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Perhaps never before has it been more critical to get closer to your customers. Organisations which fail to get close to their customers risk not only missing opportunities but also the warning signs of attrition which can apply further pressure on revenues and already stretched new business teams.

This brief article outlines how organisations can structure and organise their insight initiatives to deliver the vital feedback loops to enable them to be responsive to customer requirements and heed the early warning signs, putting them in a stronger position to drive customer value and retain client relationships.

Market research and insight, like other functions, can and often is subject to internal hierarchies in terms of investment, influenced by the general predisposition of that organisation towards sales, product, risk, operations or marketing. Depending on that orientation, insight strategy may be elevated to core-critical status or subjugated to the more ‘operational’ demands for example customer communications or demand generation. Thus the insight programmes in place within numerous organisations may be anywhere along a spectrum from non-existent, to minimal, to balanced to strategic.

In the current environment of high volatility, low business and consumer confidence, customer actions can and have been swift with respect to renewals, new engagements and cancellations. Organisations need to be attuned to the factors which may give rise to adverse customer actions which have a financial impact.

Programme design factors

A holistic insight programme will be multi-dimensional:

  • Longitudinal – Survey points over time at a regular cadence e.g. every 3, 6 or 12 months
  • Point in time – Surveys triggered by specific events over the customer journey (e.g. onboarding, renewal, complaints)
  • Multi-lateral – Surveys at macro customer level (e.g. overall customer satisfaction) or at micro level (e.g. transactional level, such as ‘how was your service experience today?’)

An example:

Organisation A will run a customer satisfaction survey at a cadence of every 6 months to deliver feedback at sufficient frequency and align with annual performance review processes. Complementing this, automated surveys will be triggered on delivering specific services or at certain points in the customer relationship, ensuring feedback on the key ‘moments of truth’ in the relationship. In addition, surveys issued at the point of transaction deliver critical, ‘real time’ feedback on the fundamental operational aspects of the business, pinpointing issues for rapid resolution.

Takeaways for management teams:

  • Invest in a responsive insight programme, ensuring the customer experience can be understood at critical stages and moments in the client relationship
  • Ensure the programme delivers feedback longitudinally (over time), at specific points, and at various points
  • Ensure clear ownership and leadership (and therefore a single point of accountability) over insight strategy and consolidate insight practices whilst simultaneously focussing on best practice.
  • Establish an organisational culture in which management heed signals delivered via direct customer insight and are held accountable to them. Ensuring that individual points of accountability (e.g. account managers) are associated with survey results allows for management to pinpoint potential issues in customer portfolios or customer groups
  • A holistic insight programme will deliver an ‘early warning system’ to your organisation
  • Before embarking, plan to act upon findings, ensuring that all internal stakeholders expect and allow for change and align around the criticality of being responsive to clients. This involves understanding the realistic parameters for change – not all change can be executed.

Implementation guidance:

  • Consider subscribing numerous SaaS-based customer survey and CX tools. This may range from a free Surveymonkey account (leading to their paid options) all the way to a dedicated CX platform such as Qualtrics.
  • Ensure integration of the above tools into your organisational MI, where the data can be leveraged alongside other customer relationship data to empower your analytics, account management teams to react
  • Implement iteratively, starting with elementary feedback surveys then building out your programme as required to deliver insight around the questions most critical to your organisation.
  • Ensure accountability of client-facing teams in particular via implementation of various metrics such as CSAT (Customer Satisfaction) and NPS
  • Where possible, ensure that survey design allows for data to be segmented allowing analysis of satisfaction to occur within distinct groups i.e. customer groups, geo-locations, portfolios, product types, account managers, tenure, customer value, risk profile etc.

Organisations which fail to remain close to customers risk the combined costs of lost revenue and revenue replacement, costs many P&Ls are not strong enough to absorb as they seek to navigate the post Covid-19 recovery.

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