Customer Closeness – telling you what you already know

Most businesses would agree “we have lots of data, but not a lot of insight”. We hear this echoed back to us by frustrated and overworked insight teams – they run to keep up with the demands for customer inputs into various projects, but never have the opportunity to really infuse that understanding properly. As soon as one debrief is delivered, it’s on to the next project with all speed. The business will often make sufficient budget available to generate new research but will rarely make enough headcount or time and space available to ensure the work is done to fully inculcate the understanding.

It is almost always the case in our experience that the insight team has an intimate familiarity with shoppers – they know who shoppers are, what their needs are, and they understand the market conditions and forces acting on shopper behaviour, as well as the burning platforms within the business that demand action. Indeed, they should be familiar with these issues – they spend all day examining the proof points.

However, in most cases, that intimate understanding simply does not consistently translate into the rest of the business, and unless everyone in the business is familiar with, and acting on those issues, there is a clear-cut need for a customer closeness programme.

We firmly believe that the crux of a customer closeness programme is not generating new insight. It is distilling the vast amounts of information that the business already has into a few important key messages and deciding on the most impactful way to communicate them to stakeholders.

If you accept this central premise, then it becomes clear that customer closeness is not simply about watching a focus group or attending an accompanied shop. Whilst valuable research tools in their own right, they are an expensive way to embed understanding, and offer very little control that the right messages will be communicated.

A good customer closeness programme will start with the messages it seeks to communicate, and then identify the right methodologies to make it happen. The kind of activities offered, the way shoppers are recruited to participate and the way it’s launched into the business all need to be thought about differently to standard research projects in order to achieve maximum impact.

Imagine how much more aligned your business would be if you could instil the same three crucial pieces of shopper understanding consistently in every single person across the business. If everyone fully understood what was driving your most important shopper behaviours and how the business needed to respond to drive sales.
Sometimes the best investment isn’t in new insight – sometimes it’s in making sure that everyone aligns to the same shopper goals. That is what a well-executed customer closeness programme can do for you, and it can be absolutely transformative.