In this edition of our Voice of the Customer (VoC) Interview series, our own Stefano Pecorari, Client Success Director at Wonderflow, welcomes Jorge Garcia, the founder at Vessel Insights & Strategy.
Vessel Insights & Strategy is a network-based insight, strategy, and internal communication agency. Before leading the company, Jorge was the Vice President at Estee Lauder, a renowned global cosmetic brand, for nearly five years. Specifically, he led the North American market, overseeing Consumer Insights & Analytics. Then, before this, Jorge held top management positions at Procter & Gamble, a leading consumer goods firm, for nearly 13 years.
Given his diverse and tremendous experience with a specialty in customer experience (CX), we are delighted to sit down with Jorge. Business professionals from all walks of life can benefit from his customer-centric leadership approach.
I would say 11!
I have been working in the Consumer and Market Insight industry for more than twenty years. Making sure my stakeholders listen to the opinion of the customer has been my philosophy and primary motivation.
I have been lucky to work in organizations motivated by customer insight and with clients who are trying very hard to fulfill the customer’s demands within the service and innovation constraints.
2. Stefano: Can you describe the challenges you faced when attempting to transform your company into more customer-centric?
Throughout my career, I have encountered two constant challenges.
I have often experienced resistance from people who want to have no boundaries when it comes to creation. People believe customer insight would prevent them from being creative.
So the trick is to make sure people understand better the challenge at hand. It is not for us to dictate the solutions but to guide its generation.
Customers cannot tell us what the next significant innovation is, but they can leave breadcrumbs and clues to help us solve it.
People’s results are not measured in terms of customer satisfaction or any other customer metric. When I work with technical teams, there is a constant belief that innovation should come from applying technology. It can be R&D or IT professionals.
It is not until people understand their role in the value chain and how they can make a difference for the final customers that they get a new purpose.
It is our job to show them that.
3. Stefano: Can you give an example of when you believe your company made a mistake when handling consumer feedback?
I recall a time when the customer feedback clashed with the brand philosophy.
Customers would come into the stores and feel intimidated by the staff and the environment. The brand team was OK with that; it is cool, aspirational, not for everyone.
And in that way, customer satisfaction keeps on deteriorating, affecting traffic and purchase.
It was not until a direct competitor came in with a similar tone of voice, but with a much more inviting presence, a modern take on what expertise should be, that they realized how outdated their thinking was.
4. Stefano: What is your vision for the future of consumer feedback at your company? What is your next idea/future/technology to become more consumer-centric?
I think the blind statement that big data would be the solution for all is vanishing.
Organizations realize that their data is as valuable as the understanding of the customer it can reveal. For this, I am seeing a direct integration between Human Insight and Analytics.
We are in an era where people favor more succinct customer feedback faster than larger-than-life models with limited application.
In this case, I look forward to applications of technology to enable a better understanding of qualitative research coming from voice and video. There is so much unarticulated feedback that escapes what people write, and we need to learn how to capture it.
5. Stefano: How do you envision COVID-19 (permanently) changing how we interact with our consumers and their preferences and expectations?
The one fundamental change that COVID-19 has accelerated is the creation of better omnichannel experiences. Those who were not ready to fulfill the needs of the online shopper cannot ignore it anymore.
Customers are not in a privileged place where they can demand more and better services from retailers and brands.
However, COVID-19 has also evidenced that to comply with the new demands, we need to think differently about the cost behind it – I am talking about the human side of fulfilling businesses.
Brands are being challenged to become more sustainable, purposeful and fill the void governments and institutions have left.
It is also a time to rethink goals and make sure they are not just financially driven.
6. Stefano: What are some barriers for companies to improve on while using consumer insights?
Companies want to do well for their customers. The tension arises when the rewards system conflicts with the acknowledgment of people’s feedback.
At times, speed to market, budget optimization, and technical requirements clash with the actions needed to act upon the Insight coming from the customer. It is critical to recognize that people want to do what is right, but they also need to be rewarded accordingly.
Ensuring people can challenge the reward systems that govern them is very important; changing them and giving room to new learning will help them find systemic ways to win in the marketplace.
7. Stefano: How have your insights helped to align different agendas between brands and their retailers?
There is a natural and healthy tension between what brands want and what retailers want.
Yet, at times, it is hard to align on the goals and agendas.
One of the most productive tools for this to happen is knowing how to leverage consumer insights strategically. Both parties are interested in generating value for the customer, which is already an excellent place to start.
When I worked with one of the leading beauty retailers, we did not always see eye to eye.
Still, by bringing additional perspective on how people shop in other places, the essential communication elements, and the proven practices that drive revenue, we facilitated meaningful discussions that ended up in a better customer experience.
Stefano: Thank you again, Jorge, for taking the time to share your leadership advice. We look forward to speaking with you again in the future. Meanwhile, all the best with your endeavors!