You Need a Customer Insights Center of Excellence – Get Started With What You Have Now

There’s a big insights gap out there. Not enough insights are turning into actions that matter, despite continued investment in data, people, and technology.  For example, in 2016, data and analytics pros reported that firms base only 49% of business decisions on quantitative information and analysis as opposed to opinion.  That’s up from 2015, but only by 3 percentage points – out of alignment with the investment in insights capabilities.  You feel the pressure, I know.  So, it's action time - to drive more value from insights.

For sure, firms today have bright spots of insights value –  for example, in digital channels, where A/B and other testing approaches enable continuous optimization of customer interactions that matter most to business outcomes.  But disparate bright spots are not enough, and businesses must move from insights-spotty to insights-driven.  Research by Forrester colleagues Brian Hopkins, James McCormick, and Ted Schadler paints the picture of what great looks like in insights-driven business.  Such firms organize and operate differently to take advantage of data and analytics in every aspect of their products and operations, and that closed-loop approach is embedded everywhere in the organization.  That's the end goal.  Customer insights teams must up their game now, and a center of excellence (CoE) is a first step.

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Do You Have A Digital Intelligence Strategy That Will Win?

Your digital intelligence strategy and implementation is struggling to keep up with your device-hopping customers.  You’re trying.   And it’s difficult – so many obstacles.   But you face the Digital Dilemma, introduced by colleague Nigel Fenwick:  your customers’expectations of digital experience keep rising.  When any digital experience they have with you doesn’t meet their expectations, their perception of the value your firm provides falls … which leads to risk of customers taking their business elsewhere.  Ouch.   So, tackle the Digital Dilemma head on.  Focus your digital intelligence strategy like a laser on the customer experiences that matter most to your business outcomes.  How?  With an actionable digital intelligence strategic plan.  Here are 3 of the key components your strategic plan must include.

1.       Align the plan to the right metrics and KPIs.  The optimal approach is to align measurement with customer-focused KPIs that stakeholders are already measured on.  Simple, but not necessarily easy.  But this is how you get that laser focus on the experiences that matter most to outcomes.

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How To Get Resources For Digital Intelligence

Congrats.  You, like digital customer insights pros in many firms, continue to advance your ability to provide insights about your customers’ digital behavior.  However, you’re leaving money on the table. Too many digital analytics teams still operate in separate silos aligned with the firm’s channels and org chart, which means that you're not keeping up with today's device-hopping customers. You need to invest in changes that measure customers wherever they actually are, which is across all of your digital touchpoints. And to do that, you need an effective business case. 

A business case is not a blah, blah, blah checklist item.  No matter what your firm’s processes may be for budget requests, headcount requisition, or procurement, you need a management tool that tells the story of the business value you’ll deliver with the investment you’re requesting.   And that tool is a business case.  We’ve done the work to help you pull together an effective one. See the bottom of this post for a summary of the key elements you'll need.

Here’s where you’re heading with your business case.  Your analytics must mature to become what Forrester calls “digital intelligence” - a holistic view of your customers that drives continuous optimization of the digital customer experiences that matter most to business outcomes.   This integrated approach to your data and analytics technologies and practices reaps value such as growing sales by connecting customer data that lets you see across formerly siloed product lines or channels.  Visibility across channels enables insights that can drive improvement in holistic business metrics that matter, such as churn, lifetime value, customer satisfaction, efficiency.  Your business case will outline that holistic story.

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Why firms are interested in insights centers of excellence now – and what matters more

Over the past few months, following publication of my "Customer Insights Center of Excellence" report , there’s been a significant uptick in questions by insights and analytics teams who want to talk to us about CoEs. That’s a positive sign that firms are feeling the crunch to get more value from their insights functions. What’s the evidence for that conclusion?  What can we learn from who’s asking about insights CoEs?  And most importantly, what really matters in how you organize?

Before we dig in to answers, let’s set the bar on what “great” looks like in truly customer obsessed organizations: they use data for insights to improve customer experience that matters most to business outcomes.  As my colleagues James McCormick, Brian Hopkins, and Ted Schadler write in their recent report, "The Insights-Driven Business," customer obsessed businesses act on insights in closed loops, at speed, and at scale in all parts of the firm. They embed analytics and testing directly into operating teams. And, firms who implement these approaches run faster and fleeter than you.  The pressure is on from insights-driven organizations.

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The Customer Insights Center of Excellence: Know Your Options!

“Excellence always sells.”  --Earl Nightingale

The questions below may sound familiar to you.  I hear them from leaders of business insights teams of all kinds, from quant to qual, digital analytics to database marketing, customer analytics to voice of customer, market research to competitive intelligence, campaigns to customer service, behaviorial to predictive, B2C to B2B, CPG to pharma – you name it:

  • "I lead our [name the insights area[s] here] team.  We’re struggling to get our business and operational areas to take action on insights – heck, sometimes we don’t even know what happens to the insights we provide.  How do we change this?"
  • "Our insights teams work in silos that have built up over the years.  The teams are good at what they do.  But how do we pull together and combine our different flavors of insights to get more customer understanding?  How should we organize?"
  • "I've been asked to re-organize [or, I'm new and I've taken over] our insights areas.  I need to give a presentation to the C-team about what I'll propose.  Any ideas on a framework I should use?"
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Your Ticket To Driving More Value From Insights: Be A Master Communicator

As a customer insights / analytics / digital measurement pro, do you experience any of these challenges?  And what can you do right now to make progress with them?

  •  I can’t keep up with requests from my stakeholders for analysis and insights.  Does the volume of requests and your team’s capacity seem increasingly out of whack in your organization?
  • Our customer data isn’t where we need it to be – we can’t get a comprehensive view of our customer.   You’re not alone.  Marketing and technology teams struggle to align objectives, roles, budget, projects and process, and timelines to maximize value from customer data.  Marketing decision-makers report several reasons they are failing: too many data sources (44%), lack of access to technology to manage data source integration (38%), lack of budget (35%), lack of skills to support integration (34%), organizational silos (27%), and lack of an executive sponsor (23%).
  • We’re leaving money on the table because our different analytics and insights teams work in silos.  Here’s a simple digital measurement example of this:  one digital team is responsible for driving visits to the website.  Other teams are responsible for maximizing on-site conversions.  They work in their own separate silos.  A more efficient and effective approach: work together to identify the characteristics of customers most likely to convert, and work on driving that group to the site.   That type of silo breakdown needs to happen more.
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No Change, No Gain: Stop Your Siloed Approach to Digital Measurement

The number of tools, technologies, and techniques for measuring digital customer experience has exploded, but many firms continue to build out their growing capabilities in separate silos, such as campaign measurement, web analytics, mobile, social listening, voice of customer, online testing.  My colleague James McCormick and I have just published a report that lays out the full range of metrics of a mature digital intelligence measurement framework (see figure below).  Take a look.  How many of these measurements do you work with today?

Your firm may have capability to produce many - or all of these metrics - but are you using them to improve customer experience and business value?  Several vendors we’ve talked to recently, who represent a cross-section of digital measurement technologies and services, described what they hear about this from prospects and clients. A (scary) summary:  the firms report that they now have boatloads of data and a growing number of digital measurement technologies, mostly in silos  – but don’t think they’re getting enough value from what they have.  It’s as if some firms are paralyzed.  This can’t continue.  Operating silos of separate digital measurement approaches is not good enough any more. You risk falling behind competitors who are successfully combiningg approaches and continuously maturing their digital intelligence. 

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Before You Reorganize Customer Insights, Press “Pause”

“Organizing is what you do before you do something, so that when you do it, it is not all mixed up.”  - A.A. Milne  

There’s good food for thought in that statement.  “Organizing” is a topic that customer insights (CI) professionals and their marketing, digital, and other business partners are asking about. And one frequently asked question is “what’s the best way for us to organize?”

Why is that question so top of mind?  Consider this: Forrester research shows that despite continuing investments in people, big data, and technology, companies are not driving enough insights to actions. For example, 74% of firms say they want to be “data-driven,” yet only 29% say they’re good at connecting insights to actions.  In addition, business satisfaction with analytics went down 21% between 2014 and 2015.  These numbers show that there’s an insights-to-action disconnect, and it’s an expensive problem.

In addition to organization, CI pros also frequently mention two day-to-day pressures they experience:

  1. They can’t keep up with the volume of stakeholder requests.
  2. There’s what one CI pro described as “the black hole” between insights and actions: CI pros may never know what action, if any, resulted from insights they provided. 
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