Building customer intimacy by leveraging data and information proactively

digital marketing strategy
  • be customer savvy by observing the data to inform your engagement strategy

When we observe the pace at which change is happening around us and how slow we are at matching that pace in our learning the prospect of a future where this phenomenon is more intense is very daunting. prospect. The trigger for this change is technology. It has birthed a new age where we can’t help but accept that customers are savvier than they were a few decades ago. Therefore, as a business, the need to learn about customers is now an essential part of business operations.

The situation is such that learning to understand your customer’s behavior is now extremely necessary as part of your business strategy and has serious implications for growth now and in the future. Hence the popular place of today’s customers in our business equation. We are now in the age of the customer and must focus on understanding an enigmatic customer whose knowledge of products and service expectations are way beyond what we expect for them.  Instead of telling them what we have on our plate we must first listen to what they think.

By applying data science techniques to data derived from customer activities (by consent) and leveraging opportunities to enhance our ability to empathize with the customer, and be empowered to address their concerns more succinctly than our competitors, we are on the path to growth and sustainability. It is more about knowing what our customer’s preferences are and our willingness to adjust to their calls for product and service improvements, customer service enhancements, the list is endless. Therefore, how to improve your internal capabilities to match this new customer era at your journey touchpoints is the new normal.

The truth, as they say, is in the data.  Improving your data acquisition capabilities is now a key requirement in this quest. The following will be key in arriving at your destination. Leveraging technology, learning from the data applying yourself to improving your services and processes based on data insights, and letting the data inform your actions going forward.

Leveraging Technology

Change today is driven by the customer. They expect your offering to align with what they are doing at any point in time regardless of the location and on the device of their choice. Their journey dictates your strategy. To keep pace with this new “always-connected” customer, your technology adoption must be on point to deliver an out-of-the-world customer experience.

According to the US-based market intelligent firm IDC, two-thirds of the CEOs of Global 2,000 companies will shift their focus from traditional, offline strategies to more modern digital strategies to improve the customer experience going forward. They anticipate that 34% of companies believe they will fully adopt digital transformation within 12 months or less. This is what is driving the markets, technology, and innovations around it.

Amazon has used this strategy to good effect. By combining a google-like functionality they enable you to evaluate such things as customer reviews, price, and availability thus offering the customer a wide berth in terms of product choices. For example, if you were looking to buy a router to speed up your internet connectivity you will be able to sort by connectivity type (wireless or cable) based on your preference and even compare speeds and pricing to make informed decisions.

Furthermore, they provide you the ability to learn how the product meets your needs by reviewing customer feedback and product ratings. How about the fact that your Amazon account is so personalized that in your next visit to their site, based on your buying habits, they can provide you suggestions on your possible buying options. What is heartwarming these days is that these capabilities are already embedded in tools we can easily find in the market.

Using tools such as Qualtrics, Tableau, and Medallion firms are better able to capture and act on such things as customer, product, brand, and employee experience insights to intuitively develop customer empathy. Fundamentally, what you need to mine data efficiently is data. At the basic level data refers to numbers, text, video, and audio. To mine this data you need a system that allows you to collect a large pool to extract what is most valuable to you.

Data mining is the analysis of large pools of data to find patterns and rules that can be used to guide decision-making and predict future behaviour. Not having accurate data can be harmful to any business. Therefore, using the right technologies and toolkit you potentially improve your data accuracy and timeliness in accessing and applying the information to relevant business scenarios, this will significantly improve your decision making and transform your business into a customer savvy entity.

Learning from the data

Your interpretations of quantitative and qualitative data gathered from customer feedback and other informational sources, compiled and analyzed potentially adds value to your decision-making. By identifying behavioral trends, you will improve the effectiveness of marketing, sales, and service initiatives within the business. The outcome of this is a deeper understanding of customer psychology, behaviour, and preferences, so you can better resonate with and serve their needs, and ultimately improve their experience and increase revenue.

In her TED talk Tricia Wang a tech ethnographer asserts that the big data industry means nothing without qualitative human insights. From her research position at Nokia, she saw the phone company sink by not listening to what their customers needed and anticipating approaching trends. Seriously, how many people do you know today proudly use an (un-ironic) Nokia phone? By combining both quantitative and qualitative data you arrive at the sweet spot. What is key is that the customer feedback you are collecting must be actionable.

To understand the importance of data mining in everyday life, let us observe a few common scenarios. In a typical store, the benefit of mined data allows you to ask the store attendant, ‘how many of these items remain in our store? Which colours in our stock go faster? Which item categories sell the fastest?’ How about this pattern identified by phone companies; They have been able to determine for example that customers who call three times or more on an issue are likely to leave you if their issue remains unresolved.

How about the technician from your internet supplier who comes to you and offers you a little extra to ease your pain and ends up persuading you to change your mind from switching to a competitor. He/she is probably acting in response to feedback from data analysis. The goal is to use data science in the areas of importance to an organization’s mission to optimize operations and bring down the cost of goods.

Acting on the data

Organizations in the logistics space are using data science to develop a better understanding of their customers. By analyzing customer data regularly, they can measure metrics that inform on such critical issues as churn rate, customer loyalty, and product or service profiles. The business value here is in the capability to generate customer profiles based on buying patterns, store visits, off-loading times, and fuel consumption.

A case study in Kenya offers a great example of how data science can be a potential trigger for your customer engagement strategy and by inference customer experience. It is not easy to manage a customer base of 25 million and determine their behaviours accurately, however they discovered an interesting pattern from analyzing their data.

They discovered that customers using their version of mobile money (M-PESA), showed an interesting trend, which helped them in the decision to introduce an overdraft service to make their lives easier. They concluded that although there were numerous cancellations due to insufficient funds, 58% of customers completed their transactions within 2 days. Hence the introduction of a mobile overdraft service.

To make the service more accessible to the average Kenyan, they would use a local term, fuliza M-PESA. The ability to predict events of this nature paved the way for businesses to deliver differentiated customer-centric services. This model is replicated variously in our local telecom space.

According to Jonathan Carter, a renowned data artist, there are opportunities for you to create legally and ethically compliant ‘storyboards’, for how data and marketing technology can be used to develop and deliver sustainable trust, value, and control to both the customer and the brand. He opines further, ‘there is no getting away from the need to move towards a comprehensive and connected view of your customer data. ‘

Your understanding at an individual level of how your customers are behaving across both ‘brick and mortar’ (traditional off-line businesses) and, increasingly the direct and indirect digital landscape, where customers are constantly exploring and interacting with your brand and services, present you the opportunity to sense and respond to their interactions promptly.  Getting your data from the right sources and having the capability to harness it efficiently will leapfrog your business fortunes amazingly.

Also worthy of note is that in this era of a (disruptive) technology revolution, by adapting deliberate strategies of growing your digital marketing strategy, your ability to learn about the customer to ultimately leapfrog your business performance is an opportunity you must not let go of. Test and learn to see how to use customer information, but expect customers to be learning and changing their behaviour too.

Rethinking your experience strategy to step-up growth: Keep doing what works best and aim to improve   The Writer is a Management Consultant (Change and Customer Experience). He can be reached on 059 175 7205, [email protected], Manuel





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