“Empathy is the ultimate form of customer insight.” – Don Peppers
Wikipedia defines customer insight as “the intersection between the interests of the consumer and features of the brand. Its main purpose is to understand why the consumer cares for the brand as well as their underlying mind-sets, moods, motivation, desires, aspirations, and motivates that trigger their attitude and actions.”
Everyone running a company and working in a company knows that they need customers to remain in business and keep their jobs. The overall long-term sustainability, success and ‘health’ of a company are highly dependent on the customers. Despite this dependence, many companies still do not monitor, measure and analyse their customer experiences. This in turn leads to improper or no customer insight, no understanding of growth opportunities and limited understanding of the kind of brand and long term strategy required for the company to outsmart competition. Let us delve on customer insight – both current and prospective – the understanding of which would help companies to develop and create products and services that are value-added and customized as per the needs of the customers. Without such analysis and insight it would be difficult for any company to generate sustainable profits and success, especially in the cut-throat competitive environment that exists and seems like it is here to stay.
The simple truth for any company is that the success and profitability of the company is directly proportionate to customer insight. A company’s long and short term plans, goals and strategies that are directly linked to customer insight and feedback will help the company to gain and keep a leadership position in the market. In fact, what customers say and expect should be used as the guiding factor for crucial decisions, developing brand strategies, ensuring relevance in a crowded market and making decisions related to investments in technology and equipment. When all that a company does is ‘pointed’ in the direction of the customers, it would be able to create and sustain a niche and points of differentiation for itself.
It is a well-known fact, that we have stated earlier, that the technological advancements, rise of the internet and multiple means of communication and information sharing have made the customer of today a much smarter, empowered and conversant set of people. With this premise, companies just have to invest in and leverage the competitive edge that technology brings in order to gain maximum customer insight. The huge amount of data about customers that is available on-line is a wealth of information that companies cannot and should not ignore. Gathering, analysing, monitoring and passing this data on to be used centrally within the company cannot be managed without adequate and up-to-date technology. Using this customer insight, companies would find it simpler and be able to create marketing schemes, promotions, events, products and services that the customers would instantly find relevant and usable, which in turn is a sure-shot way for soaring profits and market reputation.
What do you believe is customer insight and does your company put it to good use? Customer insight is certainly not just about data and its collation – rather it is a 360 degree approach that helps companies to remain aware of their customers through the analysis of the data available. Such customer insight can be derived from many sources – directly from on-line sources, surveys and feedback from customers, learning from their own customer-interfacing teams, social media ‘conversations’, informal and formal interfaces, customer advisory boards and other such sources. Of course, just like any crucial business initiative and strategy, keeping a check on customer insight cannot be a one-off or even be considered a minor task for which a small and not so experienced team can handle without this task being an actual part of the mainstream business. Irrespective of how many resources are spent on marketing tactics, they would remain unsuccessful if they are not guided by customer insight and aligned to the company as one of its key concerns. Rather, using customer insight to advantage is a long-term and consistent strategy that requires constant monitoring and importance in order for it to be effective for the company and to help translate it to hard-core profits.
Just like in life, companies too need a robust structure and strong strategy and decision making abilities. However, these characteristics must be directed and guided in a particular direction – customer insight provides this direction. Customer insight provides for the company and all its employees a framework and a solid foundation of knowledge that would provide guidance to the way they work, the decisions they take and the kind of policies devised. From the external sources of information, companies can also create customer insight. In line with the definition mentioned above, this means that companies can, based on their knowledge of the customers, make certain internal organizational changes that will enhance positive customer insight and reduce the not so good impressions. It is a company’s responsibility to ensure that they build knowledge and awareness of their company and brand and even implement certain measures that will allow customers to perceive the commitment and passion of the company towards meeting and exceeding their needs. It is possible therefore to change customer insight to one’s favour by some simple yet effective organizational techniques. For example – better alignment and coordination between the marketing teams and the front-end customer service teams will ensure that the customer service team is able to seamlessly provide hard customer data to the marketing and product creation teams – their complaints, what they like, what they want to see more of and other such invaluable data that would help the marketing team put together more focused and customized promotional events and also help the product development team to create products that are the ‘answers’ to customer needs.
The fact is that for companies to try running their business without a thorough understand of customer insight, would be a ‘losing battle’. Companies need to commit long term to gaining knowledge from customer insight and then inculcate a culture of cross-functional dependence and reliability such that each department understands their role and responsibility in accomplishing the company’s goals and ensuring that customers receive the best of everything that the company has to offer. Departments working in conjunction and in alignment with each other and the company as a whole will spell success not just for the company but for all those in it.
With so much data available from so many sources there is no dearth of customer insight – there is therefore no excuse for companies as far as data is concerned. The problem lies in being able to effectively utilize this data, assigning the required importance and weightage to each piece of information and formulating policies and putting together teams to translate the data to the magical profit numbers that the company seeks. In fact, compiling and using customer data doesn’t just provide the company with customer insight, it also provides a clearer picture of the existing market conditions, competitor status and other crucial aspects of the business environment that are vital parts of the whole framework of being in business.
As with most aspects of the ever-changing customer environment, customer insight too is never stable. Companies therefore must remain adaptable, flexible and open-minded towards customer insight and be ready and equipped to make the necessary organizational changes that the customer insight may be pointing towards. Customer insight will help your company to know which customers are most loyal and profitable, thereby you can pay more attention to satisfy their needs and also proactively catering to possible needs and expectations. With time, the effective use of customer insight by a company will create a powerful and almost indestructible circle of efficiency, success and profits for it.