Love at first sight? Speed dating with your consumers

Last friday was a special day. Let me tell you why… That was the day we met some of our community super users face-to-face! After collaborating with them for more than 2 months, we invited them to our office and ‘matched’ them with people from De Lijn (the Flemish public transport company) by organizing a speed dating session.

Get lucky

Earlier this year we opened a Consumer Consulting Board, ‘Het Busparlement’ (‘The Bus parliament’), together with De Lijn. For the past months we have been discussing services, strategic choices and the future of public transport in Flanders with about 100 frequent and less frequent users of De Lijn. For the last month we focused on youngsters going to college or university and on youngsters starting to work. We explored how these turning points impacted their view on and usage of transportation modes.
We invited 10 of these youngsters for a speed dating session in our office with 10 lucky employees from De Lijn, all marketers, researchers and communication specialists.
Tweetaway yellowTweetaway: Marketers speed dating with youngsters to bring the consumer’s voice in the heart of a company #mrx #insites

Let’s break the ice

De Lijn_Henri Van BostWhen everyone had arrived, I had to honour (as community project manager of ‘Het Busparlement’) to break the ice with a short introduction of the community and high-level results. Next, we asked each youngster to take a seat at one of the 10 ‘speed dating’ tables in the room. Each of the 10 De Lijn employees received a deck of 10 cards with themes and topics to discuss with the youngsters. The De Lijn employees were invited to go to one of the tables and start the speed date. When the first dating rounds kicked off, we immediately felt great vibes in the room. Every conversation started with a short personal introduction, followed by a challenge (e.g. asking both to share a story of a similar situation and identifying generation differences). Every interview lasted only 5 minutes, so the intensity of all conversations was really high!

The voice of the customer… for real!

For the people from De Lijn, it turned out to be a great experience to hear the consumer’s voice. It brings the research results to life… literally. They witnessed the consumers’ thoughts and expressions. The youngsters’ opinions and feedback was very positive and constructive, making it a real eye-opener for the De Lijn employees. But the community members really enjoyed the speed dating sessions as well. They finally got a chance to meet some of the people behind the service and behind the company. It changed their perspective of the company too. For example, it became clear to them that the public transport service is a lot more complex that they imagined. Such an experience makes De Lijn more human as a company and easier to identify with.
Tweetaway orangeTweetaway: Make your brand more human, so people can easier identify with it by @henrivbost #mrx #insites

The heat is on

De Lijn_speed dateThe speed dating session proved how important engagement is. We managed to get community participants excited enough to come to our headquarters (for some this meant traveling for no less than 4 hours), which shows how engaged community participants are. But look at the De Lijn’s perspective: the fact that employees not only want to read online conversations on the community platform but also take part in a half-day speed dating session shows how engaged they are in their job! The heat is on!

Online, offline. There is no line!

This is not the first time we successfully mix our offline and online communities. By combining on- and offline, you can show – as a brand and as a company – that you really care about your community and that you are willing to listen to its members and change things for them. And that’s what it’s all about, people being part of the change process by co-creation with the brand.
Tweetaway blueTweetaway: Let people be part of your brand by co-creating the future of your brand together by @henrivbost #cocreation #insites

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