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Interview with CEO of Feefo, Tony Wheble: How can brands respond to insights? | Feefo
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Business Insights

Jun 11, 2024

Interview with CEO of Feefo, Tony Wheble: How can brands respond to insights?

Unlock the power of data-driven insights with CEO Tony Wheble from Feefo. Learn how businesses can respond to feedback, understand customer needs, and thrive in the evolving consumer landscape.

 Data driven insights are invaluable for customer-centric businesses that want to hone a culture of improvement and innovation.

However, learning to use feedback and insights in your business is a tricky skill to master. It’s not just about collecting data with integrity – whether through market reports or various reliable feedback collection channels – it’s about active listening, learning, and leveraging insights to deliver better business outcomes and improved levels of customer satisfaction.

Tony Wheble, CEO of the leading consumer feedback and insights specialist Feefo, is passionate about helping businesses use and learn from key insights to secure competitive advantage. We caught up with him to find out why he thinks insights are a vital tool that businesses should be adopting to secure tangible improvements in all that they do.

This interview is in response to The Consumer Benchmark Report 2024 that Feefo published in April 2024, using primary research from 21.7 million reviews and research commissioned by Censuswide with over 2000 participants. 

 

Questions and answers with Tony Wheble, CEO of feedback and insight specialist Feefo 

1. Hello Tony, first up, how do you use insights to help Feefo navigate an ever shifting and competitive landscape?

Let’s start with what's exciting for modern businesses. As we see it at Feefo, businesses have been talking about the value of big data for more than 10 years now. There have been literally thousands of articles, events, forums and conferences on big data, but very little tangible evidence of the benefits, and how best to leverage it.

We are confident that this is now set to change with the help of new technology, and specifically AI powered products.

We know that an intelligent use of data can materially benefit both consumers and businesses. Perhaps Tesco were pioneers of data driven business intelligence here in the UK, but there haven’t been too many similar success stories of note.

What excites me right now, is the advent of AI. Feefo is ostensibly a data business, and there's a genuine opportunity with the democratisation of data to help benefit both brands and consumers. Amongst many exciting applications, AI presents opportunities for data analytics, smart search, and feedback management – the area where we are particularly expert.

Ultimately, the ability to access valuable insight through feedback, helps consumers make more informed decisions on products and services. Whereas businesses can understand their customers at a deeper level, using real sentiment or intent data. Feedback analytics in all its forms can really help businesses understand what they’re doing well, but perhaps more crucially, where opportunities to improve their brand or indeed service experiences could exist. This is increasingly important, as consumers and brands now have fewer face to face or voice to voice interactions than ever before, as more commerce is transacted online.

I think what's exciting for Feefo is that we're leveraging data to help our clients, but we're also able to understand what we can do ourselves, to make our products more effective. The feedback we get from our clients concerning the tech products we're providing to them is critically important to us and is ultimately reflected in our product roadmap.

One of the new Feefo products we're excited about is AI Replies, which is currently in beta testing. We know how important it is for businesses to respond to customer feedback, but some companies receive incredibly high volumes of reviews, making it hard to respond to every customer. AI Replies will help with efficiency, interpreting feedback and providing a relevant contextually sensitive response. Our clients will be able to reply to feedback at scale in a way that they couldn't reasonably expect previously.

We developed this product because we know how valuable a response to feedback can be for customers and clients, which The Consumer Benchmark report reflects. The advent of AI and the products we're building will help our clients to develop a deeper and more engaged relationship with their customers, and create a meaningful value exchange.

2. What is the biggest hurdle that businesses currently face? How do you navigate that as CEO of Feefo? 

The world remains in quite a challenging place because of the various knock-on effects of Covid. It was obviously something that we've never had to navigate before as a planet, let alone as a business. And so that has been an incredible challenge for Feefo and the wider business community.

I think it states the obvious to say that the world is quite unstable geopolitically at present. The level of instability that exists has naturally impacted most businesses. Whether that be the rising costs of human capital, energy price volatility, skills shortages, or the uncertainty which is affecting banking and specifically interest rates.

In the UK, a slight increase in the level of unemployment could lead to a dip in consumer confidence. That has a knock-on effect on business investment, and consumer spending, where each purchase decisions become an even more considered and complex journey.

Because we're in the consumer feedback sector, we can pick up, assess and understand consumer sentiment quite early. In many respects what's quite exciting for Feefo is that consumers are relying increasingly on peer feedback and reviews within their product or service research process. They're more careful with their available discretionary spend and therefore they want to make sure that before they purchase, they leave no stone unturned. Therefore, brands working with Feefo feel that the collection of feedback is a real opportunity for their customers to explain what they're doing well, but perhaps more importantly what they could do better.

3. The Consumer Benchmark report showed that people expect value beyond the price tag – they value a connection with brands, rewards for loyalty and recognition of their feedback. 

How do you think businesses should create value for customers beyond the price tag?

That's a good question. I think the report is correct - consumers now expect more value from brands. We know that price is key and remains a critically important factor. However, certainly with Gen Z and some of the younger demographics, they don’t always consider price to be the primary factor when making a purchase decision. They may be looking at other criteria such as ESG responsibility, the brand owners' values and reputation, and so on. These savvy consumer groups research multiple brand attributes, through peer reviews, to understand what others are saying, to help support and inform their purchasing decisions.

Evidence of brand responsibility, a positive reputation and social proof are increasingly important factors for businesses to consider. These are areas where we help our clients to manage and understand at a deeper level.  A good example is our Dynamic Topic Display, which analyses key specific themes and sentiment to help brands understand what’s really motivating their customers.

4. Why does collecting and actively listening to feedback matter for businesses, and what are the main insights they should look for?

The whole feedback collection and management market has fundamentally changed in the past few years. For the previous ten years, consumers were quite willing to provide their thoughts and feedback on a brand they shopped with, without expecting something in return. Over time, I think consumers have been increasingly targeted with more requests to provide feedback. Consumers have become more discerning about the feedback that they provide, when and how they’re willing to share it. If a consumer considers the brand to be authentic and is genuinely listening to them – by acknowledging and demonstrating they’re making changes based on feedback – the consumer is more likely to regard that as an equitable ‘value exchange’.

We passionately believe, and the evidence suggests, that brands that are willing to deliver a real ‘value exchange’ are more likely to come out on top. Those that are yet to either recognise or find an effective way to respond to feedback at scale, may find that the lifetime value, loyalty and retention of their client base suffers, as consumers move towards favouring brand authenticity and seek a more engaging customer experience.

If you're going to ask for feedback, consumers are keen to understand whether you authentically care about what they have to say. The only way you can demonstrate that is to prove that it's been read, acknowledged and understood. And if possible, acted upon, or if not acted upon, explain why that may not be practical.

5. What do you think of the Consumer Benchmark Report 2024? Will you use any insights from it to shape how Feefo operates or markets itself?

I'm pleased that we've conducted this report. I started my career as an audience analyst at ITV, and I still obsess about real data integrity and reliable sample sizes. Often, you'll see research in the media, and if you dig deep enough, you'll find that the sample size is flimsy. You can't always rely on the outputs or the recommendations from unreliable data sets. But what's so good about this study is that we've got a robust sample size – over 2000 participants and 21.7 million real purchaser verified reviews analysed - which absolutely means the findings and conclusions should be taken seriously.

In terms of how the insights affect Feefo; I think it is real confirmation of what we've been asserting to our clients, that the value of building a dialogue and a relationship with your customers through feedback, will result in higher levels of sales conversion, and that customers are more likely to become advocates, if they're more engaged. If they're an advocate, they're much more likely to refer you to their friends, relatives or colleagues. So, they’ll become a real source of new business and help to really drive improvement in lifetime value. Ultimately, that’s Feefo’s mission, to leverage our technology and expertise to help brands and consumers develop more valuable and long-term relationships. A real win win!

Read The Consumer Benchmark 2024 to find out about the state of the consumer landscape and how expectations and brand relationships are shifting.

Founded in 2010, Feefo is a ratings and reviews platform that collects reliable and constructive reviews for thousands of clients worldwide. We only send invitations to verified customers to ask them to leave a review, so consumers can learn how people like them feel about different products and services. And companies can truly discover what they’re doing right, and where they can improve. This allows Feefo’s clients to create transparent, trusted relationships and deliver exceptional services that their customers can depend on - every time.

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