How companies can improve their customer experience by sharing their “secret sauce”
Let’s face it, do you really know what you’re eating?
Sure, the list of ingredients on the back of your yogurt or cereal may provide additional context, but many people find ingredient information unhelpful or even confusing. In a recent Consumer Reports study and USA Today article, two-thirds of Americans thought the word “natural” on a label of packaged or processed food indicated that food contained no artificial ingredients, pesticides or genetically modified organisms. Further, when customers see the word “natural” on meat or poultry, 70% think the term means that no growth hormones were used in the animals feed and 60% think the animals received no antibiotics or other drugs in their feed.
How close is the application of the word “natural” to customer expectations? Interestingly, customer perception is often inconsistent with actual application. In fact, a USDA policy enacted in 1993, allows food producers to use the word “natural” on labels as long as nothing artificial or synthetic has been added “that would not normally be expected to be in the food”. A far cry from the specific requirements customers expected.
While the FDA and GMA (Grocery Manufacturers Association) are taking steps in the right direction to improve food safety, a 2012 study concluded that “the general public’s confidence in its food supply is at an all-time low within the United States”.
Improve Customer Experience via Product Transparency
What can companies do to improve customer confidence in their products?
Transparency, Transparency, and more Transparency.
Customers will never engage with a company if they do not feel the product is safe and compliant with government regulation. Companies need to take the next step and actually share product information with their customers, using transparency as a lever to improve the customer experience.
Stonyfield, an organic yogurt manufacturer, has been at the forefront of engaging with customers and sharing information about their “secret sauce”. Recently, the company created an innovative map of their entire supply chain using Sourcemap technology. This map provides customers with an inside view into the composition of Stonyfield yogurt, allowing customers to select various ingredients to view the source of the product and the product suppliers.
Creating an experience where the customer can actively engage with the product, provides Stonyfield with the opportunity to create a positive brand message in the mind of the customer and leverage their Sourcemap to highlight other initiatives (e.g. sustainability efforts) which may provide a further boost to the perception of their brand.
Other companies are starting to take notice of customer desire to know where products are sourced, or at the very least, gain more insight into quality assurance and general supply chain practices. Nestlé recently announced a new initiative to increase the amount of commodity purchases from suppliers, rather than traders, and their chairman commented on the importance of providing customers with a view into their supply chain. Even industries outside of food manufacturing are applying the practice, with many beauty and cleaning companies providing greater detail into their product composition.
Though some may see the change in customer attitude as a simple “transparency trend”, it’s clear that customer sentiment is actively changing. Further, increased support from key players, such as Whole Foods, will continue to help drive the “transparency trend” forward and provide an impetus for a holistic change in the way companies deliver their product. Change is coming and those who are willing to provide a view into the “secret sauce” will reap the rewards.
From assessing and improving marketing and sales touch points, to designing effective cross-channel programs, to identifying new digital strategies that improve customer connections, to rolling up our sleeves and implementing process and technology changes, West Monroe Partners has the resources and experience to help you establish and maintain a strong, end-to-end customer experience.