The world is becoming increasingly personalized.  Frequent flier numbers and customer membership programs enable companies to track consumers’ buying patterns; social media platforms and digital marketing channels enable them to know even more about our preferences and lives.  The door has been opened to inappropriate uses of this information, as evidenced by the “fake news” and Facebook/Cambridge Analytica scandals from the 2016 election.  But far more commonly, companies are using customer data in legitimate to personalize their communications with customers, with significant results.

Customers are happy for you to know about them

According to Accenture, 83% of consumers are willing to share their data in order to enable a personalized B2C experience, and 91% say it actually impacts their buying habits.  For B2B purposes, companies have long known there is easy access to public data about them, so any gain in efficiency is welcomed from suppliers who make use of that information (ideally with internal data as well – see below) to streamline the experience for their clients.

The real power comes when you know how a customer will best interact with YOU

Beyond understanding a customer or client generally, the real benefits come to companies who know how customer needs overlap with the company’s offerings, and to companies who can predict the timing of those needs more fully.  This can be challenging when you’re not doing business with a customer yet, but to fill this gap myriad data brokers and aggregators offer data which can be harvested and combined for useful insights.

One critical prerequisite for combining multiple outside sources (and later integrating internal data) is to identify a unique key for each record, which ideally can be obtained automatically from data generally complete and accurate in each source.  Don’t be dissuaded if this step does require working through exceptions using outsource data cleansing services or temp/intern help.  If you’re going to leverage multiple sources of data, it’s a critical step to develop and nurture this unique key; many companies who skip this step end up in a nightmare of duplicate records.

CRMs are key to enriching customer data from your company’s unique perspective

When implemented well and adopted across an organization, CRMs hold the promise of going far beyond productivity tools for your sales force.  Every interaction, whether positive or negative, becomes a data point which adds resolution to the clear view of a client.

Particularly when multiple groups and sales teams are interacting with a client across multiple geographies and/or lines of business, this combination of data in the CRM (together with any 3rd party data obtained about them) makes the picture wider and more complete than any single person in the organization could possibly have had in their head.

For that reason, these deep customer insights don’t just share the view of the most informed team member with others…   They make the entire organization SMARTER about the customer.

AI enables even small bits of data to help paint a clearer picture of a customer

AI today can find valuable patterns in customer actions, inaction, and even in personal interactions with the organization:

  • Orders placed – timing, size, pricing, variations (can you combine with other data to estimate their inventory and run-rate?  Send them a quote before they next need it!)
  • Special offers accepted/rejected – parameters (dis-)qualifying, recency/similarity to orders (can you customize an offer to which they can’t say no?)
  • Client commentary – natural language AI can parse sales team notes from client meetings, their earnings calls and press releases, etc. as updates to preference data
    • Are they changing strategy from their previous pattern of orders?  These language-based updates can be the “canary in the coal mine”
    • Are they planning a new offering for which you might become a strategic supplier.  Don’t wait for the order to come in, predict and preempt it

Deep customer insights can become a sustainable competitive advantage

Because of the value of internal data, companies who hold a relationship with a customer for particular products/services have an innate advantage.  For companies who continue to deliver quality products/services at reasonable prices, harvesting the value of this data can become the final piece of the puzzle to sustaining this competitive advantage.

With “similarity” models, it’s even possible to gain more insights about target clients by harvesting the data gathered about existing clients, thus contributing to future market share gains.

Deep customer data is becoming a tangible asset for businesses

Gartner predicts that by 2021, most stock analysts will include a factor for companies’ “information portfolios” in their valuation models for publicly traded companies, and M&A analysts will likely follow suit in valuing private companies.  It’s not a component of the financial reports or ratio calculations, but there is little doubt that between two competing companies with similar balance sheets and income statements, the one more focused on gathering and analyzing data will be the winner over the mid-term and long-term.

What could your company do with these kinds of Deep Customer Insights?

By now hopefully it’s clear that there are benefits from fully harvesting your CRM and other data sources to truly “weaponize your data“.  The specific shapes and sizes of these benefits will of course depend on an organization’s business model, industry, market positioning, scale, culture, and strategy.  But the benefits are there, and they are significant.

If understanding your customers is important for your company, enabling Deep Customer Insights with CRM and other data will no doubt help you grow your revenue and market-share and Monetize IT.