become your customers
December 15, 2023

Could Christmas encourage you to become your customers?

By Paul Laughlin

I was reminded today of the central focus of Christmas on incarnation, on God becoming human to save us, and how that might encourage you to become your customers.

In the Christian tradition, the scriptures read during Advent and Christmastide focus our attention on the promise & fulfilment of this radical identification. The shocking idea is that the divine became human. Radical action indeed. But, what about the more mundane challenge of understanding your customers? Can this principle of incarnation apply to Customer Insight too?

I began to muse that it can and how different parts of a potential solution have previously been shared within this blog. Please bear with me as I look anew at some of our past content and share my own experience, whilst looking through this Christmas lens.

How to become your customers, let me count the ways

Reflecting on this challenge, I was reminded of some technical approaches that we have shared previously. Both market research and analytics methods can help here. Together with collaboration with other leaders and teams across your organisation.

Here are some past posts that explain a few methods for such “radical identification”:

  1. Ethnographic research (literally spending time shadowing customers)
  2. Behavioural research (methods designed to overcome behavioural biases)
  3. Expanding the repertoire of mathematical models used (to fit different people/groups better)
  4. Designing a deeper exploration of human behaviour (avoiding shallow behavioural summaries)

Beyond those, my own experience has taught me the power of ensuring that analysts and researchers meet customers. I’ve yet to come across a better substitute (although going through the purchase & service use experience of your products comes close). Nothing beats hearing first-hand what different parts of your intended customer experience are like & being able to see them in situ. Do not underestimate the power of the non-verbal communication this provides for staff.

What is the key? Empathy

The most encouraging part of the Christmas message is surely the motivation for such an incarnation. The idea is that God loves humanity so much to undertake this radical transformation. In a similar vein, my experience is that attitude matters. Over many years in this business, I have seen numerous leaders and teams go through customer closeness exercises that sound good on paper. And yet… Anyone present could tell there heart was not in it.

Browsing back through the archives of this blog, I have been struck how often the need for empathy has come up as a theme. Here is a selection of such posts:

How could you live this out this Christmas or in the New Year?

So what? Is sometimes the cry in response to such good intentions. Leaders understandably are time-poor and so prefer to see practical actions they can take now. As I can empathise with their situation, let me recommend a few possible next steps for anyone inspired by this short post.

First, I would recommend exploring the opportunities for you and your team to spend time with customers. Are there existing customer research programmes or even better feedback or co-creation communities? Those could help you better know and even empathise with your customers. But, I would avoid doing this as a checkbox exercise to appease a CCO-type leader. After such experiences, spend time with your team to share reflections and gain insights. What did you learn? Where could you take action to better meet needs or reduce an irritant (choose a quick win as well as a major change).

Next, collaborate with other teams (especially your CX and marketing teams) to close the distance between you and your customers in future. How could you bring them into your business to help provide faster feedback or co-create products or services? How could you test ideas or key messages by getting them into the hands of customers sooner and without an intermediary? How could you financially support your employees to be your customers? To (like Jesus) walk in their shoes day after day. This needs to stretch beyond the sales process (or nativity) to experience what it is like to use the product or service over the longer term, including issues & even complaints.

I hope those thoughts challenge and help you as a customer insight leader. Meanwhile, I wish you a very happy and fulfilling Christmas. Enjoy the wonderful power of such empathy.