Smart(ees) Consumer Collaboration!

Despite all the buzz around the Dutch football, over 60 people from varying backgrounds (pharma, media, fmcg, government…) found their way to our Dutch office to join our Smartees last Tuesday! People gathered for lunch and a chat before we all headed into the conference room to start the sessions. Ramon Pardo, head of the Dutch office, welcomed everyone and challenged the audience with 3 statements to think about during the presentations.

  • Consumers are probably the most effective/worst consultants my company can hire
  • A Consumer Consulting Board would definitely/never work for my company
  • Sharing true consumer stories & experiences will benefit / hurt my company

The Gurus

Steven van Belleghem had a full schedule that day but still managed to come and share his inspiring ‘Power to the People’ presentation. Consumers are fully aware they are empowered now and this trend won’t stop, but Steven also showed that many companies still fear this trend. Companies want to move forward but worry about the potential threats of engaging in conversations with consumers. Also most managers feel they know much more about the business than consumers so why engage with them. But Steven observed that in today’s society consumers tend to be much more involved in and loyal to brands than the average brand manager who changes jobs every 2-3 years. This makes that consumers are the perfect unpaid employees to think along on strategy, marketing plans and execution. And although many companies agree, there are still very few cases where the voice of the consumer is actually represented in the board room. Steven left some great tips to the audience to start taking this up, such as starting every meeting with a consumer story.
Next on the agenda was Tom De Ruyck, and he took Steven’s story to the next level: what does all of this imply for your own company? Tom took the ‘room temperature’ and asked people to stand up and sit down with every question they felt was the main reason for their company not to engage in consulting consumers. A great way to get a feel of what the companies’ biggest barrier is and, besides reasons such as not suiting either budget, objectives, industry or organization, it showed that company culture was the biggest barrier. Of course Tom also highlighted how consumer consulting boards can be introduced slowly and carefully into the organization so people get to see what this way of working really brings to the table and what kind of energy it releases. Tom’s dream together with the rest of his InSites colleagues is to introduce a new role in the board of companies: the CCO (Chief Consumer Officer), who would be the one who represents the consumer voice in the board… That’s our mission!

The cases

Anouk Willems – with her warm charm – told us about a great project we conducted with Marktplaats (biggest online auction / advertising site based in the Netherlands). Marktplaats worked on optimizing their interface together with 150 users via a community and Anouk clearly was passionate about this project, where Marktplaats not only worked hard to innovate and facilitate their users but also fed the implemented results of the consumers’ input back into the community. Marktplaats took it even further, as they had a real Meet & Greet event with the people from the community, thus getting to know the people behind the stories they had read over the last few months; but at the same time this was a fantastic opportunity for the community people to get to know the company they had been helping with their business. ‘Pauline the Movie’ was shown in which one of the community participants shared her excitement about contributing to Marktplaats, a site with 6.5 million visits per month, which is still increasing!
After Anouk, it was time for the Hero of the Day: Thomas Troch. Unfortunately Bas de Luij (who was supposed to present) had fallen ill the night before and at 10:30 the next day, Thomas (normally located in Ghent) received a call from Ramon with the question whether he was up for a challenge: “Get in your car, drive to Rotterdam and do Bas’s presentation today at the Smartees Event!”
Thomas, cool as he is, directly made his way there and very smoothly presented the Air France/KLM case. He compared the positively disrupting experience this was for him to the transfer experience for passengers, for whom the transfer is often a very disruptive and not so positive experience. Together with InSites, Air France/KLM worked on developing ideas to make a transfer a much more pleasant experience, via a process involving subsequently insightment, ideation & concept development and finally validation, all with many creative techniques. Thomas proved with this case that it is not about delivering slides, but about making research actionable and fun!

The landing

At the end Ramon introduced the fishbowl discussion, where a total of 9 people were invited to discuss the 3 statements mentioned earlier (3 people per statement). A lovely jury was introduced  (the 3 director ladies from the company) who would evaluate each of the arguments of the 9 people. The final award went to Denise Drost-Ridder from KLM (which had nothing to do with the fact that one of the judges has a major soft spot for aviation). She told us that the consumer stories and experiences shared internally at KLM were actually heard in the boardroom but caused a lot of pain. But it was this pain that lead to action and many improvements were made. As a result KLM became a better company! With this lesson we wrapped up and got started on the bubbels & chat part of the event.
We can look back at yet another successful Smartees; so a big thanks to all of our attendees for their presence and much-appreciated contributions and discussions, thus helping us to take research forward!

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