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Customer Insight

What do you know about your customers?

I have always regarded customer insight as the Holy Grail for all businesses. On a one-to-one level, it is customer relationship marketing (CRM) on steroids as it allows you to read between the lines of customer responses and actions.

In a recent article for the business club, I wrote on the merits of understanding the marketing metrics – figures such as your return on investment (ROI). A customer insight metric demonstrates many of the intangibles in marketing activity.

Benchmarking your product or service benefits delivered

By benchmarking your operations, you can identify and align your core business values, making it more efficient and ensuring better resource usage.

Virgin Atlantic is recorded as putting it's staff first – going against normal business thinking that the customers should be the most important. But think about it for a moment – if your people are happier and work well as a team, their commitment to their customers is greater. A virtuous circle ensues.

Benchmarking also identifies the most productive activities – being busy is not always productive in terms of customer relationships and satisfaction; and certainly not in terms of employee morale!

Finally, is your company addressing the needs of your customers correctly? Do you know, and more importantly, understand the needs of the customers and if you could you align the hopes and wishes of your staff, your customers and stakeholders how much more successful would you be? And, if you could, and others did so too, how would that influence your buying decisions?

Loyalty from customers and staff

So we have identified two target audiences that you should address, and more important, listen to. Loyalty programmes, such as the highly successful Tesco Clubcard, can provide you with valuable data on customer buying habits, frequency, favourite stores, etc., but if the staff are unhappy, and not prepared to go the extra mile for customers – the fall off of interest and therefore turnover will remain a mystery to the managers.

It is often the case that the expectations of the customers and the staff are at odds with one another. Worse still, if their expectations are also at odds with the corporate vision, loyalty suffers, and so, therefore does revenue.

How can you benchmark?

There are many ways that you can use to understand the drivers of customers, staff, suppliers, etc. but many of them are heavily dependant on the questions asked, and provide little benchmarking opportunities.

At O2, I initiated a monthly questionnaire to gauge customer satisfaction with the online tools and resources. No benchmarks were available, and the questions highly customised to the O2 product offers. Benchmarking was only possible with comparison to previous months. As far as customer insight goes – few insights were gained!

So how can you do it? When you look to buying a new product, you may do some research with a trusted evaluator – such as "Which?". But what if you want to compare your "insight" performance with other companies, or industries?

A new service called Halo (www.thehaloworks.com) has emerged with an online research tool, and a "Halo rating". With this rating, it will be possible to compare yourself with other companies for internal and external benchmarking. The benchmarking that it provides goes well beyond satisfaction, to realising the benefits that are promised by a product or service.

I do not want to make this article an advert, but I have yet to find another method of researching your customers and employees perception of your performance in such a positive way.

The fact that it is a positive measurement tool is crucial; organisations follow measures and look for benefits. It therefore follows that if you measure the benefits from your organisation, to staff, to customers and to stakeholders you will improve. So much measurement is about things we do, transactions, and measuring those only makes us all busier, its about time we measured more constructive things which make things better.

Quantify your performance

Marketers find it difficult to quantify their performance against targets to bosses and stakeholders as many of the activities are intangible – for example, brand building, etc. This is why I am so impressed with a metric that makes our lives easier.

No trade secrets are revealed and you gain a valuable insight into the customers motivations for trading with you. Staff perceptions are also valuable in setting a strategic direction for the business.

Marketing is all about exploiting your knowledge of your customers, and if you rely on the revenue at the end of the transaction to measure your performance, you will most likely be too slow to react to your customers and the marketplace. A customer insight metric, however, can track your performance in a more measurable way, in advance of actual products or service deliveries.

Exploit the knowledge you have about your customers and the environment in which they deal with you. Use valuable metrics to report your successes in this area to the bosses and stakeholders, and in doing so, demonstrate your professionalism.

About the Author.

Thom Poole is a Chartered Marketer with the Chartered Institute of Marketing, and a member of the Marketing Society. A marketer with over 19 years experience in online marketing and web strategy, Thom is strategic e-marketing consultant for Jack Marketing Solutions, working with SMEs. He also teaches people web design from beginners to professionals, as well as CRM, eCommerce, etc., and is a lecturer for Birkbeck College – University of London. A regular speaker on the CRM and e-marketing event circuit, Thom has also written a book on ethical e-marketing, called "Play It By Trust". The book is available at the publishers as a hardback or download.

For more details visit www.jack-marketing.com

Article first published: Daily Telegraph Business Club (December 2006)

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