Part five: learning from what you hear

4th Oct 2007

To learn more about the customer and deepen engagement, data needs to be turned into actionable insight for staff, with outcomes collected and analysed. The objective of customer engagement after all is to get to know customers, to give them better experiences, to gently create a relationship where they are happy to share valueable data because they know it helps them and they trust you.

A company I deal with recently asked me the colour of my eyes as a security question. I refused to give it. I am engaged with them at a conversational level only and consided the request impertinent, what would they learn from it? That is one piece of information only my closest friends know!!

Creating insight and instigating learning requires:
• An analysis and insight plan that increasingly involves employees and customers in co-creating.
• A supportive organizational structure.
• A build up of information skills and infrastructure to mature levels of knowledge management.

1. Analysis and insight plan
This should mix and meld, analysis from the customer database, information from strategic and operational marketing research, and, most importantly, complaints and feedback from employees and customers. Such a plan might build up as follows:

• Explore data with profiling and data mining – this should be done regularly.
• Support ad hoc analysis for business activity – campaigns, product launch, sales leads.
• Start producing key customer KPIs (eg acquisition and churn) against a researched customer lifecycle.
• Start to pull together complaints and operational feedback, to map against customer experience journeys – profile from database. Include monitoring of internet comment and blogs.
• Start competitive and influencer monitoring and sign up to market tracking studies.
• Strategic segmentation analysis mixing marketing research and database analysis. Segmentations such as value, loyalty, needs, behaviour and attitude.
• Market positioning research, matched back to customer segments.
• Set up staff satisfaction and brand coaching programme.
• Set up relevant models for propensity and predict behaviour that is important, eg churn, or next best action for contact staff.
• Investigate a chain of proposition supportive KPI’s.
• Improve co-creating capacity with customers against customer journey maps (eg mystery shopping, panels communities and user groups).
• Plan for regular analysis, continuous research, and ad hoc projects on both a strategic and operational level.

2. Customer information hub
Information is not insight until it is actionable; there has always been a difference between market resarch ie data, and marketing research ie actionable information.

Companies serious about listening and learning need to replace command and control metrics with brand coaching and ways to alert staff to customer requirements via insight so that it can be used in everyday decision making. That is how you align an organization around the customer, and evolve with changing customer needs.

Key organisational structures for this include a customer information hub, combining IT, analytical and business skills – which we will be reporting on over the coming weeks. Another is an R&D capacity for co-creating eg a model office for testing and piloting new products, services and processess, with customers.

Other insight and learning mechanisms include:
• Regular interdepartmental insight sessions (eg call centres or sales with marketing).
• Customer surgeries with staff.
• Customers brought into the boardroom.
• Senior manager spending time on the shopfloor.
• Brand coaching programmes for employees.
• Open space events with staff around customer issues.
• Information sharing with channel partners.

3. Information skills maturity
Business information companies such as SAS have developed models from their experience of the way companies tend to develop their information skills. Such a model is likely to have four main levels.

• Level one – operational data is used to control and report basic business information. At this level of maturity a company might include basic customer research, satisfaction and profiling, competitive intelligence, and basic list buying with response and lead information

• Level two – integrated information is used to manage operations and direct strategy. This will mean the setting up of consolidated data repositories which are then analysed. Analysis will include modelling, profiling and segmentation.

• Level three – optimising intelligence for decision support. This is likely to include the refining of models for attitudinal and value segmentation, propensity and econometrics. The specific use of feedback in models such as six sigma, and the use of personal information to guide engagement through personal propositions.

• Level four – the innovative use of knowledge and insight for personal engagement with customers and clients. This will include the skills to co-create with customers, use advanced models, and mix research, data and contextual knowledge.

Bottom line

In my experience, the most important ingredients for successful listening and learning are finding fellow data lovers to work with, and blending their talents into a formidable team that can deliver really actionable support to the rest of the organisation; that may be a harder task than you think. At the very heart of this operation lies the production of quality data (and yes, that includes market research!) - and that is where you need a Kate and a Debbie.

Further reading

Company relationship management
You have permission to talk to my wife
The customer manager dilemma
Death of a salesman
What is stopping companies capitalising on customer information?

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Cutting through the data jungle

Top 10 data protection problems - and solutions

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Is this the cure for business intelligence headaches?

Data application: getting personal

Third party data

Analytics: an internal or outsourced task?

Outsider information

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