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How to get value from customer insights data

Gathering and acting on customer insights can make the difference between a successful and struggling business. Here's how businesses can use it to their advantage.

The word insight pops up a great deal in business media, and for good reason: Insights are becoming the difference between leading the market and falling behind -- especially when it comes to customer relations.

The trouble with insights, however, is that they don't really happen on demand. It's not really feasible to put "anticipate target customer's changing perceptions" on a day calendar. Customer insights, by their nature, are spontaneous and largely unpredictable.

There's a way to urge them on, however, and most companies have the moving parts already in place: customer data, a research department to analyze it and the technology to build a management platform around it.

Customer data platform

Customer data is the foundation of managing the customer relationship. But how businesses gather and organize that data and what's done with it is beyond CRM.

Implementing a customer data platform (CDP) will help centralize all customer data -- even beyond what's happening in the enterprise CRM platform. There are a number of CDPs on the market, including small, standalone platforms such as Tealium, RedPoint Global and Blueconic; and CRM platforms with baked-in CDPs including Salesforce and Microsoft Dynamics 365.

Implementing a CDP includes several key steps, such as:

  • collecting customer data across all possible channels, including profile data, demographic data, behavioral data, preferences, history with the brand and even social media data;
  • integrating the CDP, not just with the CRM platform, but with every enterprise system that uses customer data, including ERPs, service desks and legacy systems; and
  • analyzing data perpetually -- through machine learning, if possible -- to generate updated models and refreshed customer segmentations

Implementing a CDP is a powerful step. It doesn't just create a customer insights data resource, it also centralizes the customer as the most important facet of the business and enhances understanding of the customer across the enterprise.

Questions and answers that lead to value

A unified portrait of the customer -- subject to perpetual scrutiny and easily accessible across the enterprise -- is a powerful asset.

Deriving value from customer insights data is easy. The idea is to improve the customer's experience by cultivating brand loyalty and encouraging additional business. And when it comes to improving CX, there are many perpetual questions that cry out for insight:

  • What does the target customer want? The customer's wants and needs can change over time, and will often vary, segment by segment.
  • What matters to the target customer? Customers care about the quality of their experience, and their priorities might vary considerably, from price to options to customer service.
  • Who is the target customer, beyond being a customer? Customers are not just customers --they are people. Understanding their lifestyles, social behaviors and communities can inspire considerable innovation in how businesses craft their journeys.
  • How do the priorities and needs of the customer change over time? Few if any customers always buy the same items repeatedly. Most change over time, and that's important information.
  • How is our brand perceived by the target customer? The how is easy to measure with surveys, but the reason why is not so easy to discover.
  • How is our brand perceived by consumers that aren't our customers? Understanding the perceptions of consumers that aren't buying is the first step in changing those perceptions.
  • How are customers and noncustomers responding to marketing efforts? Again, how can be discovered in surveys; but it's the why that matters.

Insightful answers to these questions -- and many more -- can lead to greatly improved CX, stronger brand loyalty and expansion in the market.

Where the value is

A unified portrait of the customer -- subject to perpetual scrutiny and easily accessible across the enterprise -- is a powerful asset. It empowers decision-makers to answer the questions above, extracting insights that can bring about many benefits, including:

  • more granular market segmentation, which enables more unique and effective customer journeys;
  • greater continuity in the treatment of customers across the enterprise, which boosts loyalty and cultivates trust in the brand; and
  • enhanced analytics derived from richer, more diverse data, improving the ability of marketers to predict customer needs, priorities and behaviors, and opening the door for AI as a next step in taking prediction to a higher level.

There was a time when this kind of thinking and decision-making were the sole province of the C-suite, with a guru or two chiming in with intuitions. That time is past. Intuition is out, innovation is in and customer insights data is its lifeblood. There's tremendous value in embracing it and using it effectively.

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