Have you ever dreamed of knowing exactly what your clients want?
With such knowledge, you can provide just what they need – a perfect product and the most reliable customer service.
Imagine how this can affect your reputation, business success, and bottom line!
The good news is that there is a way to do all that – it’s called customer intelligence.
What Is Customer Intelligence?
Customer intelligence (CI) is a subset of business intelligence. It focuses on finding, collecting, analyzing, and managing data about the company’s clients. Once processed the information is visualized and presented to stakeholders, so they can pull insights and find new ways to improve the customer experience in real-time.
The ultimate goal of customer intelligence is for the company to better understand its clients with their pain points, needs, and preferences, and provide products and customer service that not only meet but exceed their expectations.
While, theoretically, it’s not impossible to manage customer intelligence manually or by cross-referencing data from different sources, it’s best to use a dedicated customer intelligence platform.
These tools use artificial intelligence and machine learning to process the information, and, given time, learn to make connections and identify patterns that can provide unique, invaluable insight about your audience.
Difference Between Customer Intelligence and Market Research
Customer intelligence and market research are two closely related disciplines that often overlap.
The main difference between them is that the goal of customer intelligence is to make the existing clients of the company happy, while the purpose of market research is to understand the potential customers, so the business can attract them.
In other words, customer intelligence aims to improve the client experience right now and boost retention, as opposed to market research that looks to ensure that businesses can live up to the expectations of prospects, respond to market demand, as well as successfully enter new markets.
Furthermore, customer intelligence is an ongoing process. Businesses collect, analyze, and put into use data that is continuously being streamed in from digital channels. They use this info to make real-time decisions on a daily basis. The insights they find are used mostly in short-term planning and are constantly being updated.
Market research, more often than not, is conducted annually or in preset periods of time. It uses data from digital sources and involves a series of in-person meetings with customers as well as potential customers such as interviews, focus groups, observational research, etc. The results from the research are used in long-term planning.
Sources Of Customer Intelligence
Data eligible for customer intelligence can be found at any touchpoint the business has with the client.
The more sources you derive information from, the more efficient the process becomes because you are able to view the customer from different perspectives, and obtain a more meaningful understanding of their profiles and behaviors.
Furthermore, as mentioned, modern customer intelligence platforms use artificial intelligence and machine learning to process information, and, to train the algorithms to deliver more accurate results, you need large amounts of data.
The most common sources of customer intelligence data include, but are not limited to:
- Email Analytics
- Social Media Listening
- Website Analytics
- Customer Service
- Market Research
- Voice of Customer Research
- Internal Databases
- External Databases
- Feedback and Reviews
- NPS Score
- Customer Effort Score
Types of Customer Intelligence Data
To be able to build a 360 degrees view of the client, you need to collect different types of data about them:
Demographic data provides you basic information about the audience and allows for easy segmentation.
When you group your clients based on their age, gender, education, marital status, credit history, and other factors that matter to you, you clearly define how different groups of people react and interact with your business and to what end.
This can help you better target your campaigns, and approach customers according to their needs.
Collecting geographical data is important because location can be a definitive factor when it comes to a person’s needs. By knowing where your customers are located, you can provide a better service and offer them solutions targeted to their specific pain points.
Furthermore, if you only cater to local clients or have offices in different regions and/or countries, you can leverage geotag data to provide localized content to your clients and improve their experience.
Depending on what types of clients you work with, their business information can be vital in making the sale.
In B2B, you need to know the type of business, the industry, the number of employees, the number of customers, the net value, etc.
On the other hand, in B2C, you may want to know where the customer works, their position, their decision-making level, etc.
In both cases, knowing these details about the customer will help you to better understand their needs, and approach them with personalized solutions.
The personal information of the client overlaps with their demographics but it doesn’t end there. Your tools may detect additional factors that may be of value.
This includes their interests, preferred spare time activities, sport teams loyalty, hobbies, browsing habits, devices, and anything else that is relevant to your products.
Behavioral data can be pulled from all touchpoints with the customer – the way they act on your website, social media engagement, email engagement, customer service interaction, and so on.
For digital products, this also includes in-app behavior such as onboarding, usage statistics, issues and troubleshooting, activity mapping, feedback, etc.
By monitoring and analyzing their behavior you can learn important insights about how they interact with your products and services and your digital channels, and what you can do to improve.
Sentiment analysis and opinion mining provide insight into how your customers feel about your brand, initiatives, and marketing campaigns.
Cross-referenced with other factors (such as new launches, events, public statements and appearances, news, social media activity, etc.), it can help you gauge the general attitude of your audience, tap into word-of-mouth, and improve your approach in real-time.
Furthermore, sentiment analysis can be invaluable in crisis management and can save you from a PR disaster.
Benefits of Customer Intelligence
The most important benefit of customer intelligence is that it allows you to truly understand your customers. Combined with business flair, this knowledge can be a one-way ticket to winning your customer’s heart.
You can not only improve your product and obtain an invaluable competitive advantage, but you can build a lasting and meaningful connection with your clients and secure their loyalty.
On top of that, customer intelligence provides the following benefits:
- Real-Time Insights. As mentioned, CI is an ongoing process. This means that, at any moment, you have an overview of your customer’s journey and you can make improvements and adjustments to optimize their experience. This can lead to happier clients and better retention.
- Improves Onboarding. Customer intelligence allows you to see where your customers have encountered issues with your products. This is especially valuable in the early stages of adoption, as you can provide users with timely information on how to overcome setbacks and increase efficiency.
- Encourages Adoption. If customers know how to best benefit from the product and utilize it to its full potential, they are more likely to use it, make more purchases, and/or upgrade their plans over time. This can contribute to your cross-selling and upselling strategy.
- Reduce Churn. When monitoring how your customers use your product, and what they like and dislike about it, you are more likely to prevent them from leaving.
- Higher Marketing ROI. By better understanding your clients, you can not only fine-tune your communications with them, but you can increase the efficiency of your marketing campaigns. As a result, your efforts will pay-off in higher ROI.
- Data-Driven Decision Making. When you have reliable real-time data at your disposal, you can make informed decisions and be confident in your business choices.
- Predictive Analytics. Continuously collecting and analyzing customer data allows you to build accurate predictive models to inform your business and marketing efforts. Based on behavioral patterns and trends, you can foresee how your customers may react to future changes and adjust your strategies accordingly.
Customer Intelligence Process
The customer intelligence process consist of 5 major steps:
- Source Identification. As mentioned, each business can derive customer intelligence data from different sources.
To ensure that you are not missing any viable channels that can deliver valuable insights, you need to review the tools that the different departments in your organization use, and assess the type of information they collect.
If you think that a piece of data can contribute to making the profiles of your customers fuller and more informative, by all means, add its source to your list.
Furthermore, you need to check whether the source integrates with your CI platform.
- Collection. How to collect the information depends on the platform that you use. Modern solutions can integrate with your digital channels and tools and pull the necessary information from them.You can set up what types of data to focus on, and play around with different models, depending on what you want to learn.
- Processing and Analysis. Depending on whether your tool is self-service or a professional one, this part of the process can be mostly automated or may need a professional data analyst to clean, categorize, organize, and make sense of the information.
- Pulling Insights. The type of insights you pull from the data depends on your goals and business needs. You may focus on segmentation based on different factors, behavioral analysis, sentiment analysis, customer lifetime value evaluation, and so forth.
Or you can set up the algorithm to look for patterns and trends that provide unexpected insights that you haven’t noticed before.
- Visualization. Once the data is processed, you can use different visualization approaches to make it more accessible and understandable to stakeholders.
These include, but are not limited to, presentations, customer journey maps, user experience maps, diagrams, dashboards, infographics, videos, webinars, or charts.
How to Choose a Customer Intelligence Platform?
As with any other modern technology, there are multiple available solutions on the market, each of them claiming to be the top provider.
When choosing a customer intelligence platform, you have to consider your needs first.
After all, these types of software can be quite expensive. After all, there’s no need to pay for functions and data processing capabilities that you won’t be using.
1. Define Your Business Needs
As such, the same platform may not be a good fit for all of them.
Before you choose a provider, create a list of your needs:
- What do you want to accomplish?
- What types of information do you want to observe?
- What types of channels do you want the software to integrate with?
- Who will be managing the data (a pro data analyst, or a regular marketer)?
- What types of reports should the tool generate?
2. Research Providers
Research different providers. Check out the types of companies they serve, and their reviews.
Then, cross-reference your list of needs with the features each solution offers.
When you narrow down the candidates to 3 or fewer, you should schedule a consultation to discuss in person whether the product is a good match.
3. Try Out the Prominent Solutions
Next, you should request a demo and onboarding documentation to ensure that you understand the product properly.
Once you try out all the suitable solutions, you should be able to tell which one is the best choice as per usability and results.
4. Create a Team
Dedicate an employee or team to managing the customer intelligence platform and becoming project owner. They should go through onboarding and training and learn how to utilize the tool properly.
If you don’t have qualified professionals on your team, consider hiring a specialist who has experience with the tool of your choice and can help you achieve your goals.
Managing customer data is complex and challenging. You not only need to know where to look for information and how to set up your tools to collect it, but you also need to know what to make of the facts and understand how to pull accurate insights from them.
Customer intelligence allows you to utilize your data to its fullest potential and get to know your customers better. This is so you understand their needs, pain points, and behavior while using it as a bridge between them and the product.
At the same time, it allows you to improve the quality and usability of your products. This way, you can maximize your competitive advantage.
In a nutshell, with the power of AI and ML, you can win over the hearts and minds of your customers.