Customer encounter workshops

Customer encounter workshops (or customer experience) otherwise the keywording bots won’t pick it up. Because that is how mechanistic SEO has become. Apparently, no one searches for dialogue customer clientcustomer workshops. Silly them.  Running workshops where you bring real customers into the workshops is one of the most enjoyable kinds of workshops available. That’s what my clients tell me when I have organised these for them. Because like all good workshops the you can’t fix the agenda beforehand – the output comes out of  the group interaction. In which we put together customers AND clients and mix for maximum effect. These kinds of sessions can be run at very different scales.

Variations of customer client encounter 

I have done it in women’s fashion with a client team of 4 and 4 very energised customers who we knew pretty well by this time because we had involved them in various types of research. I have had the privilege of running a Town Hall for Karmarama – this is a format created by Mark Runacus which involves running some half a dozen focus groups simultaneously with customer groups from rejectors to users of other brands to loyalists. With a moderator on each table and at least one client on each.  Roy Langmaid runs something similar rather like a chatshow in the style of Jools Hollands where he can walk to and from some key witnesses but also get feedback from the stands.

The mother of them all was run a few times by Deborah Mattinson of Opinion Leader Research. When as many as 2000 people in a room from all part of the National Health Service participate with the Health Secretary sitting up on the dais getting feedback and hundreds of moderators working at the same time.  They asked me twice to be a moderator but to my eternal regret, I had to turn it down both times. It sounded amazing! Most recently I put together a client team and people who were users of extreme deodorants – to have the kinds of conversation you simply cannot have anywhere else. The benefit of these kinds of workshops is direct, insightful conversation because here was an environment in which those with the problem felt understood.

Accelerated learning from customer experience

customers and clients can make odd buddies but good ones

Customer encounter (sorry experience) workshops are wonderful because unexpected things happen when you put real people and real experience alongside those very people who spend most of their waking hours working out how to communicate with such people. It is an accelerated learning environment for both parties. Perfect for what-if questions. You can write up the findings but the main value is in the cut and thrust of the discussions because you get through key issues so fast. I still remember the client was taken aback when someone asked a customer how the stores would launch a petite range. Oh came the reply You’ll screw it up same as you screwed up the outsize range by keeping it in the front of the store for only a week then hiding it away at the back. We would not! said the product manager indignantly. And then got firmly but comprehensively taken apart. Detail by detail. Right down to signage and the phrasing of advertising copy.  No client worth their salt resents that kind of drubbing because it gives you a stream of inspiration to put your next marketing plan together.

cheetah in your face spectators customer experienceIt’s important when running these sessions to build a buddy system so a client cannot shelter behind a moderator or sit to one side and both customer and clients participate. And be frank with one another. We need to prepare both carefully. All too often it is easier to warm up customers via interviews ahead of time. They are better prepared and motivated than clients who can sometimes look like rabbits in the headlights!   I would embed a customer encounter workshop at the end of a research study. And I would run a client workshop to sort out the learnings following the customer workshop.  This is a link to a presentation I did for New Market Research on co-creation.  The process simply doesn’t work if the client won’t get involved. So ideally there should be a pre-task and a preparation session for the client. Before the customer encounter event itself.

Customer experience is not a spectator sport! 

This matters because despite all the customer-centric language marketers don’t meet real customers as often as they ought to because of being really busy.  But without sensible preparation, the session will be a bit like putting the big game in an enclosure. Piling the clients into stripey Land Rovers and driving around the animals while they take pictures and talk loudly. The animals do not respond well to such treatment! For a few months,I kept a blog called Brand Safari all about sustainable marketing. You are welcome to visit and browse some of the blog posts here. Customers need to be respected. And so do client marketers. bringing them face to face and alongside is hugely valuable. But we’re not running a freak show and as a facilitator I make strenuous efforts to keep the playing field level.

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