Can’t see the wood for the trees? Learn how to identify and develop key customer messages.
For an increasing number of companies today a major challenge is to identify the key customer messages from a wide range of sources and then look to develop these messages into an overall customer story.
It is all too easy for the greater message to become hidden by the latest single piece of customer knowledge.
This challenge of being able to ‘see the wood for the trees’ will become increasingly important as:
- There is increasing pressure to maximise the ROI from market research budgets by gaining the maximum level of insight
- Multi-channel customer interfaces lead to multi-channel customer feedback, with an increasing need for consolidation and comparison
- Companies look increasingly to differentiate themselves on the customer experience rather than price
- The customer strategy needs to be developed based upon customer needs data, both from internal and external sources
- The success of the rollout of the customer strategy needs to be measured from both the customers’ viewpoint and internal data
So potentially what are the data sources to be used by companies?
It is not only the Market Research or Market Insight team that will generate customer feedback but a whole host of other teams (some intentionally, some not).
- Customer complaints data – some of which will be captured centrally and recorded, other complaints may be received at a more local level and not formally recorded
- Employee feedback, both in terms of an employee satisfaction programme, and in terms of gaining employee views about specific customer experiences e.g. complaints, refunds etc
- Sales / Account Management reviews
- Win / Loss reviews
- Contact -centre logging reasons for contact
- Shop floor staff feedback on what customers talk to them about
- Qualitative and Quantitative market research commissioned by departments other than the research team
- Transactional data from point of sale
- Customer Loyalty programme data
- Omnibus surveys
- Industry surveys
- Sales figures
- Product returns
- Customer event feedback
- Online customer forums
This list is almost endless!
Having obtained the data sources, what are the challenges that are likely to be faced?
With more than one team of people gathering customer feedback it is possible that there will be a lack of consistency, and therefore comparability of data. For example, any of the following could be key issues when examining multiple data sources:
- Definitions of customer segments / groups
- Sample size variation and comparability
- Timing, both in terms of possibly conflicting with each other, or being too far apart and therefore difficult to compare
- One-off piece of research versus ongoing data collection
- The data from another exercise as by-product (and therefore less attention was paid to its potential ongoing value to the business)
- Scales used within surveys are not compatible
So how do we solve the problem?
Clearly every company is unique in what it captures and therefore we cannot in this short article give precise answers in achieving this global view of customers’ experience with your organisation. What we can do though is provide some stepping stones (or should that be a chain saw to remove some of those trees!).
- Identify a single person, or small team that is responsible for defining your customer strategy. This needs to be built around the customer knowledge you have to date, and what will be required in the future. It may be worth initially considering the use of an external independent person to ensure that there is a totally unbiased view of data captured to date. It will also ensure that people’s “day jobs” can be maintained whilst this review of available data takes place.
- Proactively go out to other teams who have a customer interface and identify what data they may have on customer feedback. Offer to provide them with a summary of all of the data that you collect from this exercise. This community of data providers will prove valuable not only in the future in providing additional data, but are likely to also have a key role to play in executing the customer strategy.
- Before reviewing all of the captured data develop a framework showing what questions need answering and therefore what data would ideally be available.
- It may be worth considering developing different frameworks for different customer groups. Clearly you need to start with the most important customer group.
- Prioritise the available identified data sources against this framework, and be prepared to discard some as irrelevant, out of date etc. Be prepared to remove some of the customer data sources – just because it is available does not make it valuable!
- Review the remaining data sources and note key points that come from each piece of research
- Look to identify common themes that start to become unearthed as you review the data sources. Note: for other people the strength of the argument will be much stronger if you have multiple sources confirming the same point. These common themes will form the overall story, and therefore the overall customer strategy. How that evolves will clearly be very different for each organisation.
- Carefully track the data sources as you develop the overall story as people will rightly ask you where it came from, and may ask for additional information from the same source.
- Conclude the key messages and associated actions, with references back to the relevant data sources.
- Recommend which data sources should be used to track the impact of the customer strategy, and which could possibly be removed.
About the Author
Colin Bates founded Customer Champions in 1999 as an agency focused on supporting clients to convert a strategic intent of being customer-led into a practical and profitable reality. With over 25 years of marketing experience, the last 15 of which have been focused on improving the customers’ experience, he is passionate about representing the customers viewpoint within client organisations.