4 brands share how they're using key strategies to action better customer intelligence

Companies can gather, contextualise and analyse data to better understand customer motivations and drive future growth

There’s no question today’s brands recognise the purpose of gathering customer intelligence (CI) is to better understand customer motivations in order to drive future growth.

By definition, CI is the process of gathering and analysing information regarding customers, and their details and activities. It’s derived from the customer data that an organisation collects from both internal and external sources.

According to the experts, CI helps build deeper and more effective customer relationships and improves the decision-making by key stakeholders. And no doubt, brands need that intelligence in order to get a holistic and more flexible understanding of customers.

CMO chased up a number of marketing experts at key brands to learn how they are better able to action customer intelligence, and transform customer data into actionable insights.

Get a holistic view

Neds International general manager of CX, Christian Bowman, says a pivotal thing to consider with a CI strategy is ensuring you take a holistic approach - and do it in a timely manner.

“We refer to customer intelligence in a holistic manner in that it encompasses customer interactions, transactions, behaviour, feedback, financial performance and trading risk. Customer intelligence at Neds is about market relevance, brand distinction, solving customer problems and driving innovation," he says.

The new online sports betting agency, launched in 2017  is a technology company that’s natively digital at its core.

Christian Bowman
Christian Bowman

“This means we have been able to capture a significant amount of data from every touch point in the customer journey which is clean and accurate," Bowman said. "Unlike older and traditional organisations who have layers of legacy systems and dirty data which end up being barriers to customer insights - let alone action them in a timely manner.

“We use customer intelligence insights to inform myself and the rest of the executive team to make fast and timely business decisions on which levers to adjust. This ensures we are reaching our goals and arrest any possible downward trends in performance.”

Because there’s a risk component to their understanding of its customers, the company is acutely focused on understanding customers effectively, Bowman says.

“In the office here, reporting quickly eventuates to ‘What can we do about it today?’. If it's a customer problem, we start fixing it today. If it's a sales concern, we start changing things today. We don't do data analysis as ‘it would be nice to know’, data is treated as ‘what can we do next’."

As a result, customer intelligence drives every decision and Neds can move quickly in creating change, which is immediately reflected in business performance reports.

“We use customer intelligence to get more of the right new customers from an acquisition perspective, we use it to build stronger long term relationships with existing customers and we use it to inform product and service delivery.”

Ultimately, a CI strategy should inform alignment with the organisation's purpose and enable growth opportunities.

“I believe there’s a push to better utilise CI due to more data being available and a higher appetite to utilise data to drive decision making," Bowman says. 

“Organisations who are looking for more opportunities to grow can also be a key driver for market differentiation and being competent in utilise CI is a great place to start that journey. I think organisations might think they are good at customer intelligence because they are good at reporting, but I would challenge key decision makers as to how much their reporting has changed and how often they are developing new questions to answer.”  

Make a connection and listen

For UBank CMO, Jo Kelly, the customer intelligence journey begins with getting connected with a customer on an individual basis.

“For UBank, customer intelligence is how we define and understand our customers better. This isn’t just gathering data, this is connecting with them individually to gain valuable insights in order to provide a personalised service that is fitted to their needs,” she says. 

Jo Kelly
Jo Kelly

Kelly says the most valuable thing about customer intelligence is that it helps us to make decisions the brand knows will have a positive and useful impact.

“For us, it’s all about personalisation. Insights on how our customers think and behave in a certain way help us to consider our customers as people, rather than a number," Kelly says. "Having this deeper understanding means we can meet customer demands and provide them with the service and products they are looking for.”

Rather than just storing information and customer data, Kelly positions using customer intelligence as part of a wider ongoing process.

“We’re actively listening to our customers to understand the ‘why’ behind their behaviour. It’s a real process of testing and making changes based on the feedback we receive and iterating again to ensure we’re on the right track," she explains.

“Customer intelligence works hand-in-hand with customer segmentation. Our customers expect us to know them individually, so we know it’s not enough to segment customers in traditional demographics. Our customers want to be seen as a segment of one. A big consideration for us is to look at the psychographic drivers that really motivate people and their needs and wants. Personalisation is key, so we use tools such as Helix Personas to micro-segment our customers and really understand and meet their specific needs.”

Find a balance

Like Kelly, Citta Design COO, Grant Taylor, sees getting personal as the name of the game when it comes to picking a CI strategy and in transforming customer data into actionable insights.

Citta’s journey to intelligence began in June 2016 when the company became the first retailer in the world to go live with Microsoft Dynamics 365. Working with Microsoft partner, Sable 37, the company has committed to regular upgrades of the platform to ensure that it keeps pace with the fast pace of innovation now sprinting across the global retail landscape.

Taylor says the company is leveraging the cloud and CRM to develop a more omnichannel experience for customers - and to get more personal - but understands there’s a balancing act involved.

Grant Taylor
Grant Taylor

“You want to understand the various things that build up that customer profile, but you also don’t want to actually overdo it - you don’t want to become too intrusive. And we’re trying to work out what that balancing act is,” he says.  

A strong focus on personalisation and customisation are key when considering the CI strategy, but so is market segmentation as well. “You can have specific campaigns and also know geographically what that might look like,” Taylor says.

Like any good CI strategy, it should focus on customer, he advises. 

“We are focusing on our customer and in putting them at the centre of those conversations. We want to make every aspect of what they do with us a much better experience,” Taylor says, explaining the company has done intense back-end work on its core systems over the last 18 months in order to better automate and get enhanced customer insights.

“We know our customer journey these days is on multiple devices, multiple platforms - that they do research, and that style and aesthetics is important to them. So we need to really understand who that customer is and then find those things that they have in front of them on a day-to-day basis.”

The main benefits in adopting CI technology is the “goldmine” a company gets in terms of data. For Citta, the right stock, at the right place, at the right time is key, as is the use of data and analytics to reduce the guesswork and help streamline supply chains.

“Data is the key and the more we know about our customers, the more we can help meet their needs and also become more accurate with our spend - so aving good accurate information is the key to all of this,” Taylor adds".

Determine ‘context’ of data

Like the other marketing experts, Optus head of customer experience, Charles Weiser, says the success of an organisation is determined by its customers and the quality of data it can obtain. This, in turn, will help a company determine its success criteria.

“Meaningful and actionable customer intelligence to better attract, serve and keep customers is a priority at Optus. Without the context of data as a means to actionable insights to improve customer experience, data serves little purpose that just clogs up your servers on your cloud," he says. "When recording data, you must ask the question: ‘So what?’”

Weiser says Optus combines digital and ‘physical’ customer data to improve its overall customer experience, and address friction points and to achieve greater personalisation.  

“Transactional - operational and financial data - provides ‘ the landscape’ for which our customers interact. By itself, the customer intelligence landscape is flat’ we need to understand the topography of the landscape and how customers best travel across it. Optus does this by combining both qualitative and quantitative data, which includes continuous focus groups, in-depth NPS surveys and real-time customer feedback.

Charles Weiser
Charles Weiser

Benefits for Optus are already apparent, enabling the organisation to match trends to customer segments and better develop products and services with higher relevancy by understanding actual customer sentiments.

“We have also been able remove friction points by understanding the efficacy of digital channels to human interactions and behaviours and we can gain far better understanding of customer retention drivers as we match longitudinal data with real customer interactions,” Weiser says. 

To get there, executive leadership and passion for customer data and its insights is critical.

“Data specialists, data units and/or key customer data platforms should not be siloed from the main business. Customer intelligence is core to business success and needs to permeate how the business operates and serves its customers,” Weiser says. 

He referenced an old Bill Gates quote, circa 1996 that remarked: ‘‘The business with the best data wins.”  

“The success of an organisation is determined by its customers and the quality of data that’s obtained, which will then determine a company’s success criteria," he adds.

Follow CMO on Twitter: @CMOAustralia, take part in the CMO conversation on LinkedIn: CMO ANZ, join us on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/CMOAustralia, or check us out on Google+:google.com/+CmoAu 

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