Five ways that digital tools can help with customer closeness

Every week we bring you the FreshMinds Friday picks – ideas to help you make the most of digital technologies and understand how they are helping brands to grow and innovate. This week we’re looking at how brands can use digital tools to help business decision-makers get up close and personal with their customers – from using social media listening data, to working with Ambassadors, video and the digital consumer.

A customer closeness programme can be an effective way bring to life customer insight for decision-makers across a brand. From helping buyers from grocery firms to experience how their customers really shop, to helping Boards see how customers use the products their firms make, spending time with your customers can help to spark innovation and reinforce decisions based on what customers actually do. The best customer closeness programmes are often a mix of offline and online events, but digital tools can offer ways to enhance some processes and make it easier for executives to connect with customers.

1. Display customer Tweets outside the CEO’s office

There can sometimes be nothing as effective at sparking conversation and questions as showing what people say about your product when they discover it and use it. And a simple way of showing this, especially for products that drive a lot of conversation online, is to show how customers talk about your product, the photos they share and the words they use. This isn’t about giving a comprehensive view, but just about connecting executives with snapshots of conversations.

2. Social media listening dashboard on desktops

This could be extended to showcase actual interactions with customers to the whole business. Often there is a concern about how to cascade the information that brands can get from social media listening tools – a simple way to enable people across the business to get slower to customers is to set desktops across the business to show feeds from your social media listening – maybe how a set of advocates discuss your products in real-time, or a curated set of conversations and mentions from the previous day. Enabling people across the business to see and explore customer opinions from their desk.

3. Online Ambassador programmes

Influencer programmes are too often thought of just as a way for brands to share their content. But much greater value can be got from identifying real Ambassadors online – people who share similar beliefs, objectives and passions as the brand, and who can act as true ambassadors for them with their audiences. These people will often enable brands to unlock access to new audiences or to get permission to talk to audiences in new ways. But Ambassador programmes should be two-way, they can be true ambassadors in your organisation for the audiences they represent online. Bring them to Board meetings, run events with them, get them talking to your team – not about themselves but about the audiences they engage with on a daily basis online.

4. Consumer video mashups

Increasingly consumers have the ability to take and share videos online – from tools like Instagram and Vine which allow consumers to storyboard their own short videos. Get your customers to send you videos of how they cook meals with your product, perhaps, or ask them to film their next shopping trip round your store. Capturing video content, ideally with consumers providing voice-over, provides you a direct insight into what they see and do when they are using your product.

5. Meet the digital consumer

Finally – for many brands it is important for them to understand the new digital consumer. How they get information, shop and purchase items. The devices they use and the role that different networks and tools play in their lives. As part of a fuller Customer Closeness programme there is a real value to a bringing these digital consumers together with executives – get them to work on tasks together, shop together, brainstorm together. Getting the senior team at any brand to spend time with and understand how these new digital consumers engage, research, interact and make decisions will spark real questions and debates about how the brands products and services should adapt to appeal to them.