Innovation Management Wisdom

Posts filed under 'Qualitative Research Case Studies'

National Jewelry Store Chain Innovates Gift Giving

Using a variety of discovery methods, Whyze Group identified sixteen opportunities to improve this retailer’s customer experience.

Here’s the snapshot:

A customer experience audit revealed that managers knew what SKUs were moving and at what margins, but little about what drives positive customer experiences.

Whyze Group performed in-store cue scans at our client’s and competitors’ stores. We also conducted interviews with customers, store employees and corporate staff.

Many of the most valuable insights we garnered were through metaphor analysis. Metaphor analysis enabled customers to use images and photos describing their deepest emotions about buying and giving gifts. One key finding was that men and women differ in their gift shopping and giving habits. Through metaphor analysis, our clients discovered several meaningful opportunities to enhance the gift giving experience at relatively low costs.

In addition, our client identified numerous opportunities to improve customer experiences through revamped store layouts, staff training, compensation and return policies.

We helped managers prioritize those opportunities that would most quickly and cost-effectively enhance customer experiences and repeat business.

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Whyze Group works with B2B and B2B2C Fortune 500 organizations. The company has been recognized by the Baldrige National Quality Program, business associations and numerous business media as a leader in research and innovation. Inquiries: info@whyzegroup.com, (440) 785-0547.

October 7th, 2011

P&C Insurance Company Uses Persona to Design New Customer Experiences

A leading property and casualty insurer needed to improve its customer experiences fast to avoid continued flat line growth. Customer referrals drive sales in this industry and our client was at significant disadvantage.

Whyze Group facilitated a customer experience management audit with the company’s innovation team.  Once the team reviewed and discussed all of the evidence from research studies the company had conducted, team members agreed that the company’s value proposition and customer experience were less compelling than those of competitors.  Even with all the company research at hand, the team was still unsure of where to focus the company’s innovation efforts.

To fill the team’s knowledge gaps, Whyze Group mapped the customer experience, surveyed customers, interviewed employees and led cue scans with the innovation team.  These were instrumental in imbuing the team with a visceral understanding of what their customers really go through.  Moreover, the team galvanized around a focused set of opportunities to improve customers’ experiences.  

The most important finding was that nearly all of the company’s investments in the customer experience were focused on getting prospects to buy policies. Customers received little or no attention from the company after they bought. 

This lack of attention mattered to customers in varying, but significant degrees.  Whyze Group identified four customer personae.  Each was unique with respect to their mental models and expectations of insurers.  Of the four customer personae identified, one was particularly sensitive to the level of care they received after the sale.  

Whyze Group facilitated a series of customer experience design sessions aimed at delighting this persona.  The innovation team identified six customer experience innovation opportunities and prioritized them according to criteria that we helped them develop.  These included the number of customers affected, the increase in experiential value to customers, the change management challenges for the company and brokers’ businesses and the effectiveness to which each innovation would fulfill the company’s brand promise.

We identified and prioritized a set of initiatives that are being implemented with the support of the CEO and executive committee.

July 9th, 2011

Insurer Shifts its Mindset to Win Back Independent Brokers

A top-ten insurer wanted to improve its relationships with independent insurance brokers, the channel through which the company generated most of its sales. An experience management audit revealed that brokers had grown increasingly frustrated with the company.The company’s broker satisfaction studies showed declining ratings across the board. Some brokers had stopped selling some of the company’s products. Most company leaders guessed that high pricing and poor customer service contributed to broker sentiment.

For years, the only feedback that most managers viewed as credible was a closed-end broker satisfaction survey.  This provided no opportunity for managers to act on issues outside of those addressed in the survey.

We’ve seen organizations get tunnel vision from focusing too much on survey results before. The company’s numbers-driven culture served it well in pricing products and handling claims, but not in managing broker relationships. 

We scheduled a discovery session with the management team. We knew that when we aired our observations about the company’s focus on the broker survey, it would create a fleeting, valuable opening for managers to question the status quo. And, they did.

Several managers seized the opportunity to publicly criticize the broker survey process.  They said it didn’t address several recent breakdowns in the company’s broker relationship management process.  This got the attention of the rest of the team.  It also created a new openness among team members to learn what was really going on with brokers.

Whyze Group conducted one-on-one interviews with brokers in every region.  It turned out that brokers regarded the company’s underwriting and customer service operations highly.  Pricing was an issue among a small minority.

The real problem was brokers’ growing mistrust of the company. Brokers were increasingly suspicious that their hard-won books of business would be decimated when the company unilaterally withdrew products from some markets.  This had been happening with increasing frequency over the previous three years.

Some brokers simply stopped investing altogether in selling our client’s products.  They increasingly turned to selling products from competing insurers whom they regarded as more committed.

Adding to the mistrust, retiring brokers’ books of business were sloppily transferred to the brokers who bought them.  Sometime, multiple brokers divided these books.  There was little transparency in this process and perceptions of unfairness and favoritism prevailed.

Whyze Group facilitated the management team through design sessions aimed at increasing the transparency, accuracy and timeliness of these transfers.  The team also reconsidered making its contracts more favorable for brokers in light of the company’s desire to maintain flexibility in moving in and out of markets.  These and other broker experience innovations are being implemented with the support of the CEO and executive committee. 

October 7th, 2008

Maintenance and Repair Parts Wholesaler Innovates Small Business Customer Experience

This billion-dollar distributor of maintenance and repair supplies wanted to find ways to deepen its relationships with small businesses.A customer experience management audit revealed that the company relied heavily on research with large business customers to guide improvements in the customer experience.  Small business customers, however, were becoming far less loyal.

Whyze Group led in-store cue scans and focus groups with small business customers. These showed that small businesses have buyer personas and needs that are different from large customers. 

Small business customers’ usage of phone, internet and store locations correlated with these personas.  This helped the company to anticipate the expectations of small business customers depending on which channel the customer used. 

Whyze Group identified opportunities in sales, customer communications, products and pricing to deliver improved customer experiences to each small business persona. This became the foundation for redrafting customer communications and customer relationship management processes in ways that resonated with small business customers. 

We prioritized these opportunities to improve small business customer experiences in light of changes in the size and composition of the small business market.  Our analysis showed that the size and makeup of the small business market was likely quite different than the management team had believed.  We worked with managers to prioritize opportunities in accordance with assuring mutual benefits to customers and company.

October 7th, 2008

Paint Manufacturer Learns that Customer Experiences Start with the Can (not What’s in It)

A manufacturer of exterior coatings wanted to find ways to initiate superior customer experiences among shoppers browsing for deck stains.Managers wanted to know what consumers currently experience when they shop for deck stains. 

A customer experience management audit revealed that the company had done little consumer research before. The company had only recently hired a marketing staff. Cryptic product names reflected chemical properties that were meaningless to us and, we presumed, other non-chemists.  We suspected that homeowners needed more user-friendly information before they’d even consider buying this brand.

Whyze Group moderated interviews with do-it-yourselfers who own patio decks and other exterior wood products. Through this exploration, we identified six expectations and 14 different concerns among prospective users of deck stain products. 

With Whyze Group’s help, managers identified 12 measures it could take to communicate more effectively and initiative positive experiences with shoppers in store aisles.

October 7th, 2008

Bank Leaders Address Change Management Challenges of Innovation

The human resources division of a large regional bank was experiencing classic change management fallout: low morale and high turnover among HR relationship managers.  The job descriptions of these managers had recently changed.HR relationship managers coordinated other HR functions such as, recruiting, compensation, benefits and training.  

An employee engagement survey showed that HR relationship managers rated their job satisfaction far lower than other managers.  Relationship managers rated their bosses’ leadership and communication lowest. HR leaders wanted to know what they could do to improve the situation.

Whyze Group conducted a series of focus groups with HR relationship managers.  We learned that HR leaders recently announced changes in the role of HR relationship managers.  These managers would become the sole points of client contact for other HR functions including compensation, recruiting, benefits and training. 

In reality, each HR leader wanted to own internal client relationships. They were undermining the changes. Relationship managers were caught in turf wars between HR leaders. Moreover, relationship managers were working harder with less to show for their efforts.

Facing longer workdays and greater frustration, more HR relationship managers resigned and others began looking for jobs elsewhere. Had HR leaders addressed these change management issues and aligned on who would own client relationships, these problems could have been minimized. 

Changing to a single point of contact within the HR function probably sounded like a good idea to some people. But, as we’ve written before, there isn’t a shortage of good ideas at most companies.  There is more often a lack of alignment about which ideas to implement. Innovating successfully requires getting coworkers energized and aligned on implementing the best ideas.

Whyze Group’s recommendations focused on getting HR leaders to resolve who would own client relationships and how all HR functions would work together.  An aligned HR leadership team would engage their staff and internal clients far more productively.

October 7th, 2008

Whyze Group Introduces Management Innovation: Advertising ROI Model

A mortgage bank was planning several marketing campaigns, one of which included a large investment in radio advertising promotion.  Whyze Group developed a marketing ROI model to prioritize marketing investments and help executives determine the optimal investment in radio advertising. 

We projected how many prospects would be shopping for loans during the radio advertising flight.  Media buyers told us what portion of households would be exposed to the ads and we estimated high and low response rates. 

Whyze Group collaborated with the chief financial officer.  We built a model that included selling expenses, anticipated product mix, costs of goods (loans) sold, and the anticipated lift in sales. By running various scenarios through the model, we concluded that the bank’s net profit potential would be far higher by significantly increasing its radio buy.  Bank leaders agreed.

Four months after the end of the campaign, we measured the results. The bank had increased its market share and net profits by approximately 20% over the previous year’s timeframe.

October 7th, 2008

Wireless Company Learns that Customers in Two Markets Have Different Expectations

Managers of a wireless communications company wanted to improve customer experiences, loyalty and sales in two geographic markets. The company was considering several alternatives.  These included changing its rate plans, improving customer service, investing in transmission quality improvements and increasing its advertising expenditures. 

Improving “everything” was not feasible.  Managers needed to focus its efforts in the areas that mattered most to consumers.  Whyze Group designed, conducted and analyzed 1,000 interviews with cellular users, including competitors’ customers.  Questions focused on perceptions of quality, price and overall value for each competing wireless carrier. 

Comparing customers’ perceptions of each carrier enabled us to identify the strengths and weaknesses of each competitor.  Additionally, we determined the relative importance of each quality and price attribute we explored. 

Whyze Group demonstrated to managers that consumers in the first market were quality-sensitive.  Also, consumers perceived that our client’s transmission quality was inferior to competitors. 

The company needed to improve consumers’ perceptions of its transmission quality. We recommended that our client measure its signal strength throughout this market.  If our client’s signal strength was on par with competitors, then our client could effectively employ marketing messages bolster perceptions of quality. If not, then managers should consider increasing signal strength.

In the second market, consumers perceived that our client’s quality, price and value were on par with competitors. Consumers in this market were more sensitive to price. We recommended that our client incorporate messages about its competitive rate plans in it marketing materials to boost its share of this market.

October 7th, 2008

Insurance Company Reorders Marketing and Operations Priorities

A large insurance company had recently entered a niche market that several key competitors had announced they would also enter. Our client wanted to gain market share as efficiently as possible while managing its rate and underwriting risks. The president asked us to develop urgently needed intelligence and make recommendations.

Whyze Group reviewed the company’s advertisements, collateral, marketing plans, agent database and marketing research.  When we interviewed company leaders, we found that they were in disagreement on the company’s market priorities. We also learned that the company’s value proposition included features that exposed the company to risk, but these features were never validated as drivers of brand choice.

Whyze Group facilitated two workshops with sales and marketing leaders to specify the criteria by which the company would prioritize its target markets. We asked the team assign importance weights to each criterion. Using these two inputs, Whyze Group created an easy-to-use market prioritization tool that the company uses as an input to its sales and marketing planning processes.

We conducted 10 focus groups with prospective buyers to develop ideas for improving our client’s value proposition. The company’s product concepts and positioning were refined as we conducted the groups.

We learned that a key feature, which was costly to deliver, was difficult for consumers to understand or appreciate. Several other ideas emerged as potentially powerful differentiators. It turned out that our client was already providing some of these, but wasn’t promoting them.

We also surveyed 400 agents, a channel through which the company generates most of its sales. Agents’ perceptions of our client’s brand were positive. There was one key attribute on which our client was at a disadvantage, however.

Whyze Group formulated specific recommendations designed to dramatically increase agent-channel advocacy and end-consumer demand. We also outlined next steps for building the company’s market intelligence capabilities. This company is implementing a focused set of marketing and operations initiatives based on our recommendations.

October 6th, 2008


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