The art of harnessing customer feedback


As customers and consumers, you and I now have many ways to tell suppliers what we want, when, how and to give them feedback on their performance as suppliers. Clues from our website navigation patterns, social “likes”, trolley abandons, and even instant chats, together with in-person conversations make up the rich spectrum of omnichannel experiences. But not all suppliers seem able to use this information effectively. My colleagues and I advise marketing leaders on analytics that can sort through all this useful information, but the frequent surprise is how some teams lose themselves in the detail. Often, teams seem to find it challenging to stay true to be the basic job at hand - using information from customers in the best way to drive growth, customer satisfaction and profits.

So when as a team we were planning our own customer conference, we thought we should put into practise what we preach. We therefore proceeded to design an agenda that provided a high-level framework for discussion, but called for customers to speak for most of the time. We also wanted to make our events a continuous series, where participants do not feel they are in a one-off engagement. Rather, we want to have a series of events, and in-between these face to face discussions, drive progress momentum through online channels and conversations.

Kicking off in Nice

And so to the Customer Intelligence Connection Circle in Nice last quarter. Using this design principle, the agenda was left flexible so that the participants could decide on content and topics. With my colleague Chris Nove, we led the event, and attendees shared their experiences on hot topics. Participants talked openly about their successes but also about their fears and problems, and there were workshops on topics including organization, business processes and governance, employee skills, GDPR and artificial intelligence.

Marketing needs pragmatic next steps

The participants agreed that it was important to share findings and experiences. They expressed great interest in providing guides for their companies, as well as practical use cases that could be accessed centrally or as a self-service. It was also clear that there are still issues about how business and technology interact. This was expressed, among other things, in the question of how quickly analytics findings can be used, in terms of being integrated into operational processes. There is often disagreement within the company about the methods to be used, the expectations of the management, the business metrics of choice, or the approach to implementation.

Another area that was discussed was the roles of employees who deal with customer intelligence, and how they work together. Companies want to use knowledge more proactively to drive innovation, rather than provide information only on request from departments. When it comes to recruiting new talent or retaining employees, data scientists need to be able to work with their choice of tools. The SAS Viya platform was identified as a good example of a way to provide the necessary openness to allow this. Strategies for managing employees in the data ecosystem and providing career paths for individuals who contribute to business value are other important aspects for the HR department of data-driven companies.

The EU General Data Protection Regulation is a real issue across the industry. Most companies are aware of its importance, and the requirements, but were still thinking about the “how”. This fits in with a SAS study on companies’ readiness for GDPR, which found that just 45 percent had a concrete plan for implementation, and that 59 percent were unsure whether their compliance measures would be sufficient.

Finally, the meeting also showed that use of artificial intelligence is still in the experimental stages. Chatbots, for example, are seen as a powerful first use case in call centers, to reduce the amount of customer communication. At the moment, data scientists see AI as a new playground, rather than a threat to their role. The overall feeling is that AI will cause change, but nobody is really clear how. Thought leaders are required to show the benefits of the new techniques in practice.

In the spirit of next steps

The discussions at the event were interesting in identifying trends for the coming year. But regardless of trends, there is one thing that came through clearly; these marketing leaders were hungry for expertise-driven conversations. And so we shall follow-through with multiple options.

Regardless of trends, one thing is clear; marketing leaders are hungry for expertise-driven conversations #SASCIConnectionCircle #CustomerIntelligence Click To Tweet

We ringed in 2018 by launching our expert interview study on enterprise-wide analytics and the role of the platform. Last week, my colleagues engaged retail customers at the NRF Big Event. This week, we kick off a series of interviews with CMOs that will be published throughout the year. In late March, we will be on Twitter for a #saschat on key march trends. Will you join us on this #lifelearner journey?


Are you interested in learning more about this theme? Please find more blog posts in this series by tapping into the tag SAS CI Connection Circle.


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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