How customer intelligence can win hearts and minds


In today’s digital age, products have become increasingly commoditised, requiring organisations to shift their focus towards ensuring the customer experience becomes their biggest differentiator.

Previously, the customer experience journey was a string of static, one-dimensional encounters. But now, thanks to big data and the resulting innovations it can provide, customer experiences can be a seamless exchange over different channels between people and the organisations with which they choose to do business.

Personalise the process

Successful brands have recognised this trend and are moving away from mass marketing. Instead, they are looking to create a personal, emotional connection withhearts and minds consumers. At the heart of this approach is using data to understand what drives the customer and what doesn’t through holistic customer intelligence. However, delivering a data-driven customer experience doesn’t happen overnight – it requires a mix of activities and competencies, from data integration to technology implementations to training and rethinking processes.

What is becoming clear is demand from the always-on consumer for more personal and relevant communications.  Brands need to serve up the right offers at the right time via the right channel. This could be an offer for a product that is highly targeted and appears straightaway on a smartphone screen, without the need for endless scrolling to find a more suitable item.

Driven by data

There is more than meets the customer’s eye when it comes to today’s customer experience journey. It requires a combination of individualised insights and connected interactions, as well as an agile approach, to have meaningful communications with customers on whichever channel they happen to be on.

But it’s not enough to be doing the same things via new channels which continue to pop up as technology develops. Building an effective customer journey requires new ways of exploring customer trends and preferences.

A smarter way of responding to these factors is data-driven customer experience. For example, 357 executives from large organisations were surveyed by SAS and Forbes Insights and found that in order to deliver superior customer experiences, they are beginning to rely on data analytics to better understand customer trends and preferences. For three in 10 enterprises, this approach is already delivering a shift in elevating customer experiences. The benefits are wide-ranging – not only can businesses better target and optimise for specific customers, but it also enables them to deliver consistent context across all its channels of engagement. Across its business, it can enhance revenue generation and enable cost reductions, as well as improve process efficiencies and enable increased business agility.

 Smashing the silos

To achieve this data-driven experience, our research uncovered that there needs to be greater alignment across the organisation of people, processes and technology. While organisations may think this involves only sales and marketing teams, there are also other key players behind customer experience, such as information technology, purchasing and production.

The people behind the processes across the business need to be empowered with training, insights and inspiration for both managers and employees. Getting an entire business to operate in terms of data requires a change in thinking – it isn’t just about machines and systems. The success of a data-driven customer experience relies on the interaction of people who build and manage these systems and their ability to help design key business processes.

The key is that every organisation now has significant stores of data on its customers, but much of it may still be “dark data”—meaning data that is stored and managed but never used. Organisational siloes reinforce this inaccessibility, as data remains within a department or functional area.

Businesses therefore need to break down the siloes and embark on a voyage of discovery, find these hidden assets and bring them together. Deep within data resources and assets may be valuable data lying undiscovered. Recent research by SAS in association with the Economist Intelligence Unit revealed more than half of UK companies are probably only leveraging about half of their available data. Starting the search at CRM, ERP, sales, supply chain or inventory systems is recommended, but other, non-traditional sources could be gold mines as well.

Every industry can have its own unique set of key customer touchpoints and interactions - data formulations that work for one may not be suitable for another. Hospitals could focus on waiting room or emergency care experiences, while e-commerce companies would need specific methods to analyse online check-out processes.

Where are you now?

Regardless of industry, data-driven customer experience is taking a driver’s seat in steering today’s hyper-competitive global economy. It takes a carefully balanced combination of factors to deliver superior relationships with customers, who are now demanding a hyper-personalised service. All the technology is available to make this a reality – it’s now just a matter of adoption.

If you’re unsure of where to start, check out this report on how Data Elevates the Customer Experience. You can find out where you stand by reading the survey and comparing results against other organisations that took part. You can also glean new ideas from your peers about how to transform the customer experience.


About Author

Mike Blanchard

Mike has over 19 years of experience in the CRM, technology and software industry, and for over five years has been responsible for the SAS Customer Intelligence Solution business across UK, Ireland and recently Nordic markets. He regularly meets with senior management in leading business to consumer organisations across financial services, insurance, retail, communication and service industries cementing the value of data driven decisions in multi-channel CRM processes and digital integration.

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