Love at first sight? Speed dating with your consumers

Last Friday was a special day. Let me tell you why… It was the day we met some of our community super users face-to-face! After collaborating with them for more than two months, we invited them to our office and ‘matched’ them with people from De Lijn (the Flemish public transport company) in a speed-dating session.

Get lucky

Earlier this year,we opened a Consumer Consulting Board, ‘Het Busparlement’ (‘The Bus parliament’), together with De Lijn. Throughout the past months, we were discussing services, strategic choices and the future of public transport in Flanders with about 100 frequent and less frequent users of De Lijn. During the last month, we focused on youngsters going to college or university and starting to work. We explored how these turning points impacted their view on and usage of transportation modes.
We invited 10 of these youngsters for a speed-dating session in our office, with 10 lucky employees from De Lijn, all marketers, researchers and communication specialists.


Let’s break the ice

De Lijn_Henri Van Bost

When everyone had arrived, I had the honor (as community project manager of ‘Het Busparlement’) to break the ice with a short introduction of the community and high-level results. Next, we asked each youngster to take a seat at one of the 10 ‘speed-date’ tables in the room. Each of the 10 De Lijn employees received a deck of 10 cards with themes and topics to discuss with the youngsters. The De Lijn employees were invited to go to one of the tables and start the speed date. When the first dating rounds kicked off, we immediately felt great vibes in the room. Every conversation started with a short personal introduction, followed by a challenge (e.g., asking each other to share a story of a similar situation and identifying generation differences). Every interview lasted only 5 minutes, so the intensity of all conversations was really high!

The voice of the customer… for real!

For the De Lijn people, it turned into a great experience to hear the consumer’s voice. It brings research results to life… literally. They witnessed the consumers’ thoughts and expressions. The youngsters’ opinions and feedback were very positive and constructive, making them real eye-openers for the De Lijn employees. But the community members really enjoyed the speed-dating sessions as well. They finally got a chance to meet some of the people behind the service and behind the company. It changed their perspective of the company too. For example, it became clear to them that the public transport service is a lot more complex that they imagined. Such an experience makes De Lijn more human as a company and easier to identify with.


The heat is on

De Lijn_speed date

The speed dating session proved how important engagement is. We managed to get community participants excited enough to come to our headquarters (for some this meant traveling for no less than 4 hours), which shows how engaged community participants are. But look at the De Lijn’s perspective: the fact that employees not only want to read online conversations on the community platform but also take part in a half-day speed-dating session shows how engaged they are in their job! The heat is on!

Online, offline… there is no line!

This was not the first time we successfully mixed our offline and online communities. By combining on- and offline, you can show – as a brand and as a company – that you really care about your community, and that you are willing to listen to its members and change things for them. And that’s what it’s all about, people being part of the change process, through co-creation with the brand.

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