Briggs & Stratton: A Case of Conversations With the Consumer

Article ImageCompany: Briggs & Stratton

Based in Milwaukee, Briggs & Stratton produces lawn mower engines and small engines. The company has been around for more than 100 years and says eight out of 10 lawn mower brands use Briggs & Stratton engines to power their lawn tractors and push mowers. Briggs & Stratton is also a leading designer, manufacturer, and marketer of power generation, lawn and garden, turf care, and job site products.

Business Challenge

Briggs & Stratton, similar to all companies, depends on customer satisfaction to succeed. As such, it was looking for a better way to get feedback from the users of its products.

Vendor of Choice: Bazaarvoice

The Austin, Texas-based Bazaarvoice is a network that connects brands and retailers to the voices of consumers wherever they shop. Each month, more than 700 million people view and share opinions and questions about tens of millions of products in the Bazaarvoice network. The company says its technology platform amplifies these voices into the places that influence purchase decisions.



Briggs & Stratton is a "multi-step manufacturer," according to Dave Cluka, the company's director of customer experience. It manufactures and sells outdoor equipment such as snowblowers and power washers and is known as the world's largest manufacturer of gasoline engines for outdoor power equipment. The company's engines are in the products of brands that are household names: John Deere, Craftsman, Toro, and Troy-Bilt. Cluka says, "we're a couple of steps removed" from consumers-and, as such, it was difficult to glean thoughts from them.

"We were looking for a way to connect directly with the end users of our product," Cluka says, adding that collecting feedback would prove useful with, among other things, future product development by Briggs & Stratton. The company had been collecting user responses through more traditional channels. When people would phone the company's call center, it would get some feedback. Also, he says, Briggs & Stratton did external market research, panel studies, focus groups with consumers, and even ethnographic research, "where we'd basically follow a customer home and see how they use the product."

But by 2011, the internet was exerting its dominance, and "a lot of the external marketing trends [started] pointing towards" having user-generated content "as a key part of your marketing mix," Cluka says. There was also "retail demand" for it, he adds, from stores such as Lowe's, The Home Depot, and Walmart. And so, the time had come to begin collecting user reviews.


Enter Bazaarvoice. Cluka says it was a "combination of a couple of things" that led to Briggs & Stratton selecting the network. Cluka is a member of Forrester's eBusiness Leadership Board. So he picked the brains of some of the folks at Forrester, and Bazaarvoice got a very strong endorsement.

Also, Cluka says, one of the things Briggs & Stratton was looking to do was syndicate its ratings and reviews to its retailers. Most of those retailers use Bazaarvoice. This, he says, "made that syndication of the review content seamless."

Since teaming up with Bazaarvoice in 2011, the vendor has come up with a number of different ways for Briggs & Stratton to collect user feedback. Cluka says "one of the more underappreciated solutions" his company uses through Bazaarvoice is its "conversations." This allows consumers to go to the websites for Briggs & Stratton's different brands and post questions in a public forum, which can then be answered by other users or a Briggs & Stratton customer service representative.

"At last count, we had taken 11,000 questions through that channel," Cluka says. "It's a much deeper way of providing customer support." He adds, "Not only does it cost us less to handle each individual inquiry, because it's public, it helps deflect additional calls coming in. Other people see [a post], have the same question, and now don't need to contact us directly. ... Nobody wants to call a call center."

One particularly innovative solution, Cluka shares, was a live event. Rather than just rely on collecting reviews from customers who had already purchased a product, Briggs & Stratton-with the help of Bazaarvoice-put together a live event in spring 2015. The company set up demos of products outside a baseball game in Phoenix, which is the spring training location of Briggs & Stratton's hometown team, the Milwaukee Brewers.

Before fans went into the game, Briggs & Stratton staffers asked them to spend a few moments checking out new products. The company had an iPad app that it built with Bazaarvoice, which was set up "to collect feedback from [people] on the spot," Cluka says. "We were able to get our product in front of thousands of people and collect over 500 reviews in about 8 hours," Cluka says.

It was such a success that Joe Rohrlich, VP of client success for Bazaarvoice, says the plan for 2016 was to have more of the "experiential" types of content collection. "That's the focus for the next year: ... to try to build on the momentum of what worked this past year," he says. To that end, Rohrlich says, another trip to spring training in Phoenix was put together.


Cluka says Briggs & Stratton checks in about once a month with the company's client success director at Bazaarvoice to exchange ideas and provide a general update. There are also on-site quarterly business reviews, during which Bazaarvoice staffers will visit Briggs & Stratton for a day or two "and will really get into the weeds" to find out what Briggs & Stratton is seeing from a trend standpoint, check out new business objectives on the horizon-such as a new product launch-and other similar items.

Overall, Cluka labels the partnership with Bazaarvoice a big success. For proof, he simply points to the fact that it's been more than 5 years-in a "digital day and age when new technologies emerge all the time"-and things are still going strong. "I think that's a very solid statement about how much we value that relationship with Bazaarvoice," he says.