“Growing together with genuine empathy”
A partner in customer research needs able to show adaptability in adjusting the research design, to empathize with the needs of the clients, and to understand Incotec’s mission.
“I really believe understanding customer needs makes the difference. We need empathy, and it needs to be genuine.”
One thing is certain: Incotec knows about growth. What is the secret? Why does Incotec need customer research to grow? How did Customeyes contribute? We asked Bruno Hoeltgebaum Neto, Global Commercial Manager Field Crops.
Incotec is a pioneer in seed technology. Way back in 1968, David Dirkse was the first person to commercially pellet seeds, a technique using carefully selected powders and liquids to form a protective shell around the seed. Slowly but surely, what was once a technical department in a vegetable seed company developed into the global leader in seed enhancement that it is today. In 2015, Incotec joined the Croda group, ensuring a broad scope for development and further expansion. Today, besides its headquarters in the Dutch ’Seed Valley’, the company has facilities in countries all over the world including the USA, Brazil, India, Australia, and South Africa.
Bruno’s enthusiasm and motivation is contagious. According to him, much of it comes from his work environment: “I’ve been working for Incotec for 25 years now. I’ve been attracted to the company since the very beginning. It’s a global company, but at the same time a big family. I like the people and I love the atmosphere.”
Besides a friendly and supportive workplace, Bruno mentions the importance of working for the causes one believes in. By providing solutions in vegetables and field crops, Incotec contributes to the development of sustainable agriculture worldwide. Rather than merely playing its part, the company set the bar as high as possible: “We have the ambition to become the most sustainable company in the seed enhancement business. We created strong targets, and new projects only get the go-ahead if they meet certain sustainability criteria.”
The goal is to be land positive, which means saving more land than is used. “There is a lot of talk about regenerative agriculture: rather than leaving a footprint you want to leave the situation better than it was before you harvested a certain crop.” For this purpose, Incotec works on technologies such as biostimulants (natural substances with positive effects on plant growth), products to counteract biotic and abiotic stress (the negative impact of living and non-living factors on the living organisms in an environment), and microplastic-free seed treatment products. That’s quite a big change in the agribusiness sector. These technologies will help our customer and the agricultural sector to move in the right direction.”
Why does a company like Incotec need a customer research agency like Customeyes? How can Customeyes contribute to its mission? Bruno explains that it is essential to keep checking how customer businesses see the company. “Usually, we form our own ideas about the way people look at us. It’s important to challenge those ideas.” This challenge needs to be carried out correctly and professionally. “That’s why we looked for companies that could help us identify trends, needs, and especially feedback to improve our strategy and long-term goals.”
Business-to-business customer research is important for more than revising basic operations, especially if a company, like Incotec, has achieved operational excellence. Customeyes helps to find and improve a company’s added value, but in some cases can go beyond that, probing the strategic opinions of key partners. This requires time, trust, and mutual understanding: “We looked into several players in the market. They were all very professional companies, but I believe there was a special ‘match’ between Customeyes and Incotec. There’s empathy there, there’s flexibility, there’s a personal touch. That’s something we value a lot.”
Bruno emphasizes the need for a partner in customer research able to show adaptability in adjusting the research design, to empathize with the needs of the clients, and to understand Incotec’s mission. “We found all this in Customeyes. Besides the personal connection, we found flexibility and we recognized the professionalism of the approach.”
Together with Incotec, Customeyes designed a study that combined quantitative and qualitative methods, with special filters for distinct business areas. Day-to-day business contacts filled in a digital survey, while higher management level contacts were interviewed by qualitative researchers for more detailed feedback. After all, especially if the goal is to challenge established ideas and improve strategy, numbers are not enough. “It worked well, and the response rate was quite good. We were happy about that. It was interesting to see that in some cases there was a strong alignment between day-to-day and higher management contacts, while in other cases there wasn’t.”
The real work does not end, but rather begins with the collection of data. “It’s very rich material. We’re still digesting it and making sure we make the best use of it.” The team at Incotec takes this task very seriously, and rightly so: “The difficult part is to not translate survey data in a way that confirms what we already know.” Incotec got to work, together with Customeyes, with Bruno and his team going the extra mile “to make sure that we were basing our plans on the right set of conclusions.”
Equipped with the results, Incotec is in the ideal position to create the movement which, when flowing from insight, results in real impact and a customer-oriented approach. Bruno advises companies wanting to conduct a similar customer survey to pay attention to every step in the process: listen to the customer, empathize, dig into the data, use your knowledge about the business to translate customer needs into actions. “There are no shortcuts,” warns Bruno: growth requires work.
The collaboration between Incotec and Customeyes demonstrates that understanding the expectations and experiences of key customers can do more than identifying areas to improve in basic operations or finding the company’s added value. As Bruno puts it, especially in competitive markets such as the seed business, “understanding customer needs makes the difference.”
We at Customeyes have been enthusiastic about Incotec and its people from the outset, but even more so after Bruno confirmed an important lesson: growing in customer intimacy requires more than data. “We need empathy, and it needs to be genuine. It must come from inside, and it’s something that can only develop by changing the business culture, by being sincerely willing to help.”
Visit their website for more information: Incotec: The Seed Enhancement Company