Customer intelligence is the process of gathering information from wherever your customers are, distilling this information into insights, and sharing these with stakeholders across your company so that action can be taken to improve products, marketing, customer service, and more. Pulling from onsite and offsite content in real time, customer intelligence can help brands create holistic, dynamic profiles of their customers and prospects without the biases inherent to standard methods of research like surveys and focus groups. In short, customer intelligence gets customer centricity out of the boardroom and into every cubicle in your company.
Sales numbers have limited value if post-purchase customer satisfaction is not analyzed. Even if customers are generally happy with your product, no product is ever really “finished”—which features are working for them, and which need to be improved? What new features do they want? Implementing this real-time feedback loop helps development teams build the products and features customers are asking for, and can shorten development cycles from months to weeks.
Soft launches and customer intelligence pair incredibly well. Gathering insights before the big push can provide the basis for fine-tuning a product before putting a full budget behind it.
Use customer intelligence constantly to optimize your segmentation efforts. Analyze the strength of your messages by segment, and iterate on this information until each message resonates at the best frequency for its intended audience. By adjusting descriptions and advertising to better reflect product performance, sales can jump almost immediately, while returns can plummet.
For example, let’s say you sell tennis rackets. One of your rackets has a lower average star rating than you expected. You pull separate sets of data for beginner, intermediate, and advanced players, and analyze the content of each set. Advanced players, it turns out, make up 80% of those players leaving two stars or fewer. Taking a look at their reviews, you see that they were expecting a high-end racket, and that this messaging was reflected in the product description, but not in performance. The majority of positive reviews, however, emphasized value, but this word was not in your product description or marketing materials. You recalibrate your messaging to stress value, ensure that it’s included in email marketing to beginner players, and see the average star rating rise in a matter of weeks.
Stop guessing which products will sell, and let customers tell you themselves. When category managers have access to real-time customer sentiments, deciding which products to stock and which to discontinue gets simpler. Implementing this feedback loop can get bad products off the shelves more quickly (“fail fast” comes to mind here), while reducing warranty and support costs. And these insights can be early indicators for which new products will succeed – imagine being able to identify this holiday season’s biggest sales hits that much sooner.
Feedback from customers is also a powerful merchandizing bargaining chip, both for manufacturers and retailers. Customer sentiment around products can be used to negotiate shelf position, order quantity, endcap and catalogue placement, etc.
Using customer insights to develop better products and more accurate marketing helps shoppers find the right product for their needs, which can decrease customer service costs on its own. Meanwhile, companies can catch potential customer service issues before they boil over into nasty blog posts, in-store visits, and other undesirable situations by monitoring conversations, flagging and distributing content like tweets and reviews throughout the organization, and addressing them quickly. They thus avert the very public and often hazardous escalation we see when CS issues aren’t dealt with promptly and professionally. Imagine, for example, being able to train call center staff, before they’re barraged with calls, on issues that are starting to pop up in social content.
Just as in customer service, customer insights can give businesses a heads up on potential press issues. Catching dissatisfied customers early, understanding their frustrations, and constantly improving your offering make it less likely an incident will become a potentially harmful news story.
And like your customers, members of the press want to hear from actual users of your products more than they want to hear from you. Customer intelligence allows you to identify top customer advocates by category, product, and many other variables. You can then find the perfect customers to tell authentic and credible stories about your brand, thus increasing the likelihood of positive, impactful coverage.
I’m just scratching the surface of the impact customer intelligence can have on every department in your company. When these insights drive decisions across teams, customer centricity stops being an abstract idea and becomes the bedrock of every move your company makes.
For more on customer intelligence, be sure to watch the recording of our latest webinar, featuring Shel Israel: How customer insights drive your business.