“Analytical software enables you to shift human resources from rote data collection to value-added customer service and support where the human touch makes a profound difference.” – Bill Gates
Every company today (at least most) know the importance of collecting, collating, and applying customer data to generate positive business results. However, many struggle with doing so thoroughly and successfully. Companies may have the tools and technology to collect the customer data more effectively, however they are unable to utilize this data for customer retention or enhance service levels enough to inspire confidence in customers. Only collecting data does not suffice – while this may be clichéd, it still rings true.
Customer data would be beneficial to a company only when it is utilized to generate positive business results such as building and sustaining customer relationships, engaging customers, and focusing on gaining customer loyalty and brand advocacy. It is essential to optimize this data in every way possible, which in turn would put the company in a position of market leadership. Research proves that companies have certain erroneous understandings and false beliefs with regard to collecting customer data. Putting together a thorough, easily accessible, and user-friendly customer database with regard to their purchase history, online ‘searches’, and other behaviours would not suffice if a company is unable to connect that data to actual sales – both current and predicted. It is imperative to put the customer data to good use, which would mean making sound analysis of their future behaviour and affinity towards the company.
In order to use customer data to generate positive business results and gain long-term benefits, companies need to think differently, strategize smarter, and remain patient with regard to results. The good news – there are some tactics that would enable a company to get optimum value from the loads of customer data it collects. The strange part is that companies have no dearth of data, especially with the numerous channels that customers use and leave their ‘footprints’ in – the problem lies with breaking down and moderating that data, translating it to action. The most important thing for a company would be to breakdown internal silos – given that every department would have a system for capturing and using customer data. While this may be administratively easier to manage, the problem arises from the absence of a system that would allow the necessary people to access the data, update where required, and feed back into the system the most current information. Merging new data and making it accessible, ensures that all those within the company who need it would see one version of this data, which in turn supports accuracy and better service to customers. Updated and accurate systems ensure that customer service representatives are able to provide faster and more efficient responses, customized to the individual needs of customers.
To ensure that customer data is able to generate positive business results, it should be used in a way that enhances every user experience. Every experience should be personalized and relevant to the particular user, and must be possible through any channel, mobile device, or any such ‘virtual’ and digital interaction with the company. More data is good, but using the increased data to enhance user experiences consistently would enable a company to generate continuously positive business results. Customer focus combined with an efficient use of customer data is possibly the most potent way to gain maximized business results for long-term success.
Adding to the point that departmental silos are a hindrance, we believe that service teams, mainly customer service and marketing must align with each other, and with the technology team of the company. Given that most transactions and the customer database are on the computer systems of the company, it would make sense for all the departments mentioned to work together closely. In most companies however, the service and IT teams seem to be at loggerheads, with each one ascertaining importance and control over the databases. This of course, is not only flawed, it can cause some serious setbacks to the efficiency and output of service to customers, which in turn could lead to highly dissatisfied and even irate customers.
It is important to remember that the IT team is extremely critical since the people working have the expertise to monitor the performance of the databases, smoothen out any glitches, and optimize the digital infrastructure to ensure other teams are supported ably. The fact is that what marketing and customer service teams can do, the IT teams cannot, and vice-versa. It would be prudent then to acknowledge the expertise of each, accept the challenges that the other may face, and be patient in the face of problems or glitches. The leaders of the company must ensure that every department understands that customer service is part of the overall business goals, and that each employee has a role to play in ensuring the realization of these goals. In doing so, these ‘warring’ departments would realize that working together would be the only way to gain success for the company and for every individual in the company. Maintaining and using customer data is the hard part – collecting and collating not so much.
In order for customer data to generate positive business results, means that companies must no longer believe that page visits are in any way indicative of customer behaviour or their experience with the company. It would be prudent to measure the company’s performance depending on the ‘actions’ taken by the individual users. Measure things such as whether a visitor moved to other parts of the company’s website, and if they did what did the ‘visit’ lead to, and if the visitor still did not buy or engage further it would be prudent to understand why. All these factors are part of customer data, and analysing these ‘behaviours’ would enable a company to make the necessary improvements, which in turn could translate to satisfied customers and positive business results.
The mistake several companies make is approaching regular visitors and users and new ones in the same way. Using customer data well enables a company to make the differentiation between ‘regulars’ and newbies. Regular visitors have already displayed trust in and likeability of your company, and hence they would need a different kind of attention. In order to enhance the interest of the new visitors, more enticing and compelling offers should probably get them to stay. Regulars can be requested for their email id, and even recommendations, while new ones must be treated more carefully and not overwhelmed by requests and pop ups. Customer data would enable a company to make this segregation between regular and new visitors, and based on their behaviour and views, a company can send customized content and information via email. As people begin to see the interest and commitment of a company, they would be more inclined to become repeat customers and share the company’s information with others too.
The fact is that customer-company relationships have changed significantly, with customers now ‘calling the shots’. Customers are not averse to sharing data, but need to know how companies would use that data, especially for added benefits to customers. Companies in turn, can be prudent and use customer data to generate positive business results, become market leaders, and enhance their reputation with customers, market talent, investors, and other stakeholders. A sound and consistent strategy is essential to convert customer data to revenue and sustained profits, and this first requires a change in the mind-set and approach of companies. Where does your company stand with regard to using customer data to generate positive business results?