When my dad started MacKenzie back in 1985, his focus was empowering brands to better serve their customers by better understanding their customers. He leveraged customer feedback to generate powerful insights that enabled clients to make informed and confident decisions. I vividly remember the stacks of papers surveys and hours of data entry that went into each project. I also remember it being worth investing all the time and effort because there was no better source of insight than the customers themselves.
Since then, our industry has changed a lot. Tech advancements and digital tools have made customer feedback collection quicker and easier than ever. As second-generation owners of MacKenzie, my sister and I have been able to expand and evolve the services we offer in some fun and exciting ways. However, our primary focus is the same as it was over 35 years ago. We empower brands to better serve their customers by better understanding their customers – and there’s still no better source of insight than the customers themselves.
Looking to the future, I can only imagine how advanced the customer insights industry will become. From data mining to predictive analytics, our understanding of consumer behavior will reach far beyond what we can fathom today. That said, when thinking about the future, I can’t help but think about the jump from 1985 to today. Our current capabilities were unfathomable back then. Yet, the fundamental value and importance of hearing directly from the customer remains the same. If anything, it’s more important than ever because of how quickly markets shift and evolve. So, it seems fair to reason that no matter where technology takes us, customer feedback will never go out of style.
I believe this is due to a few key reasons. First, using complex algorithms and artificial intelligence to capture behavioral trends and patterns only tells part of the story. We still need to understand the motivators and decision drivers behind those consumer behaviors. We also need to gain a full and detailed picture of an individual’s life beyond their consumer behaviors, and there are certain details only they can tell us. What lifestyle attributes make them unique? How can their day-to-day lives be made easier and more enjoyable? How is their surrounding environment shaping their wants, needs, and preferences?
While technology can piece together hypotheses and conclusions in some amazing ways, there are underlying emotional factors and thought processes that can’t be logically computed. Those human-centric details are best found by tapping into the humans themselves, allowing them to use their own words and share the why behind what they’re doing.
Second, people want to feel connected with their favorite brands. If all our insights are captured behind the scenes or through passive listening, that sense of connection is lost. Communicating directly with people, asking meaningful questions, and engaging in two-way dialogue is part of the relationship building process. It brings the individual into the brand development process so they can see and feel the role they’re playing. People also want to feel listened to and understood. The process of gathering customer feedback offers concrete opportunities to make sure that happens in consistent and authentic ways.
Lastly, for insights to be truly actionable, they need to directly align with specific brand objectives. The purpose of leveraging customer insights is to make informed decisions with confidence and agility. So, the information gained needs to be hyper-focused on the initiatives, challenges, or opportunities being addressed. They need to be framed within a certain context based on situational and environmental variables that may shift and change over time. Where tech-based solutions may be fixed in a particular direction, gathering customer feedback allows freedom of movement and the ability to capture insights on the fly.
As I said earlier, technology has enabled MacKenzie to expand and evolve our services in some incredible ways. The future of customer insights is very bright and I’m beyond excited to see what the next few years has in store. However, I truly believe direct customer feedback will always hold its importance and value. It will always play a vital role in delivering best-in-class products, services, and experiences. That’s because there is no better source for customer insights than the customers themselves.