtue of the tool that underlies the community to get really quickly to people whose answer to that question may have changed from a week or a month prior and then really go deep with them.

Tim: Yeah. It allows our clients to be nimble. I mean, we have a client who has rolled out a new loyalty reward program. We were able to track NPS before and now we’re tracking it after the program launch, and we’re able to dig in. Their NPS is decreasing. How do we change that? How do we undo that? How do we fix whatever it was that we broke and didn’t anticipate we would break it, but how do we fix that in order to retain the engagement in this program?

Bill: Yeah, super interesting. We’ve been going for probably what seems like seven and a half hours, although it’s been a brisk, I don’t know, couple of minutes. But we appreciate everybody’s attention. Tim and John, John Ferreira, Tim DeGennaro, thank you. The goal today was to talk about a concept that is very much on everybody’s minds and lips, at least people that we run across. How do I get more customer-centric? How do I create a better customer experience with the goal of deeper connections and greater warmth and bonding, but also, of course long-term financial performance that’s durable? There is an inside game, we believe to that, which is about ratifying purpose and operationalizing the ideas that drive it in a way that leads to employee engagement and really strong customer experience delivery.

Bill: And then, as Tim attested, there is an outside game, which is how to harness the voice of the customer in ways that are material and timely and efficient to enhance everything from big questions around lifestyle changes and how the world is changing, how the culture is impacting how our consumers interact with us, as well as much more specific downstream processes all the way down to this packaging or that packaging, ad testing, concept testing, et cetera?

Bill: Guys, Finch is proud to offer frameworks and thought leadership around the internal piece, and the external piece too. We really appreciate you guys’ time.

Tim: Thanks for having us.

John: Thank you.

Bill: For those seeking a little bit more information on this, reach out to me on Twitter, if you want. I love to talk and we’re geeks about this stuff. We love it. But beyond that, for other further resources, has deeper content around what John calls, “The voice of the company,” which is purpose, mission and values and how to operationalize those.

Bill: We also have a pretty kick ass work in blue here, pretty kick butt, white paper also available at, which is the related web presence that represents our community’s offering, which we call Finch Sight and our own brand architecture. There is a white paper there called, Next Generation Insights Communities, a Benchmarking Guide for 2019. I’m sure we’re in the process of updating that for 2020, but lots of additional depth to find for those who are interested in this. We’re grateful for your time. I hope we got you thinking. We’ll sign off at the cradle of liberty.

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