If you want to show passion for your customer, listen to him first

On Thursday March 21, the management team of De Lijn (the Flemish public transport company) held their annual Forum. Over 400 employees of De Lijn gathered in Brussels (BE) to discuss the past year and to look at current and future challenges. The theme of the forum was ‘passion for the customer’. InSites Consulting (in the presence of Thierry Meerschaert and myself) was invited to bring ‘the voice of the customer’ to life at this forum.
Earlier this year we opened a Consumer Consulting Board together with De Lijn (called ‘Het Busparlement’) discussing public transport and the services of De Lijn with over 60 frequent and less frequent customers of De Lijn. Our presentation at the forum was based on this research community.
Thierry Meerschaert at De Lijn Forum
In a Consumer Consulting Board we intensively work together with consumers over a longer period of time, during which we give them tasks or assignments. In ‘Het Busparlement’ we asked participants to go on a bus or tram safari. We asked participants to describe in detail (in words and pictures) two bus or tram journeys: one route that they use frequently and one new route (or a route for which they normally use a different form of transportation).
This generated a mass of pictures and comments which we integrated into our presentation. We took the audience of De Lijn employees on a journey highlighting the different steps of the customer experience, with the participants as our guides. The stories and pictures helped to bring the customer to life as individuals with specific problems, questions and ideas. Not only did the participants point out the issues that really matter to them, but they also gave suggestions on how to solve them.

During the first three weeks of the research community it became clear that De Lijn’s customers really appreciate the company listening to them. Having a Consumer Consulting Board is a great first step for a company in showing you care about your customers. This eagerness to be heard was clear to see in the research community where in three weeks’ time there were over 1600 posts, 25 topics created by the participants themselves, and an average of 27 replies by each participant.
One of the conclusions of our presentation at the forum is that passion for the customer starts with actively listening to this customer. De Lijn has already taken a first step on this path by setting up ‘Het Busparlement’.
Your customers would love to talk to you, they are waiting for you to listen. Talk to us, if you want to find out more on Consumer Consulting Boards.

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