Reflecting on the recent 2015 Insight Innovation eXchange in Atlanta, one of the world’s leading and largest conferences for market researchers, Lenny Murphy, chairman of the conference and editor-in-chief of several GreenBook publications, had this to say:
The insights group is now positioned better than ever to identify and gather all of the components needed to answer the business questions to then drive the bottom line with more and better tools to take the insight and shepherd it into the organization. We have unprecedented access to consumers’ lives…Research is now part of the consumer experience–it is a brand touch point.
Murphy’s comments highlight the growing importance of customer intelligence in the enterprise today. With Forrester Research proclaiming that we are now living in the “age of the customer” and as the term “customer-centricity” is thrown around more often than a cricket ball on Bondi Beach, more companies seem to be realizing the need to listen to customers.
But whether you’re a media company with millions of viewers, a sports team with a passionate fan base, or a utility company looking to understand the impact of its environmental programs, there is a common—and important—question that you need to answer: how do I make a strong business case to engage with customers with an insight program? Setting up such a program takes resources, and ultimately customer engagement needs to drive business results. Customer intelligence professionals need to show that the investment is worth making.
Although calculating the ROI of listening to customers varies in each company, the process always requires a careful evaluation of the programs that are already in place inside and outside of the business. Here are three questions companies need to answer when determining the true value of a customer intelligence program.
1. What existing business programs could benefit from customer insight?
A look at your existing business programs is a good start when evaluating the potential ROI of customer intelligence. Consider the different departments, processes and projects that could be enhanced by adding the voice of the customer into the mix. This could include marketing campaigns, sales materials and the overall digital customer experience. Customer feedback can help ensure that every customer touch point in these parts of your company is more human and relevant to a target audience.
While it’s important to consider the impact of customer intelligence to your internal processes, don’t stop there. Justifying a large investment in customer intelligence based on incremental gains alone is will not suffice in many companies. The internal benefits of customer intelligence are only a starting point.
2. How can you use customer intelligence to improve your relationship with customers?
With a customer intelligence program, you can provide a platform where customers can participate and get their voice heard. This process creates goodwill with your customers and helps improve your relationship with them in the long term.
Customers today expect brands to listen, and more businesses use their insight programs to include customers in the decision-making process. Engaging with customers serves a dual purpose: it gets customers to explicitly opt-in for research programs, and it shows them that the business is actively considering customer feedback when making important decisions. As a result, customers feel that they matter and the customer–brand relationship is enhanced.
3. Can you use customer intelligence to provide more value to your partners?
In many industries, companies need to partner with other brands in order to drive sales. For instance, in the media space, companies create partnerships with advertisers and sponsors. In tech, vendors have channel partners who re-sell their products and services.
While companies tend to focus on providing services to partners, they often forget that partners are marketing and selling services to an important group: the end customers. To help their partners, companies also need an understanding of the end customer—something that can be gained through a robust customer intelligence program.
Your insight team can provide additional business value to your partners by helping them figure out how to market to the end customer. Giving partners access to your community of customers and letting them pre-test marketing assets could help ensure their success when working with you. Partners can even evaluate the success of their investment by measuring how much of an impact the campaign had on purchase intent, brand awareness or other metrics.
In addition, businesses with an ongoing program can give key partners the opportunity to conduct research directly with their target market and better understand what their customers think. Doing this provides significant value for partners who don’t have the tools and programs available to directly engage with their customers.
Customer intelligence is also useful in securing new partnerships. When pitching a potential partner, use the tools at your disposal to share relevant information about customers that your partners will reach when they work with you.
Traditionally, many companies consider customer intelligence as a cost center rather than a revenue stream. But as customer intelligence technology becomes self-serve, cloud-based and easier to use, this point of view is quickly changing. I predict that in the near future, more companies will see customer intelligence for what it is: a competitive advantage in an increasingly competitive business landscape. Companies should start thinking about creating a robust customer intelligence programs now in order to get ahead.