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Generate deeper customer insights from within your organisation

“If I had asked people what they wanted, they would have said faster horses.”
– Henry Ford.

While the past few years have seen many businesses starting digital transformation projects with the aim of becoming more customer focused, 2018 is stacking up to be about building on this foundation by creating even more personalised customer experiences. And for that, we are going to need to uncover richer and more insightful, customer insights.

Tap into people’s motivations and what drives behaviour, and you can create solutions that form deeper, longer-lasting relationships that ultimately offer the customer a better experience, and the company greater lifetime customer value.

Real customer insights are extracted from multiple sources

It may seem counterintuitive to get internal teams to provide insight about customers or to validate their feedback. Yet the concept of latent needs, as first described by Henry Ford, is that customers don’t always know what they want or can’t always imagine a better solution to address their needs. Customer interviews, and other forms of direct feedback may suggest one thing, but people’s real world actions may be the opposite – New Coke anyone?

Seeking input from different areas of an organisation will provide multiple perspectives about customers’ problems, as well as the desirability, viability and feasibility of potential solutions.

The people best placed to provide context about customers are those within the organisation who have regular contact:

  • sales, customer service (observable customer behaviour and feedback)
  • development, operations, data analytics (usage and traffic)
  • finance (broader information around sales and profitability)

How customer insights have traditionally been generated

In the past, companies have relied on individual teams to record their interactions with customers, or invited them to give feedback on existing products or services – rather than attempting to look at the world through their customer’s eyes.

They may also only consider discrete touch points, rather than factoring in the customer journey as a whole. While this has its benefits, solving problems for individual points of contact in isolation risks creating irregular customer experiences, and won’t necessarily provide meaningful value to customers.

Organisations that are committed to creating a culture that enables their people to generate customer insights, seek to genuinely understand their customers’ problems and beliefs. This is reflected in their approach to delivering value to both the customer and the business continuously, rather than at a project level.

Creating environments where people look through the lens of the customer

Just as customer journeys flow around the organisation, so too do the insights you find. Uncovering truths about your customer demands representation and contribution from everyone across the business, and for that to be meaningful, customer insights must be visible and accessible for everyone.

Before this can happen, leaders need to introduce structures and governance that reward and recognise people for their participation. Without this crucial first step, you’re likely to inflict competing goals and KPIs on teams. Depending on your organisation’s readiness, some approaches you might consider starting with are:

Finding innovative ways of enabling your team to experience the world through your customers’ eyes. For instance, Claridge’s Hotel in London has a policy that whenever a room is refurbished, team members stay a night in the room and check everything from room service to whether electrical cables under a desk can be seen.

Mapping customer journeys. Having an overview of the entire customer experience, rather than individual touch points provides a deeper sense of the customer’s motivations and expectations. Organisations can achieve this by immersing themselves in the customer journey. Every new employee at AirBnB spends their first two weeks staying in AirBnB accommodation. They must write a journal and answer a questionnaire which is then shared with the entire organisation.

Storytelling to create emotional buy-in and empathy. Stories can be delivered in any form: aural, written, illustrated, or video as long there is a strong plot with descriptive details to bring the situation to vivid life. This is particularly critical when referencing data, as Forester reports that only 45% of business decisions are made on the basis of data.

Calculating customer life-time value (LTV). While this is a challenge for many companies with complex buying journeys, even a rough estimate can help people to see how valuable your customers are. Starbucks used rough sales figures from 2004 to show that while the average spend for a Starbucks customer was $5.90, the estimated LTV was over $14,000. Use this calculation to talk in terms of relationships rather than retention.

Communicating regularly. Ensure language is consistent (different departments often use different terminology). Make time for face to face as well as tools such as digital dashboards that improve visibility for team members, and insights walls where people can view and consume the latest.

Making key insights visible. Finally, store and categorise the data so it can be easily accessible throughout the organisation.

As with any new way of working, the ability to develop customer insights will involve a learning curve as your organisation and people mature. Along the way, capture insights in a structured manner to ensure they are meaningful, and most importantly actionable. You can, and should, improve incrementally as the outcomes from previously implemented ideas become clearer and the breadth and depth of customer knowledge grows.