How did they do it? This series aims to inspire and aid true customer-centricity, and highlight the implemenation and integration of customer experience and the voice of the customer in different sectors and industries.
In today’s Wonderflow’s interview, we speak to Fabio Costa, an experienced professional with a strong international background. He has a proven record in the turnaround industry, having worked with companies such as Samsung Group, Danaher, GE on their strategy, business development, and marketing and he is a global entrepreneur with businesses he has founded running in Asia, Europe and NA. Today’s conversation revolves around customer feedback and the sort of insights this type of data can generate, consequently benefiting the company.
Customer feedback and strategy
Considering your years of experience helping boards change their strategy, do you think that customer feedback can have a large impact on decisions for change?
If you look at many of the companies today, I think it is clear that consumer input is critical in defining what products and services companies have to focus on in solving real problems of consumers. Pretty much any business that wants to be successful in the market today and in the future needs proximity to what is relevant for the consumers. So, if you think about that, it is pretty clear that consumer centricity is an aspect that will define a successful company in the future.
At what frequency should a company review customer feedback and revisit its strategy?
It is important to revisit a company’s strategy to become closer to the customer and be present in every step of the journey. So, you need a deep understanding of what consumers are focusing on and how to solve their apparent or even sometimes invisible pain points. In the past 20 years, there has been a real focus on consumers, which has been powered by technology. Today, what any business has to do is engage in VoC (Voice of the Customer) analysis. Having this as part of your strategy is fundamental. Companies need that, independently of whether they are a B2B or B2C company. It’s another type of approach they can use, even within your own HR team. Information is necessary, and to some extent, it is already available. For instance in your call centers and customer care centers. This information can help you in understanding the state of the company and the direction it needs to take, as well as indicating what aspects of your product or service to improve in order to create value for the customer.
”One thing that any manager or executive in a company needs to at least be aware of is that you are not the customer, and you need to listen to the real ones.
Do you have an example of a time when the strategy of a company was completely changed based on customer feedback?
I can tell you one aspect I thought was very relevant to Samsung. It was 2011-12 and it was the beginning of the mobile revolution. We were riding the wave of what was going to become one of the largest markets in the world, the smartphone business. At the time it was not clear which was the right size for a phone screen. And I know that these days, we are in a new phase of redefining again what is the right shape and size for a smartphone. But at that time it was quite clear that consumers liked a different type of screen. In my perspective, I would have not wanted to have a large screen. But I am not the consumer, or I might be, but my perspective can be biased. Only when you talk to consumers you actually understand how they are using the phone. After engaging with the consumers, it was possible to understand that there was significant market potential for larger screens. In fact, as soon as the first tablets came out, it was possible to observe that there was a real need for that kind of product. The bottom line is, if I had developed a product myself, I would have never created a large screen phone. What you think, is as interesting as a single point in a massive chart. So you need to include as many opinions as you can to obtain the right insights.
And are there any instances when taking into account customer feedback can harm a company’s strategy?
No, I don’t think so. It doesn’t have a negative impact on the strategy, but it helps you redefine it. Redefining a strategy may be considered a negative impact, but I would argue that when you don’t change your strategy you go out of business. So, I think that having this kind of proximity to the customer actually helps you create value for your clients. And if you can create value for your customers, and if you are able to create a unique selling point that really fits what the consumer is willing to pay for, then you will be in business. If you can’t do this, then you’re probably going to be out of business. You also need to be able to fail to some extent, but you don’t have to fail stupidly. You need to include data in the design phase and continuously understand whether what you are doing makes sense or not. There are many ways to do it, you can use Net Promoter Score (NPS), Voice of the Customer Analytics (VoC), and reviews especially.
When you conduct an experiment, you modify the setting that you are trying to experiment with. This level of interaction is inevitable. For this reason, there is a certain level of bias when you ask questions to your customers. But now, it is the opposite. Now you have people generating the data themselves by sharing their experiences and opinions about products and services. The context has changed a lot, and we really have to think about what is the best approach to generate the insights you need. Every strategy should be informed by data. Only strategies that do not take into account the data are bad strategies.
When should a business start involving customer feedback in decision-making?
Immediately. If you are not solving anyone’s problems, you don’t have a business. If you don’t create value for anybody you should really ask yourself whether your business should exist or not.
The importance of automated customer feedback analysis tools
When is the right time to start working with automated customer feedback analytics tools?
Nowadays tools are necessary to extract insights in a world where there is too much information. It is very important to have tools that help you harness social listening and reviews. If you go back to 15-20 years ago when all of this didn’t exist, when you developed a product, you had to wait until the product was in the market to see the people’s responses. Recently, there have been a number of movies talking about companies in the 90s that were trying to create what was going to become the smartphone (General Magic, The Movie). They isolated a group of very smart and accomplished people to try to come up with innovative products. And then they face the market, and they realize that nobody wants to buy the product they developed. But at the time, technology to get feedback from the market didn’t exist. Today we have it, and you want to have this sort of feedback before creating the product. The philosophy of the minimum viable product and the running of experiments to quickly test what kind of feedback the product gives you are very important for any company. When you are a large company, the challenge is to understand the best way to do this.
You need to conduct experiments to understand what’s the consumer’s reaction. Technology can definitely help you shorten the time and make it cheaper. Think about the focus groups 10/20 years ago. You still need to conduct focus groups, but now you have a richer environment. There are many technologies out there that not only allow you to get consumer feedback in a way of a written note. You can also get feedback from facial expressions. It was already popular some years ago. A company later bought by Apple was developing facial expression sentiment analysis. Participants didn’t have to do anything, but if the experience was particularly good or bad, the researcher could see their expressions. Their face was basically an indicator. Fundamentally, technology helps you shorten the cycle, getting more information. But then you also need to frame the information in a proper way, so you still need to ask the right questions. Asking the right questions will allow you to get the right answers and consequently get the insights you really need.
”You don’t know what you don’t know. When framing a problem, you need to be open to understanding what are the possible options that you’ve never considered.
Do you think that companies should use a combination of quantitative and qualitative analysis for their market research?
I think they already do. What companies are still not doing is the development of strategies around the information that they have. If you are a company with a product, you certainly have a customer center and a call center. So, you have a lot of information coming in. Additionally, you have your own employees, which are another set of stakeholders. You have what the customers write about your product on many platforms.
So, the question is: is it difficult for you to have feedback? No. People will write about things you do well and not well. Or they will talk about it. Or they will record themselves when talking about it, like vloggers. They talk about your product in a video format. This is a form of feedback that will probably become as popular as reviews.
So, how do you capture all this information that is continuously generated in a massive amount? That’s when a tool becomes very important. Going back to my smartphone example, for me it was inconceivable to have a phone as large as a tablet in my pocket. But consumers wanted this, so you have to be open to that type of perspective and then validate it. When you have gathered all the information, you can bring it to the next step. And that’s when automated solutions become very important. You need automated technology to be able to get insights from all the information that you have. Sources of information are many and they can be unstructured, like the data you find on blogs or other online venues where people talk about products. And they can also be structured, like reviews. There are many studies suggesting that better reviews lead to better sales. It obviously doesn’t solely depend on the ratings, but they certainly help you. People, in many cases and for many products, look at reviews first. So, many aspects of our lives are now based on reviews, just think about restaurants, products, locations, venues. And, to some extent, even your friends. The “like” is fundamentally a review.
The ability to aggregate and structure data is very important because it allows you to bring many different aspects together and define what is important for your company. When you have millions of reviews you need a tool to help you. That is where a service like the Wonderboard comes into play because it presents you with insights from a marketer’s standpoint but in a language that can be translated into design and consumer’s standpoints. The insights and information help you backing-up the decision-making process as well as convincing executives that changes need to be made to the product. The Wonderboard can become, in many ways, a super tool. People can see what is happening, they can see it live and implement changes according to what the consumer wants. Harnessing the power of all this information is not simple, but companies like Wonderflow can really help you understanding and framing where you are and what you need to do.
Analyzing multi-language customer feedback in large volume from different sources is a complex process. With an AI-based technology and years of experience, Wonderflow is helping global brands to become customer-centric. Find out more about our solution.
What do you think is the advantage of using a digital platform like Wonderboard over traditional market research?
I think it’s complementary. The multiple types of research you conduct within a company are complementary in many ways. The Wonderboard is where all the insights about your products or service are. For this reason, it should be used on a daily or weekly basis. In this way, you are able to immediately respond to problems. But this process shouldn’t exclusively be related to what is out there. You have customer service data. You can gather the data, analyze it and come up with insights for this segment too. Fundamentally, the Wonderboard shouldn’t only be applied to the product, but it should be applied to any potential insight from your customers. A tool is a tool, it is the manager who needs to find a way to apply it to a company’s situation in the way they think it’s appropriate. Wonderflow certainly provides an amazing way to harness the power of the data. And those insights can be applied to many sets of stakeholders within an organization to increase your chances of survival in a very complex market.