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  • 09.02.14

3 Brands That Prove Listening To Customers Is Key To Company Comebacks

What could Best Buy, Nascar, and Yahoo possibly have in common? They know how to treat their fans and are thriving because of it.

3 Brands That Prove Listening To Customers Is Key To Company Comebacks
[Photos 1, 2, 3: Flickr users Mike Mozart, Carissa Rogers, Christian Barmala]

A customer revolution is underway. More than ever, customers are empowered to make informed decisions and influence them. They’re no longer passive observers, they’re active participants, educating themselves about products and services before ever engaging with a brand.

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The convergence of social, mobile, and cloud technologies has lead to massive changes in the way people buy, and if companies want to compete in this new landscape, they need to transform the way they do business. For those companies looking to make a comeback, looping customer feedback into the decision-making process is key.

History shows that when companies listen to their customers, collaborate with them and innovate together, they thrive. And when they don’t, they fail. Best Buy, Nascar, and Yahoo are good examples of companies increasingly putting an emphasis on understanding its core customers in an effort to make a rebound. They’ve started to take bold steps to react to the demand of the market, to be more customer-obsessed, and turn customer feedback into action. As a result, these organizations are now showing signs of revival.

Embracing Customer Reviews

Big-box retailer Best Buy is listening to its customers more than ever by focusing on its customer reviews. The retailer has begun to share feedback with vendors and has taken a range of actions based on web reviews. In fact, it rewards some customers with special points to use toward future purchases for completing reviews.

Since joining Nascar as CMO, Steve Phelps has made Nascar one of the most fan-centric sports brands in the business. Nascar turns to its Official Nascar Fan Council, a customer intelligence platform that captures fan insight from 12,000 loyal viewers on an ongoing basis. Nascar has also partnered with Hewlett-Packard to develop a social media command center, helping it stay in tune with fan feedback in real time.

With more and more companies looking to be customer-centric including Amazon and Cisco, Yahoo is no exception. Given the many recent changes and acquisitions at Yahoo, understanding that each message to its customera has an impact is critical.

“One of the things we talk about at Yahoo is how every interaction elicits a reaction, says Yahoo SVP of brand creative Bob Stohrer. “Meaning, we have to know that, anything we do, no matter how small it may seem, could be incredibly meaningful to our consumer.”

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Reinventing Strategies

In addition to getting closer to their customers, what is making Best Buy, Nascar, and Yahoo interesting comeback examples, is that they’re brands that have taken bold steps to reinvent themselves—also essential to comeback success.

Best Buy has been able to avoid death by cutting expenses, aggressively matching competitors’ online prices, and improving its own website.

Nascar turned a corner following the appointment of Steve Phelps. Since then, Nascar has made many significant changes from making improvements to game rules to launching a new car. The leading motor-sports organization has aggressively focused on fan engagement and it’s paying off. Nascar is once again becoming appealing to sponsors and viewers.

No longer only a search engine, Yahoo is quickly moving into the media space. It’s purchases of Flickr and Tumblr were game changers, moving Yahoo away from its roots and further into the digital arena. So were the launches of its digital magazines and new news section, particularly their Yahoo Tech site, which features renown technology writers.

Unachievable without customer intelligence and often challenging, reinvention is critical for business growth. All successful companies at one point in time hit an inflection point–a plateau period of crisis for a company. It’s a time often seen as either a threat or opportunity. And in order to succeed long-term, a business needs to think of it as an opportunity to create something new entirely out of its niche in order to continue to appeal to its customers and attract new ones.

Just look at Google; the leading search engine is now making wearable devices and a HDMI streaming media player, which it has sold millions of in just a year. Amazon, once an online book seller, is now not only a marketplace for nearly any product available, but it has recently become a cell phone manufacturer with the release of the Amazon Fire mobile device. And, just the other week, Twitter announced that it’s moving into “social TV” with its purchase of SnappyTV. While reinvention has always been the name of the game, it’s necessary at hyper-speeds in this day and age to stay relevant.

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While the average lifespan of a company listed on the S&P 500 has decreased by more than 50 years in the last century, from 67 years in the 1920s to just 15 years today, there is a way to turn the trend around.

Grandfather companies that are failing to engage with customers and reinvent themselves are shutting down, but as Best Buy, Nascar, and Yahoo are proving, it doesn’t have to be that way. Years ago, it was much harder for companies to truly grasp what customers needed and wanted, making it harder to innovate. Today, companies have all of the tools and technologies necessary available to them. If companies aren’t gathering customer feedback through social media, CRM solutions, call and customer services centers, as well as customer intelligence platforms, which are secure, online communities of thousands of customers sharing their opinions with a company, they’re in trouble.

Times have changed and there is no longer an excuse to not be customer-centric. Whether a business is in trouble or at the inflection point, customer insight is critical to long-term success.

About the author

Andrew Reid is the Founder, President and CPO of Vision Critical, a Vancouver-based technology company that specializes in customer communities for brands and organizations worldwide. Businesses use Vision Critical's insight community software to connect with large pools of customers on an ongoing basis to pull valuable insights on everything from new products, ad buys and much more.

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