Today, customer data is everywhere. While companies need to respect people’s privacy and data permissions, many customers are happy for brands to use their data to create more personalised offerings.
When a company knows more about an individual or client organisation, it can provide tailored recommendations, potentially saving the customer time in explaining their needs and preferences.
Research by the Global Alliance of Data-driven Marketing Associations suggests that at least half of consumers are ‘data pragmatists’. In other words, they’ll share their personal information when it’s clear how it will be used and what the benefits are.
Once customers trust in the exchange – their data in return for a better experience – the manufacturer, retailer or service provider should deliver those benefits.
So how can organisations make more effective use of the customer intelligence available to them?
What customers say they want and what they actually prefer may be two very different things. So you need to compare stated desire with actual action or product/service feedback to understand what your customers really need and expect.
The key is to aim for a 360-degree view of a customer, across all sales or contact channels, cross-referenced with their account history and any customer service interactions.
Many companies lose sight of customer activity in the offline world, unless someone buys something with a loyalty card or gives their account details at the service desk.
Proactive use of mobile apps can help fill this gap in customer visibility – for instance, encouraging customers to register their presence in a store or at a travel hub to access a special time-limited offer, or to pay via an app that accrues points or discounts.
For closer monitoring of what customers do habitually (how long they spend somewhere, which aisles they skip in a supermarket), companies can use generic footfall data, or invite individuals to share location-based data or connect to in-branch Wi-Fi or Bluetooth networks.
Here, the customer will need to consent to their movements being tracked, typically in exchange for better deals during their visit and improved future experiences.
Location-based data can be powerful for learning about customer experience. If the data shows that someone has been stuck in a queue for a long time or has left a branch without reaching the front desk, customer sales or service teams can look into those scenarios to determine what happened and whether they can help put things right.
Being proactive like this can transform the customer experience, making individuals feel important and ‘seen’.
Smart surveillance systems, connected to the internet over high-speed mobile networks, can provide data which gives insights about the way customers move around particular environments.
Highlighting travel bottlenecks or crowding at events, which may have a bearing on customers’ experience, gives companies the chance to respond appropriately – whether to proactively ease congestion or appease customers with a conciliatory gesture.
Connected devices are also paving the way for new services, discounts and revenue streams, based on customers’ product or service usage data.
Insurance companies are using telematics boxes in new drivers’ cars to reward safe driving with discounted premiums. Driver data could bring premiums down for infrequent drivers, too. In an international survey of insurance customers by Deloitte, 54 per cent said they would be happy to share their driving data in return for tailored policies.
Driver-assisted systems in cars, meanwhile, can use real-time data to help drivers improve their technique and keep them safer on the roads – and ensure they organise timely maintenance, preventing breakdowns.
Finally, connected home appliances can continuously self-monitor their status, helping to make sure consumers’ homes stay heated, that customers charge their electric cars at the most affordable times, or that that vital equipment is serviced as needed.
For manufacturers and service providers of boilers or washing machines, remote monitoring and automated alert systems don’t just add new value for the customer.
They also pave the way for new subscription services or more regular revenue streams.
The opportunities to use customer data in innovative new ways are growing all the time.
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