Two recent studies by Forrester Research highlight an interesting challenge for Customer Intelligence (CI) professionals and the business community that they support, shrinking the distance between the vision and reality.
In the “CI’s Imperative In The Age Of The Customer: Drive Business Success” (Oct. 27, 2011), Dave Frankland and his co-authors present the Age of the Customer as the new competitive advantage preceded by Information, Distribution and Manufacturing as the core advantages from the beginning of the 20th century to present.
Successful companies will embrace the empowered customer as the core of their strategy. To accomplish this, companies need to adopt solutions and processes that are relevant, collaborative, customer-obsessed, timely and ubiquitous. How well-positioned are most Customer Intelligence teams in delivering? Per a Forrester report released a few months ago, not very well at all.
The earlier report, “CI Teams: Blocking And Tackling Is Not Enough” (July 19, 2011), written by Robert Brosnan with Dave Frankland, Suresh Vittal, and Michelle Dickson, surveyed 137 customer intelligence professionals about their current situation. The bottom line is that many customer intelligence professionals are buried in data integration and organizational design issues, and as such, are unable to deliver actionable business insights. The gap between reality and the vision is clearly visible in the top survey responses to several questions, the first two related to current state, and the third related to expectations:
Two biggest challenges:
- “creating a single view of the customer”
- “measuring results”
Two biggest limitations:
- “organizational silos”
- “too many data sources”
Two key responsibilities:
- “developing high-value insights from customer data”
- “marketing measurement and advanced analytics initiatives like lifetime value of customer”
As a marketing services provider that brings together strategy, analytics and technology, we are frequently exposed to these challenges and limitations. Not only do we see silos across functions – marketing separate from finance – but also within functions – separate marketing organizations that serve different channels and different product lines, each with their own data and ways of doing things.
Getting From Here to There
So, how can companies embrace the Age of the Customer while grappling with infrastructure and organization issues? Similar to the findings in the Forrester reports, we embrace and recommend a strategy of incremental improvements.
- Create a vision that can be shared within the team but also across teams to build consensus and motivate change.
- Take the time to build relationships with your business and marketing teams. Look for win-win opportunities to address their issues and build support for customer-focused initiatives.
- Implement a plan for incremental improvements, starting with a few quick hits to gain traction.
- Pilot a program within a single team, choosing a program that has relevance to other teams. Use results and learning as a case study.
- Solve one piece of the puzzle at a time; if you’re having issues with customer acquisition, retention, and growth, and do business across many different channels, focus on a solution for one issue and one channel.
If your CI teams report into more than one organization, create a CI forum that meets regularly to share challenges and successes.
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