Fostering Winning Customer Relationships

A retail client and I have a little game; the first woman in any small-group customer discussion who uses the word "boutique" in a sentence (as in, "I got this jacket in a darling little boutique.") wins. She always wins the attention of the group around the table or in the online bulletin board. She often also wins the client observers' attention as well.

Now, as a good moderator, it's my job to make sure to steer the conversation away from the boutique winner's dominance and establish a modicum of an even playing field. However, she holds almost imperceptible sway on the group. That's why, for this retail client and many others, I rely on friendship-pair interviews and one-on-one interviews.

The girls in the know, the women with the insider knowledge, and the sway of the winners are palpable elements in research studies regardless of topic. As researchers, we often try to negate it, but I often recommend that my clients learn everything they can from this dynamic.

Questions to ask of your brands and products:

  • How can they become the trigger buzzword for your customers?
  • How can they make your customers feel like winners?
  • How can you use them to foster relationships with consumer opinion leaders so that they spread the word for you?

The other important piece to this puzzle is to find ways to allow these winning customers to work in dialog with your brands and products. This way, not only are they in the know because of what they learn from the brand, but because they in turn are able to inform the brand.

In an interview with BuzzFeed, Jane Park, CEO and founder of Julep, talked about her beauty brand's success. She said the Mavens, members who subscribe to Julep's boxes, continue to "enjoy exclusive access to the brand's products, including the chance to test new items, which helps with the company's retention rate." These customers are no doubt retained because of both their exclusive access to products and their role as a contributor to this exclusive content.

It's time to make a New Year's resolution for 2015 to give your customers the power and value of being in the know and to learn from them in turn.

Katrina Noelle, as principal of KNow Research, combines in-person techniques with online and mobile methodologies to create custom research designs and ideation sessions for clients in a wide array of industries targeting female consumers. Katrina works with teams and their customers to bring actionable insights to the table, helping brands stay in touch with their target market.