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We appear to have universal agreement that businesses must be customer-centric to build longevity and success. But with such alignment, why are media channels still filled with stories of horrible customer experiences and continued misuse of customer data? The reality is that transforming a business toward authentic customer-centricity is hard. Compounding that challenge is the fact that virtually every company is in a different stage in its journey, making it difficult for anyone to follow the leader. 

So what can we learn from the most successful, customer-centric companies?

“Until you make the effort to get to know someone or something, you don’t know anything.”

― Ben Horowitz, The Hard Thing About Hard Things: Building a Business When There Are No Easy Answers

Start with Earning Consent

A core tenet of any customer-centric business is establishing consent to use your customers’ data.  Cookies are on their way out. Passive “you agree to our terms” statements will face a certain, deserved death. Adding a boilerplate consent form to your website is simply not enough for customers to trust your business with their data. There must be clarity and integrity behind customer consent to data collection. And customers must see the value in sharing their data with a business in the first place. Customers now expect to understand exactly why they are being asked for their data and to what they are actually consenting.

Try forging that connection with customers the Condé way. Condé Nast has shown its dedication to its customers by building a hub that encourages customers to share data by delivering intrinsic value and personalized benefits when consent is given. The global media company’s hub is a critical tool that opens the door to their one billion readers. This unique approach to engaging and understanding customers helps Condé personalize the customer journey. These actions by Condé are breakthroughs in what the world is starting to call zero-party data.

Make It Easier to Do the Right Things with Customer Data

Right now, it is still easier to do the wrong things with customer data. Most organizations were built to collect and use customer data before requirements for consent became so prescriptive. These legacy systems are in place. Skills to use those systems have been developed. Significant investments have been made, and budgets for change are limited. That’s a lot of inertia. We all want a quick fix, but there isn’t one. And until we embrace doing the hard things necessary to understand the customer on the customer’s terms, we are just giving lip service to customer-centricity.

At Vision Critical, we continuously engage our own customers to understand how we can help them transform customer data collection and application in their organizations. Most of the guidance we get is to “make it easier” to do the right thing. With each release of Sparq we are improving workflows and making it easier to earn and maintain customer consent, leading to deeper and more actionable customer insights. Sparq Fall ’19 will be available shortly. It is our third major release of the year, where you’ll see new capabilities that make it easier than ever for organizations to earn customer consent through the transparent collection and use of customer data.

Tear Down Silos to Build Trust Internally

There is a vacuum of customer data beyond the teams that collect it for their own departmental use. Valuable data are collected, but data and associated insight are inaccessible to critical stakeholders in other divisions or departments. Sometimes silos can remain from a previous organizational structure; but in many cases, these silos are created, intentionally by a department or team, in order to control the data they have collected.

In customer-centric organizations, these silos are being torn down at a rapid pace. Business leaders get it. Virtually everyone in their organization can benefit from a better understanding of the customer. At Vision Critical, we’ve rebuilt our data layer in order to democratize the consent data we help organizations collect. As a result, consent data and customer insights are moving quickly into the hands of teams that need them, helping leaders break down the silos while simultaneously caring for the collected customer data according to the latest privacy and security standards.

Compelling Benefits from Doing the Hard Things

A customer-centric organization must make data available to the systems and people who are making decisions and driving execution, all while balancing personalization and privacy. Scaling and securing data are arduous tasks that yield a wealth of value that goes mostly unnoticed. It’s hard to invest millions in a benefit that everyone needs, but that isn’t visible to the uninformed eye. It's also hard to inspire people to democratize data when they know that their personal interests may be better served by keeping those data in isolation. Just know that there are fantastic by-products from doing it right.

  • Use of consent data increases profits 8–10% and reduces costs 10%. (Entrepreneur, 2019). 
  • The lifetime value of the customer relationships increases by up to 25%.
  • The impact of deeper understanding creates better understanding/segmentation/product development, all leading to improved personalization of experiences.
  • Specifically, Southern Cross Austereo found that consenting customers proactively contribute twice the content when responding to surveys.
  • And on average, customers who consent to join an insight community actively share their data 13 times a year for more than three years of continuous engagement. Again, that’s just the historical average and more customers are exceeding it every day.

And the Benefits Keep Coming

Vision Critical will soon release a bold solution that will enable organizations to earn customer consent with the same ease and engagement as the analytics and workflows that target personalized advertising and marketing. This innovation will make it easier to scale the use of consent data to the systems where they can have the most significant impact on the customer journey.

When you put in the effort to properly get to know someone and something, you know everything.

When looking at breakthroughs in data, from understanding the human genome strain to the acceleration of the science of individuality, there is fervent excitement about the potential for those who commit to doing the right things. Proper use of customer data—that which simultaneously informs business and delivers real benefits back to the people who are the source—is the foundation for a successful, bold customer-centric brand.

How are you tackling the hard stuff and building a bold customer-centric brand by earning consent for your zero-party data? I’d love to hear about it. Share this post and your thoughts on customer-centricity on your favorite social channel.


Effective Ways to Turn Data Privacy Challenges into Opportunities

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Scott Miller

Former CEO and current member of the Vision Critical Board of Directors
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