Want better customer insights? Meet your customers on-the-ground

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After over two years of working remotely, communication through a two-dimensional screen is gradually reverting to the real thing. All those emojis, likes, and hearts we’ve gotten so used to are being replaced with genuine, human connection: fewer smiley faces, and more actual smiling faces.

Returning to the office reminds me of the value of personal, on-the-ground experiences. This was unmistakable during my recent visits with two of our excellent customers and partners—Tricolite, our largest panel builder in India, and closer to home with The Hong Kong University of Science and Technology (HKUST).

I’ve always valued my experiences meeting our customers where they work. I like to think of it as “turf marketing”. It’s not a sales call, a product demo or a client dinner. It’s an opportunity to get on our customers’ home turf and take a stroll in their shoes and gather direct customer insights.

As a marketing leader, it’s vital that we connect with our customers. Hearing from them directly gives us valuable customer insights and helps us understand their needs, feel their pain points, and visualize their goals. And after so much time away from the sights and sounds of our customers’ environments, these visits felt special. I left both Tricolite and HKUST with a deeper understanding of their digital efficiency and sustainability goals.

Here are some observations I hope you find valuable.

Live your customer experience

In the digital age, we have no shortage of customer experience information at our fingertips. But that data can’t replace the feeling I had walking through HKUST’s data center or touring Tricolite’s headquarters and plant. Surveys and dashboards deliver powerful insights, but they can’t tell us what it’s really like in these spaces. It’s the nuances that speak volumes.

We worked with HKUST throughout their data center evolution, from the design and planning stages to operation and service, to create a modern and sustainable data center. Witnessing first-hand how our solutions impact our customers informs our strategies moving forward.

Chris Leong getting customer insights from Tricolite.
Chris Leong tours Tricolite’s headquarters and plant.

At Tricolite, I was able to see how we work with our partners in India—one of our four global hubs—to bridge progress and sustainability for all stakeholders. Their leadership team showed me around the facility and gave me a crash course on the key trends shaping the Indian electrical industry.

Marketing and sales are not discrete functions within an organization, but two ends of the same spectrum. Every interaction is an extension of our mission, and the closer we get to our customers and partners, the better customer insights we gather to fulfill that mission.

Discover what drives your customers

At the same time, we must be mindful of our customers’ motivations. We view HKUST and Tricolite as our partners in sustainability. Schneider Electric is an Impact company—applying our deeply-held value of sustainability across every dimension of our organization. It’s not just talk; we’ve set a goal to help our customers and partners save 800 million tons of CO2 emissions and to provide 50 million people access to green electricity by 2025.

This Impact is in our mission, our purpose and our culture. It’s just who we are. It’s how we’ve evolved over the past 186 years, from a hardware company to a digital partner for sustainability and efficiency.

HKUST and Tricolite share these values. HKUST excels in research and education that minimizes its effect on the environment. And Tricolite produces reliable and safe distribution solutions with a focus on energy and resource conservation. Like us, these organizations back up promises with actions.

Chris Leong getting customer insights from HKUST.
Chris Leong in a sitewalk at HKUST Data Center with Field Services Engineers.

These shared goals nurture a meaningful and mutually beneficial partnership. Both HKUST and Tricolite, along with Schneider Electric, recognize the urgent threat of climate change and our responsibilities to help create a sustainable world.

But we also recognize that sustainability cannot come at the expense of progress.

During my visits, I saw how HKUST incorporates EcoStruxure, our IoT platform, to bridge these twin goals, offering an elite education environment that maximizes performance, space and resources. In India, I learned how Tricolite uses solar power and online water monitoring to improve energy and resource conservation.

Get deeper intelligence on your business

Like Schneider Electric, these organizations are sustainability practitioners. But sustainability is also our business. We enable customers and partners to improve sustainability in their own operations. Being recognized as a sustainable company is great, but real satisfaction comes from collaborating within our ecosystem to co-create a better, greener, more efficient future.

And we do this best when we deeply connect with our customers’ and partners’ operations.

At Schneider, we believe in learning every day. There’s no better development opportunity than watching customers use our offers and talking with them about what matters most about their business.

So, fellow marketers: Take the time to visit your customers personally. Talk to them. Walk with them. Find out what’s keeping them up late at night. See how your products and solutions actually work on the ground. Observe how you help your customers serve their customers.

Marketing is often about getting heard. We sometimes value talking over listening. Food for thought – how about redirecting our marketing fundamentals towards customer insights – ask questions, ditch assumptions, and really listen? You may be surprised by what you learn.

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