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How Netflix CMO Bozoma Saint John uses a ‘focus group of one’ to serve audiences

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How Netflix CMO Bozoma Saint John uses a ‘focus group of one’ to serve audiences

Bozoma Saint John Netflix CX

It’s not that Bozoma Saint John doesn’t care about the voice of the customer. It’s just that the Netflix CMO believes that listening to it starts from within.

Speaking in the keynote session of a virtual summit called Relevance360 hosted by software provider Coveo, Saint John admitted she is not well known among her team for reading reports. Instead, she urged marketers and others responsible for customer experience (CX) design to tap into their own first-hand perspectives.

“I often tell my group I operate from a focus group of one,” she said. “We ask customers to take all these surveys to understand what the masses are feeling about the world, but we forget that we are in the world.”

This doesn’t mean ignoring what customers are saying, of course, but Saint John — who has led marketing at Apple Music and Uber before recently joining Netflix — said she uses “the future is being present” as her credo for understanding customers. \

“It’s like folks who feel the ache in their knees when the weather changes and (they know) there’s a storm coming. It’s only by understanding the present pain that you understand what’s about to happen next,” she said.

Netfliix, of course, is well known for using technology to analyze viewing patterns and offer personalized recommendations, but Saint John suggested that great CX doesn’t end there.

“The algorithm helps with that, but as a marketer, that’s also where I come in. I want to be able to express to you what you’re going to get out of this experience,” she said.  “The brand is here to serve your higher purpose. Is it discovery, understanding? If we can answer those questions, we have a much better chance of gaining their loyalty, because people are full of decisions that they have to make.”

Brands As Humans

Contrasting the days when a good experience meant buying from a brand that offers a large inventory, Saint John said today’s customers primarily want to be comforted, taken care of, and to see that companies recognize critical social issues. Taking a neutral stance in 2020 and beyond is a non-starter, she said.

“Brands are really human. I’m not just talking about the humans running them but the brands themselves are humans. They really are,” she said. “It has a personality, it has good days bad days, a value system.”

As a result, brands need to make their position on social issues, and the action they’re taking, an integral part of the experience they offer. Saint John likened this to a cocktail party, barbecue or other social gatherings that were common prior to COVID-19. While most people will be standing around in small groups having a conversation, there is often one person sitting off to themselves, watching but not taking part.

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“That is what your brand looks like right now if you’re not engaging. Everybody is talking. Everybody is involved,” she said. “If you’re the one in the back, just standing there, sipping on your drink, you’re the weirdo.”

This kind of leadership will have an ongoing impact one customer expectations. Saint John said she has seen this happen with previous employers such as Uber, where hailing transportation from an app went from a novelty to one where users were furious if their driver was a few minutes late.

The key is to make sure that experiences are rich enough — perhaps offering a more comfortable or safer ride in the case of Uber — that customers won’t switch to a competing brand.

“It’s like understanding the difference between a wine that’s made quickly versus a wine that ages,” she said. “It’s important that we are not just serving up a superficial experience .  . . we need to think about depth versus the speed at which things are changing.”

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