7 ways small businesses can leverage customer data

Marketing, customer experience and data experts discuss what small and midsized businesses can learn about customers from the data they collect.

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“[Customer data] can help you discover and solve problems that otherwise may be hard to find,” says Jill Soley, vice president, marketing, Freshdesk, a provider of online customer support and help desk software. “For example, one customer of ours that ships wine domestically discovered through their help desk reports that there had been a disproportionate number of errors, where the wrong bottles had been shipped to several customers,” she says. “By providing additional training to their quality control team, they were able to [reduce errors] and make their customers happier.”

4. Improving customer support. “Understanding your customers and using the data you have about them is critical to customer support,” says Robert C. Johnson, CEO, TeamSupport, a provider of B2B customer support and help desk software. “Smart companies share customer-related data with their support teams so that a support agent can understand the whole relationship with the customer and see at an instant what products they have, what recent issues they have experienced and also notes or comments from the sales team about the account.”

[ Related: 5 ways ecommerce business can improve customer service ]

5. Developing new features and products. “Mining data from support interactions can [also] be a goldmine for developing future versions of your product,” says Johnson. “The customer support team is on the front lines and communicates with your customer base every day. No other group in a company is as close to the users of your product as your customer support team, and the interactions they have on a daily basis with your customers are invaluable for understanding how your product is used and what features may be missing.”

“At the end of each call or email from our support team, we ask [customers] if there’s a feature they’d like to see in our product,” says Eric M. Ebert, marketing and communications manager, Lookeen, a provider of desktop search software. “These are added to a whiteboard in the support office, so everyone can see what the issues are. If a feature gets 10 votes, we add it to our ‘roadmap’ Trello board to discuss at our monthly development meeting.

“This works great, because 1) If we build the feature, we can reach back out to those customers and tell them that we added it, and 2) It starts to create a social buzz around the feature, because we solved a problem and showed our customers that we actually listen to their opinions,” he says. “Essentially our customers are helping us deliver a product that they really want.”

6. Choosing a new location. “Small businesses can also apply [customer] insights when making strategic business decisions, such as selecting a location for their new storefront,” says Duncan McCall, CEO, PlaceIQ, which offers a platform that aggregates specific audiences based on location, time and behavior. “By using location and consumer data to inform them of an individual’s physical customer journey, businesses can strategically choose a location that is opportune for consumers to get what they want, when they want it.”

7. Winning back customers. “With the right program in place, SMBs can detect a decline in visit frequency among customers,” says Kristen House, mobile product manager, Paytronix Systems, a provider of customer reward programs. “They can [then] use that intelligence to win customers back. The brand simply identifies the customers who have not visited for a specific period of time – let’s say 90 days. A message is [then] sent reminding the customer of why they love the brand and includes a special offer to return.

[ Related: 12 easy ways to lose your ecommerce customers ]

“Win-back promotions typically have a positive ROI,” she continues. “In fact, Paytronix has seen as much as a 10x return in some cases. Even better, a larger portion of the target audience returns to their previous visit rate.”

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