Thursday, August 1, 2013

Customer Insights: How Does Your Business Share Them?

These days, it seems as if everyone is talking about customer data. There’s big data, business intelligence, and mobile data. But with all of these sprouting warehouses of data, how much time do businesses spend to gather, share, and understand their customer data?

What exactly is big data? According to Forrester Research, “Big Data is the frontier of a company’s ability to store, process and access (SPA) all the data it needs to operate effectively, make decisions, reduce risks, and serve customers.”

In plain English, “Big data is not about the size of the data, it’s about the value within the data,” as described by Dave Wellman (@dwellman on Twitter).

In the B2B arena, most businesses use large-scale software systems, such as, SalesForce or customized CRM systems, to capture leads and maintain customer details. Several departments are involved in the data-gathering process because there are multiple customer touch points: contact centers and customer service, sales, and marketing departments. As a result, many departments are responsible for entering and updating customer records.

But how many businesses actually maintain organized procedures for storing and accessing data? How often are the records updated? How often are the records purged if a customer goes out of business? What are the basics when it comes to entering names, addresses, and common business abbreviations or terms including Inc., LLC, etc.? Bottom line, how many businesses discuss how to enter information into their customer databases as part of new employee onboarding?

While customer data is critical for business success, no leadership team should endorse “spying” on its marketing department when it comes to obtaining, storing, and understanding customer insights. This data should be easily accessible to all members of a leadership team, and it should be easily digestible by all – whether one is a member of the finance team, the personnel team, or the manufacturing team. The data should be frequently shared by a member of the sales or marketing team – and even better, by members of both specialty areas – to the entire leadership team.

When this happens, everyone can learn which products or services yield the most sales and the least sales, which result in the most problems and how the problems were handled, and where attention should be paid to make improvements.

This post was written as part of the IBM for Midsize Business program, which provides midsize businesses with the tools, expertise and solutions they need to become engines of a smarter planet. I’ve been compensated to contribute to this program, but the opinions expressed in this post are my own and don't necessarily represent IBM's positions, strategies or opinions.

Image Credit: Thanks to IBM for providing the image that served as inspiration for this post.

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