Winter, June 2013

What do you really want? 

Uncovering customer insights through social media

Customer insight communitiesIn a customer centric environment, delivering value is based on achieving a deep understanding of customers’ needs, wants and desires.

Ask two different customers what they consider valuable and you are likely to get two entirely different answers.  At a high level, customers will value a product or service for its: a) Function: the job it performs for them; b) Experience: interactions with the brand; c) Price: in the context of the function and experience received.

In a procurement context, there are two observations that can be made from this:  Firstly, understanding what ‘value’ procurement customers actually value requires dedicated research to uncover; and secondly, procurement customers are highly unlikely to see cost savings/revenue generation as the only stream of value.

Speaking at the Asia-Pacific CPO Forum, The Faculty’s Group Marketing Manager, Lisa Malone challenged delegates to answer:

  • Which issues make our procurement customers unhappy and cause them to circumvent our team/process?
  • What pleases our customers and causes them to recommend us to others?
  • How can we turn our customers into true advocates for our business?

In the marketing profession, insight communities are increasingly being used by brands to better understand and gauge customer expectations and validate strategies.  Essentially an online discussion group, companies create a community with the specific intent of addressing customer experience issues.

While most commonly used within B2C space – often by retailers or FMCGs, Lisa believes there are real opportunities to extend their usage into the B2B space, or importantly for procurement, within the internal enterprise.  

“I see a real opportunity for procurement teams – and other functions – to use insight communities to test proof of concept, listen for ‘winds of change’, anticipate customer behaviours, inform communications strategies, identify systemic or local hot spots and understand at any point in time what constitutes ‘value’” says Lisa.  

“Before the advent of social media, surveys and focus groups were the primary means of gathering customer insights,” reflects Lisa. While she believes that both remain critically important, “social media has transformed the depth and breadth of customer insights available and provide the two way conversation that consumers now demand.”  

“There are plenty of bespoke, highly sophisticated customer insight tools available, but a discussion board via the procurement intranet, or even a private group on LinkedIN, for example, will usually suffice for procurement’s purposes.”

A moderator will usually be required to prompt discussions and pose questions about customers’ experience with procurement in the early stages however, over time conversations will tend to arise naturally as communities mature.  “Insight communities are a fast, authentic way of taking the pulse,” says Lisa, “Category Managers can take an idea and simply put it to the community to see what they have to say about it. Communities can also be a powerful pipeline to the C-Level for validating strategy and highlighting issues.”

Be clear about one thing however - ‘customer centricity’ does not mean doing everything the customer wants. Lisa warns: “Reacting to every request that customers make of your team, without consideration for the brand you want to build and the customers you wish to serve, is a recipe for stultifying complexity and eventual failure.”

Regardless of the social media platform you choose, keep in mind the following tips when creating an insight community:

  • Must have a critical mass of participants – 100+ members is preferable
  • Must contain advocates and non-advocates, stakeholders, suppliers, end users
  • Refresh the community periodically
  • Offer incentives to participate – a bad of participation is often sufficient!
  • Embed the outcomes in the business
  • Outcomes of the insight community should add to the quality of procurement’s strategic thinking – it doesn’t replace it.  .
  • Use insight communities as a pipeline to the C-Level
  • Use insight communities to create enthusiasm and anticipation, which creates engagement

To discuss how your procurement team can improve the quality of your customer insights, contact Lisa Malone, Group Marketing Manager, on 03 9654 4900 or via email