For many large organisations, insight is a function embedded in the structure of the business. However, if you are not a huge, global organisation with a team of trained insights professionals sourcing consumer perspectives of your brand, it can be difficult to know where to begin with gaining insights, let alone actioning them across the business. Small and medium companies – those with fewer than 250 employees – account for 99.9 per cent of UK businesses in the private sector*, but many of them think market research is only for giant businesses and big budgets.
With this in mind, I took to the stage with Paul Webb, CEO of Synectics, at Quirk’s London to talk about how we embedded customer centricity at the heart of their business. Synectics is a UK based, AIM listed company working on the global design, integration, and support of advanced security and surveillance equipment to companies around the world. It’s a really smart, specialist technology business which punches way above its weight in the global market.
Despite previous bad experiences of working with consultants, the Synectics management board realised that they had reached a critical point in the group’s evolution and made a conscious decision to take a different approach and gain an external viewpoint in order to deliver a clear and focused strategy.
To help re-define the company’s direction, the Rainmakers approach was to begin with an external perspective and to put the customer at the heart of Synectics’ business model. We conducted in depth interviews with customers around the world and also with key stakeholders within the business, along with detailed market and competitor analysis. A series of workshops throughout the programme – some more structured with a wider management group, others informal or impromptu with a core team – enabled us to develop the strategy iteratively and ensure that the plans we put in place were viable to execute as well as being fully aligned with customer needs.
This work had three key outcomes:
As we built on this work over time, we established a constant dialogue with customers. In 2016, this expanded into Synectics’ Customer Excellence programme. This collects the metrics you need to improve your customer service – NPS scores (willingness of customers to recommend you), the importance of different aspects of the product and service offer to customers, and Synectics’ performance on each of those.
What’s really impressive about this programme though is the way Synectics have worked with their customers to share, action, and improve the results. They have fed back the findings very openly and directly to customers, acknowledging honestly what needed to be addressed as well as absorbing the praise for their strong points. They told their customers what they were going to do to improve, committed the resources needed to make it happen, and reported back on a regular basis. A true programme of continuous action and improvement, not just the words.
As a result, the core NPS metrics have risen every year, performance on key drivers has improved, and 80% – yes, eighty per cent – of Synectics’ customers say that they view Synectics are their preferred long-term partner for future needs.
So, what advice can we give to other medium-sized companies to ensure they can make full advantage of insights?
Synectics initially brought Rainmakers in as consultants for a period of six months, but after the impactful work we achieved together we have now been in a partnership for eight years. The customer continues to be at the heart of the business as we collaborate on a series of work streams, through business strategy and planning, customer excellence, and innovation, connecting a number of elements to drive the business as a whole.
Regardless of company size or audience, Synectics shows that practical, tangible insights can and should be accessible and actionable for all businesses, not just giants, in order to drive positive change.
*Federation of Small Businesses, 2018