In the last blog, I talked about the power of customer observation. This time, let me switch gears and talk about the power of conversation with customers. The power of conversation is based on the following three key learning:

  1. CUSTOMERS CAN REACT TO A PRODUCT OFFERING, BUT THEY CANNOT DESIGN NEW PRODUCTS FOR A BRAND. Example: A customer in a shoe store can tell the sales staff where a shoe hurts, but the same customer cannot design a solution to remove the discomfort.
  1. IF YOU ASK A CUSTOMER A QUESTION, HE WILL SURELY GIVE YOU AN ANSWER. It is important that the customer shares their reactions and feelings, and not act like an “expert giving an opinion.” Hence, you have to be very careful as “how” you ask the customer a question, as you do not want to make the customer feel like an expert. When a customer gets into the “expert mode” he will give answers that sound good and are rational. Here is an example: In a focus group when I asked a respondent how he felt about a new product, he stated that his single friends would surely like this product. When I asked him if he was planning to buy the product with his own money, he was not at all ready to commit to a purchase. I wanted to learn how he, himself, would react to the product. Instead when he was talking about his friends, he was speaking as an expert and most probably he did not have firsthand knowledge about his friends’ reaction to the new product.  That answer could be very misleading as he did not have any desire to purchase the product himself.
  1. A BRAND CAN LEARN A LOT BY WATCHING A CUSTOMER BE A CUSTOMER AND ENGAGING IN A CONVERSATION (NOT JUST ASKING QUESTIONS). When a customer is truly in the customer mode, it is truly enriching to see how he processes information and makes decisions. If you can engage in a conversation with the customer when he is in that mindset, you will be amazed to learn how a customer reacts to your product.

In this video blog, I talk about Blockbuster video and how I was trying to discover the brand’s connections to families.  If I started with a traditional quantitative research, I would have learned that 8 out of 10 respondents feel that their families connect to the brand. That insight would be very powerful but would not have given me any idea of the magnitude of the connection.  I truly wanted to know, “What was the true intensity of the connection the brand enjoyed with respondents and their families?” I got that answer when I created a mini lounge in the store, and invited loyal guests to come in and have a one-on-one conversation with me.

The interaction with the guest was very informal while putting them at the center of attention.  I would greet the guest when they walked in, give him a tour of the store and then we sat down to have a conversation.  Instead of structuring the conversation in the form of a series of questions, I wanted to create the environment that facilitated sharing “brand connection moments.”  As I prepared for the conversation with the customer, I wanted to create a personal environment as if I was talking to a buddy of mine, asking him about when and where he met his wife for the first time, and what he felt after the first date, etc.  The same way I wanted to learn about my friend’s excitement, his passion, and his memories; and everything in his words; the same way I wanted to learn the customer’s connection to Blockbuster.

As you watch the video blog, I am sure that you will be amazed at the learning that came out of the conversation.  The conversation made me feel the heartbeat of the customer. Now I knew how the customer and his family actually connected with the brand. It truly was simple yet insightful, as the customer was not feeling like an expert.  He was in a moment where he felt that I was genuinely interested in what he was saying and was helping me out by sharing his emotions.

I did a quantitative study as a follow-up to quantify the emotions and understand which age groups felt the connection the most. However, without the deep-dive “one-on-one conversation”, I would have never had a true appreciation of “how families felt connected to the brand.”

Enjoy the blog!