As a researcher, you know how valuable customer insights are to your organization. After all, when you understand consumer needs, behaviors and attitudes, that’s when your company delivers exactly what customers expect.
But if those insights are stored and shared in different channels—Slack, Yammer, SharePoint, just to name a few—or not stored or shared at all, your work as a researcher will never reach the people in your organization who need it most. It’s no wonder only half of core business decisions are made with the influence of customer intelligence, according to a report by Boston Consulting Group (BCG).
Only half of core business decisions are made with the influence of customer intelligence.
The most mature research teams have opened these insights up to the rest of the company, tightly integrating the customer intelligence (CI) team—or teams —into business operations, and even integrating them with each other. According to the BCG report, “CI teams distribute insights to key decision-makers, provide ongoing support to fine-tune execution stemming from those insights, and quantitatively and qualitatively measure outcomes and return on investment in CI.”
In other words, the best way to make sure decision-makers and stakeholders use customer insight is to make it easy for them to access research findings. Put your insight in a central location, along with the self-service tools that will help them get what they need, when they need it.
How to get more people to use customer insights
Some research teams have a central place for customer insight, learning and reports. The problem, however, is that those places are often not easily accessible by people across the organization. Often these places are also not easily searchable. Without making it easy for decision-makers to access and find what they’re looking for, it’s hard to shift the company culture to become truly customer centric.
We’ve tackled this problem through Stakeholder Hubs, which are a space built specifically to tackle the challenge of socializing customer insight and knowledge. Through these hubs, we’ve learned a few lessons about how to democratize insight in an organization.
When The Goodyear Tire & Rubber Company launched their Stakeholder Hub, their New Venture Lead, Ann Marie Cilley, realized that the great thing about Stakeholder Hubs is that their social tools fit with other behaviors people engage in outside the workplace: "It’s Twitter meets Yammer meets LinkedIn." The hub is a place for more than just the insight—you can share anything and everything that’s raw material for insight, including data, secondary research, your team’s learning and thoughts, as well as the insights themselves and their impact on your company. And the social tools mean your colleagues can discuss and iterate on them.
1. Don’t overthink it.
It’s best to just get started rather than spending too much time thinking about content strategy or how you’ll arrange the information. Add a few pieces of content like survey insights, past study findings, secondary research, or an introduction to your insight community. And since most people don’t have time to read an entire report, pull out only the best nuggets so they don’t have to sift through pages of information to find one data point.
Also, pull in different types of content to engage your stakeholders, including video and images, from either internal or third-party sources. Don’t try to be perfect. This is your chance to experiment to find out what works best for you and your colleagues.
Ann Marie’s advice when it comes to seeing the value in democratizing customer insight and opening the door to the customer’s world: “Don't be afraid. What's the best thing that could happen? What's the worst that could happen and how likely is it to happen? Just get started and get away from the need to make everything perfect.”
2. Communicate your goals and vision.
While it’s important to experiment and start small, you should also communicate what you’re trying to achieve and why. For example, Ann Marie knew she had to help people understand why they needed to pursue this initiative.
“I explained to our stakeholders that our goal is to truly democratize insights,” Ann Marie told us. “We wanted to shift people’s mindset to be as customer-focused as possible, as early and as often as possible, across as many programs as possible.”
I asked one of my colleagues, Ellie Hutton, senior director customer connect here at Vision Critical, to share her experience launching our internal hub. “Similar to what Ann Marie said, we believe in democratizing knowledge about our customers,” Ellie told me. “My role is to institutionalize the tribal knowledge about our customers and their needs, and shine a spotlight on our customers’ success. We use our Stakeholder Hub to share out this knowledge to everyone across our whole business globally. The goal is to help everyone in our customer know our success stories and understand how they can positively impact our customer’s journey with us.”
"We wanted to shift people’s mindset to be as customer-focused as possible."
One key tip when it comes to getting buy-in is to make sure you’re selling the bigger vision. “Be clear on why you have a new tool,” added Ann Marie. “What need does it fill that your current tools don’t today? For us, our Stakeholder Hub is a great way to socialize the output of our insight community with focused audiences facing similar challenges.”
For Ellie, ensuring people can self-serve and building the habit of visiting the Stakeholder Hub regularly is critical to success. “Making knowledge and insight about our customers accessible to everyone in the company means we will be able to make more customer centric decisions when it comes to product, marketing, and journey with us,” Ellie said.
3. Know what matters to stakeholders.
The best way to gain momentum is to provide a lot of value to your colleagues. So start by finding out what kinds of customer learning and insight will help your stakeholders do their jobs better.
Identify colleagues who might be able to help create momentum, and connect with them to share your vision and goal. As you talk to them, listen and learn what type of information they’ll find most useful. Some decision-makers might want more data on demographics, community size or overall response rates, while others might be more interested in bar charts from different surveys or brand comments. Others might even want to see information from industry analysts, thought leaders and other external information. Don’t miss out on documenting the tribal knowledge you have about your customers too, this typically resides in people’s heads or in siloes across your business. Connecting with your colleagues one-on-one will help you find out what content they need.
Some decision-makers might want more data on demographics, community size or overall response rates, while others might be more interested in bar charts from different surveys or brand comments.
Don’t forget to reach out to senior leaders as well. If there is an executive who can act as your champion, find out what type of insights they require, and then create content in your hub around those needs. By understanding what makes your leaders tick, you can make sure your hub delivers the experience and information they need.
As you post data and insights to this central location, monitor the engagement level and note what content gets the most views, comments or likes. Fine-tune your strategy to ensure you’re developing content that resonates with your colleagues.
At Goodyear, Ann Marie is part of the Innovation Team charged with figuring out what "beyond the tires" means. She says: “To sustain and be successful in the future, we must go beyond the tires. It’s the Innovation Team’s responsibility to lead the business on a collaborative journey out of the rubber. To do that we must bring our customer to life. Our Stakeholder Hub is a way to drive customer centricity and drive connections across all of our different groups.”
4. Recruit your advocates.
Is there someone in your company who’s likely to have a lot to say about customer insight? If so, invite them to contribute.
As you create content for your hub, end posts with questions, and encourage people to comment. Once your stakeholders are used to engaging with your content, they can start submitting their own ideas and content as well.
"Find out who else owns insight about your customers."
When Ann Marie introduced a Stakeholder Hub at Goodyear, she leveraged early adopters and mavens to gain momentum. She explains, “It’s not realistic to expect that 100% of your stakeholders will be engaged from the get go—maybe 50% or less of them will be. But your mavens can help you gain traction.”
“Start the content-generating engine by identifying champions early so you don’t have to be the sole contributor,” shared Ellie. “Find out who else owns insight about your customers—data science, call center, front line staff, social media, marketing, PR, etc. The more they can share, the better.”
Perhaps most importantly, make sure that whoever manages your hub is excited about it. According to Ann Marie, finding people who are passionate about democratizing insights can help create buy-in and drive adoption both for your insight community and Stakeholder Hub.
5. Keep the engagement going.
Once you’ve established a hub for your insights, don’t slow the momentum.
Talk about it. Ann Marie pointed out that she talks about her Stakeholder Hub as much as she can, whenever she’s meeting with anyone who might be interested.
One of Ellie’s top recommendations is to consistently position your hub as a tool people can use to get insight about customers. For example, if someone has a question about our customers, Ellie directs them to the hub. This builds the habit of self-serving for content.
Also, think carefully about your headlines or, if you’re using newsletters to direct traffic to your hub, your subject lines. “Make sure you’ve got a hook to bring people in and edit the post descriptions to deliver a short and compelling message,” advised Ellie.
“You need to use the same principles you’d use to get consumers to adopt new products.”
Don’t be afraid to over-communicate. Ellie posts links to the hub in at least two other places that are already daily habits for people. “We use RingCentral, Chatter, Slack, and email to communicate out posts to specific teams, and we’re experimenting with ‘did you know’ posters around our global offices to encourage people to go to the hub.”
In the end, getting adoption for a centralized tool for customer intelligence-sharing requires persuasion—a skill that many customer insight professionals already have.
“Habit adoption is key,” added Ann Marie. “You need to use the same principles you’d use to get consumers to adopt new products.”
Create a customer-centric culture
Most decision-makers want to be customer centric. The challenge is that it’s not always easy to find the necessary insights and information to make a truly customer-led decision. By democratizing the access of insights, customer intelligence teams are in a better position to lead from the front and create a culture where the voice of the customer drives decision making.