By David Pickering, Managing Director, Eclipse Marketing.
Placing customers at the heart of business has long been extolled as a business panacea and when looking at organisations such as John Lewis that publically practice this, it isn't hard to see why.
Yet, it is very much easier said than done. It is a mindset that has to be reflected across the whole organisation and this takes commitment and investment.
Customer focus isn't new. Corner-shops have long understood that looking after their customers means their customers would be more likely to look after them and it was this mentality that larger organisations wanted to replicate.
As a result CRM evolved and customer data relatively quickly became lauded as the lifeblood of marketing. Then as new media started to come to the fore, data collection went into overdrive gathering not just transactional data, but also personal and behavioural information as well albeit in an inefficient and illogical manner.
Anecdotally, the collection of as much data as possible created a widespread lack of understanding from consumers of why the data was being collected. There were few comprehensive data strategies to find the best value from the collected information and quickly.
Furthermore, this was compounded by consumers realising the value of their data and the backlash began. 'Big Brother' stories started infiltrating the media leading to a panic from consumers about the use of their data and the spotlight was firmly placed on marketers. To some extent this spotlight continues to shine brightly and consumers are rightly demanding to know the benefit of sharing their data.
For example, one common complaint is why after so many years many financial call centres still request personal details via IVR including account information and then still ask you for your name when you get through to an operator. Is data actually bettering the brand experience? In many cases, yes, but in some, frankly no.
The common denominator of the organisations that are getting it right is in the understanding of the significance of a single customer view. This is a given, but bringing together disparate data sets is not an easy task, much less bringing together the most insightful data, given the literally thousands of gigabytes many organisations have collected.
Alarmingly, despite the fact that far more data now exists, more than ever before, brands and companies are not exploiting it to its full potential. It is typically left to decay somewhere in a database. But there is a vast amount of useful data just gathering virtual dust. It mustn't be written off because if the key can be found, there is huge value in this data, value that could revolutionise a brand's communications with its consumers.
For example recently, we analysed the customer data of one of our automotive clients. In the knowledge that a customer won't stay on the phone to a contact centre agent answering a long-winded survey with questions about past car ownership, demographics and other such information, we focused on a variety of different questions looking at the experiences that they shared with the brand from purchase through to all areas of after-sales. We used this information along with existing data within the CRM system (which did include demographics etc) to create a combined data set.
From this, we were able to make informed and insightful conclusions enabling the brand to address some key business areas - the fact that a specific sub set of customers were not engaged. This approach made previously unused data work harder to deliver even better results for the brand.
The lessons here are clear. Data should not to be wasted as it is such a valuable asset.
The issue is with learning how to read it to get the most from it. Yes this might seem like a daunting prospect and it is easy to drown in the oceans of information which makes it difficult to see the woods from the trees, but the eventual outcome is so worth it and could be the basis of a whole new invaluable revenue stream.
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