Karen joined Kapiche’s CEO, Ryan Stuart, on the Insightful Leaders podcast to share from her vast experience in helping businesses understand their customers. As a VP at Salesforce, Tedx speaker, and author of multiple books, Karen brings a high-level and strategic view into the state of customer insights today.
Start with asking the right questions
There are some questions that can unlock a whole world of insight and understanding for businesses.
In this conversation, Karen highlighted two questions she believes every organization should be asking right now (both taken from her recent book): the big impact question and the genius question.
The big impact question
“The big impact question points us in the direction of how things work,” says Karen. “The big impact question is this: “Who is your customer right now?”
It seems like a foundational question, but in Karen’s experience, it’s one that most businesses fail to revisit regularly. “Most organizations don’t have a catalyst or a spark that reminds them to go back and ask the big impact question,” she notes “I’ve found it’s a question that’s best asked during periods of significant disruption, and everyone’s been disrupted in the past 24 months.”
The COVID-19 pandemic has caused an upheaval in the way businesses around the world work, which means it’s critical for businesses to ask this question right now. After all, if you don’t know who your customer is, how can you effectively serve them? Helping answer this question is a big way that customer insight teams can add value to their organizations in 2022 (and beyond).
Karen defines a customer as “anyone upon whom your success depends and who has a choice in whether or not they do business with you.” From her seat, it’s crystal clear that the answer to this question has changed in some way for most organizations over the past two years.
The genius question
Karen says the second big question every company should be asking is something she calls the genius question. It was inspired by an entrepreneur Karen admires, who built her entire company around one question:
How can we make this thing easier?
We all have moments of genius where it feels like inspiration hits. The genius question is meant to help every company tap into their organizational genius more consistently. It does so by helping organizations avoid a common trap: setting unrealistic outcomes.
“We often ask people ‘How can we make this easy?’” says Karen. But that’s the wrong question. “The challenge with aiming to make things easy is it sets an unrealistic expectation. Easy is a destination you may never be able to reach.”
For many organizations—healthcare and finance, for example—complexity is simply unavoidable. As much as you’d like to make things easy for customers, outside regulations or requirements limit your ability to do so. Karen’s advice would be to focus on easier, not easy.
“Easy might be unrealistic, but ‘How can we make this easier?’ invites iteration.
It invites progress a little at a time,” she says. “It invites customers and stakeholders to join you in the journey of slow and steady progress. We can all find ways to make things a little easier.”
Unrealistic metrics and betting your business
As Ryan and Karen discussed the unrealistic expectations that the genius question helps combat, the discussion shifted to how many businesses use Net Promoter Score (NPS).
Many businesses use NPS as a primary metric for assessing their customer experience and business health. But, based on Ryan’s experience, that doesn’t always make sense.
“Take finance, for example,” he says. “I’ve frequently seen financial companies who rely on asking their customers the NPS question, then get back a consequential number of responses from users saying ‘I don’t recommend products like this to my friends and family.’ It seems like the genius question should encourage companies to step back and think about how realistic the measures that they’re using to assess their company’s health and experience actually are.”
Karen compares over-relying on a metric like NPS to going all-in at the roulette table. “People bet their business on a single number, but what’s missing from that number is the ability to repeat those results. When you win, why do you win? When you lose, why do you lose? Even more importantly, do the insights you generated really enable you to repeat the positive results consistently?
NPS is a prime example of this, but it actually applies to overreliance on any business metric.
While it’s tempting to obsess over whether your chosen metric is going up or down, Ryan thinks what really matters is if you can understand the reasons behind the score. “What’s driving that metric up or down?” he asks.
If you don’t have clear insights to answer that question, what’s the point of even tracking that metric?
Without appropriate context, no metric is worth betting your business on.
Advancing customer insights in your organization
Creating buy-in and alignment around the value of customer insights within an organization requires a strategic approach. When Ryan asked Karen for her advice, her advice was simple: “Work with the willing.”
Whenever you’re trying to get buy-in—regardless of the topic—there will be people who resist it and question it. You’ll always face skeptics. But on the flip side, you’ll also always find people who want to work with you on it.
Finding those willing people doesn’t always happen immediately, but Karen’s got a trick that’s served her well.
As you talk with people around the organization, ask them ‘What is it that you would like to know about our customers that you don’t know already?’ she suggests.
“Whatever they come back with, help them find that answer. You’ll be providing them tremendous value, and as you do that with multiple people you’ll be building advocates across the company.”
She’s seen this tactic work with everyone from individual contributors to senior leaders. It may take some time, but it’s an approach that snowballs over time as you convert more and more people into customer insight advocates.
Karen also shared some critical advice for anyone building an insights strategy for their organization. “Start by asking everyone you can what your customer experience (CX) strategy is,” she says. “You’ll probably find really inconsistent definitions across your business. You can even take it a step further by asking people what problem your CX strategy is trying to solve. Spend some time on this, and you’ll likely realize that very few people know how to answer those questions.”
When you’re just getting started, it’s tempting to jump immediately into taking action. “People love to start by launching new surveys or starting customer advisory boards or choosing new metrics,” says Karen. But before you do that, she recommends answering four important questions:
- What do we need to know?
- From whom do we need to know it?
- How frequently do we need to know it?
- How do we intend to use the feedback that we gather?
The answers to these questions should form the foundation of your CX strategy and inform how and when you gather customer insights.
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