The below is based on the third episode of the Outside In podcast, which you can listen to here.
At C Space, it’s never a surprise to hear further evidence that Customer Inspired Growth is the true driving force behind so many successful businesses in all kinds of sectors.
At the recent Chief Customer Officer Exchange, I met and interviewed a number of senior customer experience officers who are putting customers at the heart of their business. From their stories I learnt a great deal about what’s happening on-the-ground today.
One such discussion involved leaders from the CPG and technology sectors. I was joined by Andrew Archambault, Chief Customer & Commercial Officer at The Nature’s Bounty, which specializes in wellness products such as vitamins, minerals, and sports nutrition. Also joining me was Justin Reilly, Head of Customer Experience Innovation at Verizon Fios.
The Nature’s Bounty and Verizon Fios are two entirely different companies operating in two entirely different industries. Yet, I was struck by the similarities between how both businesses are making customer centricity a core operational imperative.
Winning Over the Skeptical Customer
The Nature’s Bounty, Andrew says, serves two key customer groups: “end consumers” (i.e., shoppers) and “customers” (i.e., retail partners). Because these are products that people put into their bodies, "education and quality really matter in our category,” he says. The company spends a lot of time with these shoppers – sometimes visiting their homes (and looking in their pantries – with their permission, of course!) to understand what products they use, their habits surrounding how they use them, and why.
The company also spends a lot of time working with shoppers and retailers to improve the experience at the point of purchase. “Our end consumer really goes through a series of our customers,” Andrew explains, “with ‘our customers’ largely being the retail environment, whether that’s brick-and-mortar or online.”
And since brick-and-mortar makes up 90% of retail sales for The Nature’s Bounty, the in-store experience is paramount. That includes everything from “category management and shopper marketing, how the aisle looks, and how customers navigate it.” Additionally, nearly 30% of end customers are – to use Andrew’s phrase – “overwhelmed skeptics.” These are people who still shop regularly in stores – rather than simply online – but who are confronted by an overwhelming and intimidating array of products. “The experience starts there," Andrew says. “If you can get that right and make it enjoyable, you can differentiate.”
Fueling Agility with Human Emotion
Similarly, Justin revealed that Verizon regularly brings in their customers to co-create with them. They help ideate and design products and experiences that keep the organization at the cutting edge of the dynamic digital sector. While the solutions that come out of these sessions don’t always make sense for the business, or are sometimes too radical for implementation, they’re “important because they get you out of your comfort zone,” Justin says.
From these “largely transformative” co-creation sessions emerge a decidedly human element. “You realize that when this component of our service it affected their son’s soccer game,” Justin says. “Or it affected their Skype call home to their mother in Brazil. When you hear about those moments, it makes you take these things very seriously.”
So seriously, in fact, that customers have inspired the way in which the organization works with one another and how teams are designed. The way the teams are set up allows for more agility and innovation, moving from idea to prototype in days, rather than months. This system of innovation is followed even when customers have “unreasonable requests” because it forces the organization to ask what it can realistically achieve and deliver.
Customers as Disruptors
Increasingly, competition is seeping in from outside the bounds of industry. Justin explains how this impacts his work at Verizon: “Today, if you pop open the Uber app and you get an Uber in one click, and then you open the MyFios app and it isn’t as good or better than the Uber experience, because of the proximity of brands, you’re going to judge us on that experience. And that’s our guidepost. We’re not competing against our immediate competitors or even our adjacent competitors. We’re competing against every customer’s last best experience.”
At The Nature’s Bounty, the same is true. When it comes to balancing the business’s needs with the customer’s needs, Andrew says the customer experience is the fulcrum. “Without our end consumer, our customers don’t have a portion of their category revenue,” he notes. “And without our customers having a portion of their category revenue, I don’t have a business to run.”
My discussions with Andrew and Justin are great examples of how business leaders are going further to truly disrupt their organizations by putting customers at the center of everything they do. It’s this kind of tenacity -- a company’s ability to see the value in working with customers -- that will ensure their survival through the 21st century. Justin sums up best: “My job is to build things and experiences that I would want to use as a customer. If you have that laser focus, you’ll always win.”
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