The relationship between customers, and the companies they buy from, is changing at breakneck speed.
There are billions of us now online. We’re engaging in a two-way dialogue with brands. The impact of social media is changing nature of recommendation and referral. All these changes are all creating a consumer environment different from any that’s gone before.
Working in partnership with your customers to grow products means that you’re front and center for their feedback. If they feel like your company is listening, they’ll bear with you while you get it right. This approach gives you all the benefits of cottage-industry level feedback at global proportions.
The entrepreneurs harnessing these changes are enjoying enormous success. In many ways, the CSAT thought leaders of today are not the people you might naturally think of. While we all know and love the Seth Godins of this world, this article features 6 real business owners and leaders who are delivering modern customer satisfaction on the ground.
They are sourcing ideas direct from their customer base, getting their customers to do their marketing for them, and using direct-contact methods to get feedback on what works and what doesn’t.
We took a scout around to see who’s making waves right now…
CSAT thought leaders you should follow
Emily Weiss, founder of Glossier
Emily Weiss is the founder of booming beauty brand Glossier, which has been described as having “…a kind of devotion and intrigue unmatched in the traditionally fickle beauty space.” She is widely-acknowledged as having up-ended the beauty industry’s product development process, in part stemming from Glossier’s intimate customer knowledge. Recently the cover star of Entrepreneur magazine, Weiss’s business has a cult-like following, where “70 percent of online sales and traffic comes through peer-to-peer referrals.”
Customer feedback and satisfaction with product lines drives what Glossier does. Glossier learns what’s needed from its market, develops and launches it quickly, and learns and iterates quickly too.
Weiss’s marketing, editorial and customer service teams “take turns responding to all comments publicly or by direct message.” so that they understand their customer right at the core of the business. The company also uses Instagram “to build mini focus groups and quickly create products based on what they learn.”
Zoe Fraade-Blanar and Aaron M Glazer, authors of Super Fandom
Zoe and Aaron are originally the co-founders of Squishable, a crowdsourced company. The business creates giant stuffed animals but crucially they use social media channels and customer feedback to create their product lines and inform what they manufacture next.
Customers vote on designs submitted by other customers and, democratically, the winning designs are made. Recent releases include a cuddly slice of pumpkin pie, a cuddly 3.5 inch floppy disk and a squishy dragon.
The Squishable founders have recently written a booked called Super Fandom, which explores how fans are influencing not just culture but the very foundations of commerce. They argue that understanding the rising phenomenon of fandom can change the prospects and fortunes of many businesses. Audiences and customers are increasingly demanding a say in shaping the future of the things they love, and businesses need to understand this changing relationship to compete.
Pippa Murray, founder of Pip & Nut
$160k in crowdfunding helped launch nut butter manufacturer, Pip & Nut. This meant founder Pippa Murray had to understand her buyers and ensure they were satisfied with her products, right from the start.
Pippa says, “Building a brand that’s well loved by consumers is a long game.” The Pip & Nut Instagram feed is chock full of customers using the products, markets and events where the products are on show, and then teasers for new products coming down the line. Customers use these channels to give feedback and the brand takes that on board in its vision to be a leading provider of heath-driven foods.
Pippa has been quoted as saying, “The most important thing [when building a brand] is to have a great product. Yes, the brand needs to be able to transcend the product and communicate your values and purpose, but the only way that’s going to happen is if people fall in love with your product first”
Murray says she is most what I’m most proud of is the response from their customers. “We have 13,000 followers, and that is growing every month. Nut butter is a fantastic ingredient to use in so many dishes, so we get lots of tags and lots of people talking about us. Our core fans are doing marketing for us which is better than anything we could do ourselves. You can’t buy that sort of engagement.”
Ruth Zukerman, founder of Flywheel
Ruth Zukerman was originally a founder of SoulCycle; famous for its community of fervent supporters. As a result, many are watching her new competitive business, Flywheel, with interest. She clearly has the magic touch – both businesses have grown on a crazy trajectory.
In both cases, Zukerman has tapped into her customers’ need for an emotional connection with their exercise classes. Where SoulCycle was all about cool and spiritual, Flywheel is building a community passionate about measuring self-improvement and tracking performance. There’s clearly room for both.
Business Insider magazine interviewed Zukerman, where she says she wanted to create an inclusive environment — one not just for the young and glamorous. “I wanted … hands-on customer service, right down to several people on staff walking around the room before class start, so every one can be set up properly, and people can feel comfortable asking questions,” she said to Business Insider. ”
Flywheel has grown rapidly by supporting and encouraging a community who thrive in a competitive sporting environment. Zukerman says, “We remember that each studio is its own community, and that these individual communities are what make the business. We aren’t a big, mass brand.”
Steve Dass, founder of Nirvana Brewery
Steve Dass used to work in a beer brewery. While working there he was, “asked several times whether I had any good quality, low alcohol beer”.
From those enquiries and his brewing experience, the specialist brewer no/low alcohol Nirvana Brewery was created. As the mindful drinking movement gathers pace, there’s an increasing demand for low and no alcohol beer which Dass hopes to tap into.
“We’ve seen a huge explosion from the craft beer movement where people want to drink good quality beer, from independent producers and know far more about the provenance of the ingredients. We also noticed that craft beer fans, whether it’s because they have young families or busy working lives, don’t always want to drink beers with a high alcohol content.”
Dass too began by raising initial funding via crowdsourcing. This gave the brewer a unique insight into early adopters of its product, and their likes and interests. This early exposure enabled the brand to grow a community around the the drinks, ranging from the naming convention right through to offering yoga classes at the brewery. They are in their early days, but already their online following, events and fair attendance and understanding of its community is creating growth for the business.
Follow Nirvana on Twitter @NirvanaBrewery
When you give your customers a say in your funding and products processes, you get a huge amount of insight and value, and they feel even more ownership. Letting your customers ‘in’ will result in a lot more satisfaction and loyalty but you need to be as transparent as possible too. Check out some the innovators above to see how it’s done.