On the importance of customer feedback

By Zahra Dhanani, Research Associate –

When creating a marketing campaign or launching a new product, it’s always a good idea to test it out with your target audience. And that testing needs to be designed well.

Long before Pepsi and Kendall Jenner set off a viral avalanche of opprobrium in an age of perpetual outrage, Coca-Cola in 1985 set the high watermark for the biggest marketing failure of all time through mistakes in its customer research.

Within hours of releasing its new commercial featuring Kendall Jenner, Pepsi pulled it. Jenner and Pepsi instantly became the target of memes, trolls, and general condemnation from seemingly all corners of the political spectrum. The story illustrates the importance of getting customer feedback right. Image Source: Pepsi

To get customer feedback for its own initiatives, Alliant Energy has created Power Thinkers, an online customer feedback community. At 1,600 participants and growing, the customer group provides Alliant Energy with real-time feedback on various projects and decisions across the organization. The group also helps Alliant gain insight into future opportunities and offerings.

An actively participatory bunch, two-thirds of the members stated their top motivation for joining was to express their views. They weren’t kidding. Over the past two years, and across 40 research studies, Power Thinkers has averaged a response rate of 50-55%.

Input from the Power Thinkers group has resulted in several changes and actionable ideas across Alliant Energy’s offerings. While some of the changes were on a smaller scale, like the community choosing the name “Fixed Amount Bill” for a new payment product, the group has prompted Alliant to take a few pretty big steps. A rebate pilot program for electric vehicles was created when 53% of Power Thinkers reported they would consider purchasing an EV if the price was lower.

Creating the community forum in-house has also resulted in reduced costs for research activities and a much shorter timeline for such studies. No longer reliant on third-party survey providers for customer insight, Alliant wants to leverage their investment and real-time research possibilities further. Expansion of the Power Thinkers and recruitment is definitely on the horizon. For now, Alliant Energy and the Power Thinkers are content with testing the limitations and creating impactful changes for the organization.

According to research by BrightLocal, a UK-based company specializing in helping companies show up in local search-engine results, 84% of consumers say they trust online reviews as much as personal recommendation and 74% say positive reviews make them trust a local business more. It’s why concepts like influencer marketing have become increasingly integral to advertising your brand and products.

Across the globe, customer feedback is becoming more integrated into decision making. It lends direction to companies on where to go next or lets them know the path they’re currently on is not what their customers want. Long-lasting success is only a given for companies that have a finger on the pulse of not just customer needs, but wants as well.


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