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Article | Leadership Inspires

Customer Analytics 101 for Senior Business Leaders

Customer analytics now holds an immovable seat at the decision-making table, as senior leaders leverage the resulting insight across many facets of their modern business. Though senior leaders may not perform the data analysis themselves, they’re responsible for integrating and driving the adoption of enterprisewide best practices that emphasize analytics’ importance to the underlying culture of the entire organization. 

Thankfully, more and more incoming senior executives and C-suite leaders are aware of the benefits of customer analytics and have far greater expectations for the implementation of best practices, as such tactics were far more pervasive in their previous roles than those of their predecessors. While prior leaders were more familiar with traditional data collection methods, a growing number of modern executives are better equipped with cutting edge analytical knowledge. This puts them in an ideal position to garner employee support and develop the organizational philosophy necessary to bring customer insight to action.

But, no matter their level of expertise and experience, leaders must establish a cross-functional blueprint that outlines where and how the company must go about incorporating customer analytics. By highlighting the responsibilities and benefits at stake, senior executives carry the ability to empower their entire workforce with the knowledge and support critical to maintain continued success. The following best practices extend to all corners of the business, enabling C-suite strategists and decision makers to ensure customer analytics always support the fundamental building blocks of growth and prosperity:

1. Culture: Build a customer-oriented corporate philosophy
Businesses that create customer-oriented cultures help drive superior customer experiences, which ultimately lead to significant uplifts in revenue. In fact, results from Forrester’s most recent Technographics Customer Experience Survey indicate that wireless service providers and airlines can generate more than $1 billion in annual revenue through better customer experiences. It is customer analytics that helps companies maintain their pulse on the voice of the customer. Consumer insights, trends, and associated business action plans must be shared throughout the company at regular intervals to root this customer orientation into employees’ value systems.

In order to turn this dream into reality, senior leaders must commit to enterprisewide voice-of-the-customer (VoC) data collection and the ongoing analysis of this customer data. Leaders must start by ensuring that VoC information gets collected and captured at each stage of the customer journey. Savvy businesses are capturing VoC data from an ever-expanding list of solicited and unsolicited customer feedback sources, with many leveraging the latest speech and text analytics solutions to make the most of their continued efforts. However, with so much data flowing into the organization, many lose sight of how to bring insights to action. Senior leaders must share pertinent VoC information with employees at all levels so everyone involved can remain abreast of the latest developments and use the insights to deploy highly relevant customer-centric actions across the company.

2. Innovation: Fuel the identification of customer-focused business initiatives
By adopting an analytically driven approach to opportunity identification, senior leaders greatly increase the likelihood that their selected business enhancement initiatives are grounded in observable customer needs and qualified on expected business impact. Thus, it’s critical to develop an overarching systematic approach to quickly assess the multitude of preliminary ideas and act upon the most qualified opportunities. Leadership teams should carefully select an individual to launch and manage this ongoing opportunity identification test center who is experienced in the application of customer analytics. Leaders must also equip this person with the resources—people, incentives, data and tools—necessary for success. Ultimately, senior leaders must seek to establish an approach that proactively enables the company to sustain its analytical edge and stay ahead of the competition.

Leaders should implement processes that include multiple opportunity qualification stages that are each supported by customer analytics and business case development. When properly executed, this process should generate a steady flow of customer-focused business enhancement opportunities that can be tested, refined, and seamlessly integrated into regular business operations. Successful companies often look outside the four walls of their company to create work teams that consist of internal employees and external consultants in an effort to blend resources so all best practices may be considered. By doing so, work teams and senior leaders can then sit down monthly or quarterly to explore and act upon the potential enhancements that present the greatest opportunity for growth, greater customer satisfaction, and success.

3. Strategy: Stimulate customer-centric strategy development
Organizations that fully embrace the concept of personalized customer relationship and development strategies have consistently been rewarded with substantial uplift in key business performance metrics, such as customer loyalty, customer value, and customer satisfaction. Most senior leaders are well aware that not all customers are the same, for each unique customer segment has its own variety of needs and preferences. Therefore, senior leaders must prepare their employees to interact with customers on customers’ own terms.

Because today’s consumers decide when, where, and how they interact, progressive businesses must use customer analytics to inform and deliver personalized treatment across all touchpoints. Every business should utilize customer segmentation and customer lifecycle solutions as the primary organizing framework to develop personalized customer development and interaction strategies. However, leaders must insist that strategies are developed and executed at the customer segment level to fully realize the business impact and reinforce the customer-oriented culture of the business. One wireless carrier completely embraced this need for customer-centric strategy development, with senior leaders’ excitement permeating the entire enterprise. Not only did this company use its new segmentation framework to begin establishing tailored customer strategies, but it also reconfigured the organization to create customer segment managers who are now accountable for the development and growth of unique customer groups.

4. Operations: Facilitate superior customer experiences
Companies that deliver superior customer experiences, especially during key moments of truth, are much more likely to benefit from reduced customer defection, higher customer advocacy, and incremental brand spending. Over the last several years, analytics solutions have evolved, putting more emphasis on using customer insights in real-time production environments. Also known as in-line analytics, this technology-enabled approach allows teams to mine and take advantage of massive Big Data assets that will help the business and its employees make smarter decisions during key customer interactions. Successful execution requires commitment from senior leaders as they invest in the people and technology needed to bring this goal to fruition.

Once said solutions and strategies are in place, leadership teams should use analytics to evaluate and identify the essential customer touchpoints that would benefit most from highly personalized customer treatment. Leaders can then make targeted pilot investments in technology-enabled analytics and measure the business impact before committing to a formal, enterprisewide rollout. Such methods are particularly valuable at determining the best engagement strategy to deploy to resolve customer issues and stem customer defection. Many contact centers now employ such tactics, as they work to streamline their real-time efforts. While some are focused on enabling more intelligent inbound routing of calls, others wish to leverage inline analytics to provide sales associates and support agents with the real-time actionable insights that can dramatically improve the chances of closing the sale or resolving the customer’s issue upon first contact. Inevitably, this approach improves sales, lowers operating costs, and creates satisfying customer experiences.

5. Business performance: Establish customer-focused metrics and measurement 
Companies that sustain their pulse on well-defined, customer-oriented metrics and understand the relationship between customer behaviors and business performance can quickly react to identified risks or opportunities in the business. To motivate employees to keep the customer top of mind in all business decisions, senior leaders must establish core customer metrics and clearly articulate how these measures will impact business performance. These customer metrics should have strong, well-established linkages to critical business KPIs, such as market share, profitability, loyalty, and product sales. Companies should also utilize multivariate modeling techniques to isolate the customer behaviors that have the greatest influence on business KPIs. Examples of core customer metrics are customer engagement levels, channel usage levels, product/service usage levels, and customer satisfaction levels at varied points in the customer lifecycle.

Once the core customer metrics have been defined, senior leaders must then help socialize the importance of these new measures and require that these metrics become fully integrated into all facets of business planning and performance measurement. Many companies build internal dashboards that regularly highlight top customer metrics, making this information universally available to all employees within the organization so they may begin to link these metrics with business KPIs. Others have implemented highly interactive reporting platforms that allow business stakeholders to track customer metrics and automatically forecast business performance within their units. These stakeholders can track customer metrics and simulate the impact customer behavior has on critical business KPIs, thereby serving as an invaluable source for business planning and strategy development.

Today’s customer-centric business leaders must possess both strategic and critical thinking skills to be successful in their roles. Customer analytics has the potential to be a primary catalyst to drive innovation and customer strategy development, as well as challenge conventional wisdom. However, for this to happen senior leaders must cultivate an organizational philosophy that values customer intelligence and motivates employees to bring all relevant information to action. Full corporate adoption of customer analytics fuels smarter decisions, driving change that enables brands across industries to march to the beat of the consumer trends at the heart of their business.