Last week, Reuters published an article called Americans more loyal to brands, country than company. For employers, it poses a wake-up call. But what I found most interesting was this statement at the end:
When asked how companies could improve loyalty the top answers included offering cash awards to consumers, replacing automatic answering machines with real people, making good products and not raising prices.
I think this shows why consumer opinion and sentiment shouldn’t always be taken at immediate face value. The way we think about things is complex and requires us to go exploring for more specific answers. This is were doing more qualitative work is an important complement to the quantitative work of surveys and polls.
Thinking about the snippet above from the Reuters article…What does making good products mean? How about not raising prices? Before you go thinking you know exactly what the answers are, take a step back and consider how many different possible answers are possible here. A good product can have a multitude of meanings in the mind of the customer. Now amplify it by hundreds or thousands of customers. And the desire to not raise prices may be contradicted if there is the possibility of adding more value to the product.
As an anthropologist, we’re trained to not just look at what’s said, but also look for what’s not said. Interestingly, what’s omitted here is listening. Well, sort of. We might be able to extract listening from the desire to talk to real people instead of answering machines. But…
What would happen if our companies set up experiences that encouraged customers to talk, to share ideas, to voice frustrations?
What would happen if we genuinely listened to what was said and not said?
What would happen if we took all of those opinions and sentiments and put them to action so our customers would feel heard?
Can you imagine how powerful that might be? Forget short-term buzz. Think long-term customer movements.
photo credit: abrinsky (via Flickr)