By adaptive - June 18th, 2013

Data is key to vital business improvements and making sure customers remain loyal and happy.

Customers. You can’t live with them and you can’t live without them. Today their input has a great deal of power over your business, and the insights they offer can potentially improve performance and have a positive impact on revenue. However, there is so much information and data, that you need techniques and platforms to manage it effectively. What steps should a business take to capture customer data and how can they use this to drive the business forward?

“Attracting customers is becoming increasingly difficult, they can switch between brands more easily than ever,” says Billy Tucker, founder of Yabbit, “Oftentimes once they are gone, they’re gone. Now that online has been adopted by the masses, business brands can rise and fall on the back of a single customer’s experience, so more than ever it is critical to provide ways to listen to your customers.”

Billy Tucker, founder of Yabbit

When customers receive excellent customer service they can form a bond with a brand and that sentiment drives loyalty that in turn, sees repeat purchases and brand advocacy. These positive emotions towards a business cannot be bought; but once they are earned they can have a marked effect on how the organisation thrives.

“Customer service has become the unique value proposition for most successful businesses in this day and age,” says Stephanie Burak Fehlenberg, CEO and Founder of Wildfire Web Design and Marketing, “Copyright only protects the expression of ideas, but not the ideas themselves. Anyone can reproduce your product or service. The way businesses differentiate themselves, while validating the cost of their services and products, is through exceptional customer service.”

Understanding the potential value of customer service is easy, but the data customer interaction produces must be used intelligently in order to drive results across the organisation. In IBM’s recent Global Consumer Survey eight out of 10 respondents in the UK said they would spend on average 16 minutes providing information on their preferences for what they buy, the channels they consider before doing so, and how they want to receive communications. But they would only do it once and after that they expect businesses to act on this information.

Capturing that data

There are varying techniques that can be used to capture valuable data about your customers: In the past, businesses only had complaints to deal with. Today there are so many more options to choose from and all offer unique insight. According to James Lovell, Smarter Commerce Consultant at IBM Europe, the typical types of customer data that need to be captured include:

·      Demographic

·      Transactional

·      Interactional

·      Behavioural

“It is now possible to capture almost all the data that customers provide,” says Marjie Gould, Vice President of Marketing EMEA at Verint, “This can be the call recordings in contact centres, customer emails or text interactions, the social media posts customers make, combined with transactional data and even web visit statistics. When captured and analysed collectively, customer data can tell companies exactly what their customers think and feel and how they behave, and emerging trends within that market.”

Marjie Gould, Vice President of Marketing EMEA at Verint

Capturing this data can be done in a variety of ways and there are numerous solutions available to the business. Burak Fehlenberg uses email management services such as MailChimp or Constant Contact when working with email-based data capture for specific campaigns, and social media such as Facebook for others, followed up with a/b testing to assess how they can be improved.

“We use Net Promoter Score (NPS) which ranks customer experience using responses to a question,” says Lawrence Jones, CEO UKFast, “We have also pushed data capture on Twitter, with our account often acting as the first point of call for customers, allowing us to provide immediate responses. Comments on social media are monitored and fed back to our Director of Customer Service.”

However, before you invest in a solution it’s worth asking why you want this information and what kind of results you are expecting, that way you can tailor the solution to the demand.

“You have to create a system according to the context of the company,” says Elmar Kuehn, Head of Global Customer Service at Spreadshirt, “If you are hearing sentences like, ‘We don’t need analysing because it’s obvious we need to work on…’ or ‘It’s not the product, we need to teach the customer to…’, then you need to get a clear customer orientation first otherwise all feedback will stay unheard.”

“Before capturing customer data, an organisation must understand what data they are looking to collect to ensure they can achieve their strategic objectives,” agrees Lovell, “A data model should be defined, along with internal processes and governance around data collection.”

A simple platform

You have the data and you’ve heard all the voices, but how do you work with it properly and what systems do you need?

“It’s a case of having the right software in place in order to gather data, but the value of this is in the analysis of that data and its communication back into the business,” adds Jones, “After raising a support ticket with our teams, customers are prompted to rate the experience and given a feedback box in which they can express their opinions. Every morning the managing director gives a presentation to the team that includes NPS scores and some of the feedback so everyone knows what we can do to improve.”

Spreadshirt collects their customer feedback through regular NPS surveys, user testing sessions, and ratings through platforms such as Trustedshops or Ekomi. They also feed all data into their data warehouse for easy cross analysis.

“We constantly track the reason for returns,” explains Kuehn, “Size has been the number one reason. We started to look into the data per product in more detail and found that, for certain products, the reasons have tended to be too small or too big. As a result we added an indicator informing the customer about the cuts and have consequently seen the return rate decrease significantly for these products.”

James Lovell of IBM suggests enterprise marketing management software to help analyse insight gained from social media, as consistent and actionable analytics are core to the value of this data.

“One of the biggest challenges facing organisations is to balance critical and, at times, conflicting business objectives: maximising customer satisfaction and increasing revenue, while minimising the cost of delivering an outstanding customer experience,” says Gould, “Whatever tool you choose, it needs to satisfy all these objectives.”

The modern business is facing new challenges as it competes in a crowded market, but those who understand the value of customer feedback and how it can transform the way they work and make money, are the ones most likely to thrive. Now is the time to feed the data you glean from customer interactions into the organisation and use it to drive your business into the future.

Part two of this series will look at how to manage and analyse the raw data your business is collecting and how this can help your organisation gain value.

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