Daniel Burstein

Business Intelligence: If only more of our customers were like Larry David

February 23rd, 2018

I usually watch “Curb Your Enthusiasm” through the eyes of a fan. But recently I watched the popular HBO show through the eyes of a marketer.

And it struck me — Larry David is an extremely valuable customer. And not just because he has all of that “Seinfeld” money (some $900 million of it, according to Adweek).

Larry is valuable because he actually tells brands what he is thinking. Commonly derided as “complaints” or “rants,” in reality, Larry is offering up valuable customer intelligence.

Complaints are business intelligence

In a recent episode, Larry is staying at a hotel. When asked by the front desk employee if he had any feedback on his stay, he suggests that they shouldn’t tuck the sheets in so tight when making the bed. Who sleeps like that?

But Larry isn’t the normal, quiet customer. He’s a super-suggester. And he goes far beyond replying to a question from an employee asking for feedback. He offers unsolicited advice on topics the hotel doesn’t even think to ask about.

While the hotel brags about cookies made by its pastry chef, Larry isn’t buying it. He says the cookies are from Pepperidge Farm.

And Larry is none too happy about the cookie retrieval system the hotel has set up in its lobby. Larry doesn’t want to use tongs to grab the cookies — he is afraid the cookie will get crushed — and he suggests a wider cookie layout system so guests can pick cookies with their bare hands without touching an adjacent cookie.

We can’t read customers’ minds, but we can listen attentively to their comments

Those above comments might seem trivial. But I go into them in detail because the squeak from the squeaky wheel is actually valuable customer intelligence. It might not matter to us, but if it matters to them — it is important. And understanding what customers are thinking is vital to a brand’s success.

If only more customers were willing to offer up their true opinions, we would know how to better serve them and get more to say “yes” to our marketing offers.

In the book The Marketer as Philosopher, Flint McGlaughlin says “Knowing why a prospect might say ‘yes’ is not enough; we must balance the ‘why so’ against the ‘why not.’”

Learn from the customer kvetch

So next time you come across a customer complaint, don’t look at it as an annoyance. The customer is doing you a favor. They are allowing you to look past all of your positive confirmation bias — the “why so” a customer may choose to purchase from you — and identify the reasons your brand may be falling short — the “why not.”

Even better, set up a system to track these customers’ complaints. Find the most frequent complaints and conduct some A/B testing to see if this newfound customer wisdom represents a profitable segment you can better serve or is just an outlier.

But whatever you do, don’t blame or ignore the customer complaint. The Larry Davids of the world may not be saying what we want to hear. But they are saying what we need to hear.

You might also like …

Customer-Centric Marketing: Listen to your customers if you want to live

Customer-First Marketing: The customer is always right … but not always right for your company

How Integrating Customer Service and Marketing Can Build Successful Consumer Marketing

photo courtesy: “Creative Commons image by Angela George via Wikimedia Commons

Daniel Burstein

About Daniel Burstein

Daniel Burstein, Senior Director of Editorial Content, MECLABS. Daniel oversees all content and marketing coming from the MarketingExperiments and MarketingSherpa brands while helping to shape the editorial direction for MECLABS – digging for actionable information while serving as an advocate for the audience. Daniel is also a speaker and moderator at live events and on webinars. Previously, he was the main writer powering MarketingExperiments publishing engine – from Web clinics to Research Journals to the blog. Prior to joining the team, Daniel was Vice President of MindPulse Communications – a boutique communications consultancy specializing in IT clients such as IBM, VMware, and BEA Systems. Daniel has 18 years of experience in copywriting, editing, internal communications, sales enablement and field marketing communications.

Categories: Consumer Marketing, Customer-Centric Marketing Tags: , , , ,

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