We all know customer insights are valuable. But how do we actually use them to grow and improve our businesses? Here are 8 tangible ways that customer insights can be used to increase revenues, decrease churn, and improve servicing efficiencies.
Providing great customer service is a minimum standard for pretty much any viable business these days. And online chat is a great way to provide that service. But did you realize that these customer interactions can also help your business grow?
A McKinsey survey revealed that even though the usage of customer insights is still relatively undervalued, it has a massive impact on business results. In fact, businesses that report extensive use of customer analytics are;
- 93% more likely to have higher profits than their competition,
- 82% more likely to have higher sales than their competition,
- 112% more likely to have higher sales growth than their competition, and
- 115% more likely to report higher ROI figures.
These are incredible results - and all drawn from extracting information from customers in different ways. Chances are your business is not using customer insights to their full potential. According to a recent Forbes survey;
87% of executives are not confident that they’re leveraging all available customer data.
Clearly there are great gains to be made in this area. It’s actually not that hard to build in processes so that customer insights can be harnessed to improve your business by helping acquire new customers, increase customer retention, and even decrease the costs to service customers. Intrigued? Here are the different areas where customer insights can be harnessed…
1) Customer Insights for Product Development
We won’t spend too much time on new product or service development, because if you’re here, you’re probably running an existing business that you’re looking to grow. However, the whole lean startup movement is based on eliciting customer insights through in-depth customer interviews.
2) Customer Insights for Product Improvements
Once you have a product in market, that doesn’t mean product development stops. Refining your offering, fixing issues, and adding new features is a constant process. You probably have lots of ideas yourself for what should be your top priorities, but the best way to iterate and create something that your market truly values, is to use customer insights as your key input.
You might already have a backlog of feature requests from customers - but be careful as that doesn’t necessarily mean those are the most important customer insights! The most vocal customers are not always the ones you want to use as the basis for product improvement decisions. Instead, arm yourself with an understanding of who your ideal client is, and proactively have conversations with them (using proactive chat invitations can help with this). Or, at the very least, make sure you take insights from a good cross-section of customers.
There’s another subtlety to collecting customer insights too. Rather than take something a customer mentions at face value, we need to dig deeper. Train customer service agents to ask ‘why’ several times to understand the background to the customer’s problem and the real issue they are trying to address with their suggestion. Focus on the problems customers are having in the first instance, before jumping to solutions.
Keep a log of customer suggestions along with the root causes and problems behind them. Then, when you release a new feature or improvement that addresses that issue, use it as an excuse to go back to your customer and let them know that you’ve made those changes based on their suggestion and insights. (Customers love this and it’s a great way to create true advocates.)
3) Customer Insights for Maintaining Customer Satisfaction
As the business grows, you’ll have more team members servicing customers and the business founders usually become less involved with direct customer interactions. If customer satisfaction isn’t kept front-of-mind, it can easily slip - which is clearly detrimental to the business. Quality controls become necessary and customer interactions can be used to both gauge and manage customer service functions.
One way of doing this is by asking customers at the end of their interactions how satisfied they are with their transaction and also how satisfied they are with the business in general. The Net Promoter Score (NPS) method is another, very simple way to track customer satisfaction.
The absolute customer satisfaction values are interesting, but it’s actually the trends and the idiosyncrasies which are more useful. These types of customer insights can be used to identify where extra training or performance management is necessary, or if certain changes have caused a change in customer satisfaction. Identifying these trends early can help the business ensure that a small issues does not become a systemic problem.
4) Customer Insights for Team Motivation
Tracking customer satisfaction and feeding this back to the team is a great way to keep everyone’s focus on customer value. Everyone likes to know that they work for a company with happy customers.
However, an even more powerful way to use customer insights is to capture and feedback individual customer comments. For instance, if a customer has praised a new feature or tells you they always rely on a certain aspect of your business, let the rest of the team know. Team members that aren’t in direct contact with customers rarely get these types of insights and are usually extremely motivating. After all, most of us are working for more than just a paycheck - we want to know that our work is somehow significant and/or helps people in some way. So making it a habit to share positive customer comments is an incredibly smart thing for managers to do, which at the end increases the productivity of the whole team. (Some of the best businesses have this as a regular slot in their team meetings. Others use a dedicated channel on the chat tool to share this feedback.)
Of course, this has an even greater impact too as positive team morale tends to lead to increased customer satisfaction.
5) Customer Insights for Improving Support Resources
Digging into your customer interactions can lead to a treasure trove of opportunities to improve support resources. Specifically, you might want to look for;
- Areas to improve resource allocation - maybe there are some times of the day where you are overstaffed and others where you need more resources.
- Areas to provide more training - are there some types of customer interactions not being handled in the best way possible? Maybe the team needs specific training on these.
- Areas to provide more self-service - are there questions that customers keep asking that could be addressed in an easily accessible FAQ?
- Areas to create templates and scripts - if support staff are needed to help with a certain type of problem, would pre-written templates, predefined answers, scripts or even decision trees help to improve service or reduce the time involved in servicing customers with a certain type of issue?
With customer insights in hand, a management team can review recent interactions and make these types of improvements - many of which will either improve service levels, or increase efficiencies.
6) Customer Insights for Improving Customer Communication
Interactions with customers can also highlight gaps in customer communication channels. Are there certain features of your product or service that customers don’t seem to know about? Perhaps a communication campaign could solve that problem. Often businesses have many things in place to solve certain types of customer problems - but the majority of their customers don’t know about them! Just because you mentioned it in a newsletter doesn’t mean that the message got through! People are busy and we often need to over-communicate the messages that are important for them to know.
Customer insights can help you identify which messages are not getting through to your customers. This information can then be used by the marketing or communications teams to build in stronger messages and more communication channels.
7) Customer Insights for Creating Marketing Content
Interactions with customers are also amazing for creating marketing content that resonates with your target market. Customer-centric marketing needs to become more than just a catch-phrase and customer insights is where your competitive advantage lies. The benefits here tend to fall into three categories...
Copywriting - use the language real customers use
One way this input can be used is to replicate the language and exact phrases that customers use when describing your product/service or the problem your product/service solves. Analysing chat or support tickets can provide insights like this, as can asking your front-line staff how customers would describe their problem and/or solution.
Using the real language of your customers not only creates marketing copy that “speaks” to your target market more directly, you’re also likely to pick up some extra search traffic as well. Chances are that if your existing customers use those phrases, there are other potential customers out there searching for that exact thing.
Social proof - case studies, testimonials, reviews
Customer insights can also be used for creating customer testimonials and case studies. When you identify customers that have positive feedback, have a process where you ask them if they would be interested in being involved with creating a testimonial or case study. Explain that it’s great exposure for them and it would mean a lot to you.
Alternatively, if your industry is one where customers rely on reviews, you could ask them if they would mind leaving an honest review for you. Give them the details of the review site you’re trying to accumulate reviews on. In general, you’ll need to ask a lot of customers and only a handful will actually contribute a review, but you’ll get a lot more reviews if you build this into your customer interactions.
Content ideas - blog posts, social media, etc
Customer discussions can also be the inspiration for blog posts, social media posts and any other content you need to create. This could be based on something you’ve learned about that happened to the customer, something they’re struggling with (potentially unrelated to your product), or something topical that’s happening in your market at the moment. The more in touch you are with customers, the more traction your content will get.
8) Customer Insights for Generating Customer Referrals
If you don’t need or want to solicit reviews, testimonials or case studies from the customers you identify as being thrilled with your service, you can also use that information more directly to grow your business. How? Simply by building in a process where you ask happy customers if they know anyone else that would benefit from your services.
You can explain that your business relies on word-of-mouth to grow and you’d really appreciate them sending a message to a few of their contacts, or perhaps even making a direct introduction.
Creating Processes to Capture Customer Insights
This all seems great, but how do you actually harness these customer insights? Obviously you can look to your customer support analytics, but that’s only one part of the equation. You also need to build customer insight capturing into the core of the business’ culture.
This can be as simple as making customer feedback an agenda item for every meeting. Encourage each team or team member to contribute some insight they’ve gained from the interactions they’ve had with customers, or have discovered through analytics or reading customer support logs.
When you start to discuss customer feedback consistently, you’ll soon realize the far-reaching ramifications of the customer insights you’ll glean. Today we’ve touched on some examples of the tangible benefits of customer insights, but for your organization they may be different. What is sure though is that customers hold the key to the business’ future - so it pays to learn as much as we can from them!