If the quality of customer data is garbage, any insights you provide to the organization are going to be garbage as well. This isn’t the fault of Insights & Research teams. They can only cook with ingredients found in the pantry. Anyone working in insights must provide actionable insights that reveal where along the customer journey needs the most attention.
So what’s the solution? The answer is straightforward. Insights & Research teams need a seat at the table when developing a data collection strategy. Let’s explore what this means and how to do it.
How effectively do organizations use customer data?
Everyone collects customer data. McKinsey reported organizations leveraging their customer data for insights are:
- 93% more likely to generate higher profits than their competitors
- 112% more likely to experience higher sales growth than their competitors
- 115% more likely to garner higher return on investment (ROI) figures
Customer data is there if you look for it, even if there’s no formal collection strategy or survey cadence in place to capture that feedback. Customers leave comments on social media, reviews, and comparison websites.
You also can’t ignore the power of word of mouth. When was the last time you watched a movie or TV show on a streaming service without first checking IMDB for reviews? When was the last time you bought a laptop without checking with friends, reading product blogs or amazon reviews?
Customer surveys are an effective way to figure out where and, importantly, how customer journeys can be improved. We know these insights are the most valuable because they focus on understanding drivers rather than high level scores (such as NPS or CES). Knowledge your NPS improved +5.6 from Q1 to Q2 is useless without a deeper understanding of the ‘why’ behind that score.
As it turns out, most organizations aren’t using customer data effectively. Forbes polled 400 executives across key industry verticals to see how they use data and found only 13% were using customer data effectively. Unpacking this, it appears these organizations are at the start of their journey. It’s safe to say these companies don’t have a solid process for collecting customer feedback, at least not in a format usable as customer insights.
A few people I’ve spoken to in the industry have painted a picture of chaos. There are two scenarios currently playing out. Under the first scenario, there’s a centralized platform for sending surveys but every department has admin powers to send whatever they want, to whoever they want, whenever they want.
In the second scenario, there isn’t a centralized platform for surveying customers and any team that wants to send a survey does so, but they pick and choose their own survey tools.
If insights managers want to make an impact, they’ll need quality inputs.
Is your data the right data?
Feedback volume is important but it shouldn’t come at the expense of quality. Data should be fit for purpose and aligned to strategy. Imagine a company that has a centralized platform for creating and sending surveys and numerous individuals within that organization have admin-level privileges to create and send surveys (this is the first scenario I previously mentioned). Three different product managers send weekly surveys to the entire customer base to figure out what customers like and dislike about the different products they’re responsible for. There’s no cadence around when those surveys get sent which increases the risk of survey fatigue.
There’s also no coordination or collaboration between teams which increases the likelihood the same question will be asked more than once of the same customer. This damages trust in the brand and has no alignment to a broader company insights or CX strategy. You need to make sure all departments pull in the same direction and aren’t driving customers away. A recent study by Stanford found collaboration improves engagement levels and team success rate.
Lastly, look at who is sending surveys and ask if they are likely to ask the right questions. For example, if product managers are serious about hitting their objectives they’ll ask questions that help them achieve those targets. While these answers are designed to be insightful to product teams, that doesn’t guarantee they’re truly actionable across the wider organization. If great CX starts with great insights, then great insights starts with great questions.
This is one reason why leaders of Insights teams need to have more of a say in areas of strategy such as when, where and how surveys are conducted. What questions are asked in the survey? If we got an answer to this question, what would we expect from it? If we learned something, would it be useful across the organization or would it live in a data silo?
90% of executives across the globe who use data analytics report they were able to improve their ability to deliver great customer experience. To join them, you don’t just need any data—you need the right data.
Adopt a gatekeeper mindset
Insights leaders are the gatekeepers of quality customer data. This doesn’t mean they have to completely overhaul strategy and process, but it does mean taking responsibility for ensuring they’ve got everything to do their job properly. Having access to the right data is a must.
If they don’t adopt this mindset, they’re setting themselves up for failure. For example, here are a few areas where a customer insights leader should take more of an active role in their organization:
- Being opinionated about what questions to ask customers in surveys. This shouldn’t be the exclusive domain of CX teams or the department sending the survey. The quality check to be mindful of here is to ask “has this question been asked before?”
- Ensuring there’s a cadence around when surveys are sent to avoid survey fatigue. CX teams care about this because they want the best possible experience for customers. Customer insights leaders should care about minimizing survey fatigue because it increases the volume of responses they get back from customers.
- Decide on a survey platform that works for your needs and then banish all others. If other departments want surveys they should go through the customer insights team first. They could still design and send surveys under their own steam but as an insights leader you need to ensure what you’ll get back is useful.
- Taking ownership over understanding each touchpoint in the customer journey. Where are customers encountering friction? Where are we meeting expectations? Where are we not meeting expectations? These actionable insights benefit everyone. CX teams can design initiatives and set a strategic course, marketing can rework campaigns and product teams can add new features to their roadmap. This starts with a greater understanding of where the organization can improve and that only comes from actionable insights baked with quality ingredients.
Centralized survey platforms don’t work as well as you'd expect if there’s ambiguity around what can be asked of customers, when it can be asked and where it’s asked. This is one area insights teams must take greater responsibility for. When you’re a gatekeeper for customer feedback, the scope of what you can do increases. Your insights are genuinely useful and actionable. This benefits your organization in obvious ways, but ultimately it benefits customers because their overall experience improves.