Unstructured customer data is a goldmine, here’s how to use it

Unstructured data is available, and you should take advantage of it.

As companies become more connected and more skilled at data collection, there is a glut of information that many of them aren’t sure how to organize. Not to mention the number of stakeholders vying for access to that data often causes information to get watered down to make it useful for everyone. This prevents it from being used for more specific tasks. When it comes to customer success data, this is a real problem.

The good news is there is enormous value in leveraging unstructured data to solve this problem. Forbes Corporate Communications found that, “53% of top-performing companies are investing in CRM to drive sales productivity.” Companies are recognizing the importance of systems that leverage data to upgrade customer relationships, and there are a growing number of innovative solutions hitting the market to help companies use unstructured data for everything from sales, to marketing, to customer success.

Data you didn’t know you had

One of the biggest shifts in CRM thinking as of late is the shift to data that has been underutilized. Hal Howard, CEO and co-founder of Komiko, an AI company for CRM, explains, “Customers often have multiple touch points with the company and most of those touch points are not CRM users.  This can leave account managers in the dark about what the customer is experiencing and whether the right resources are engaged.”

Companies are looking for CRM and analytics solutions that can effectively grab all the information that has gone unexploited. Howard went on to say that the key to solving this problem is, “mining email and calendar data to produce a comprehensive timeline of interactions with the customer and providing account managers insight into those activities without any additional data entry or software being deployed to the other customer touch points.” In doing so companies can identify a series of new insights that inform the creation of new best practices, that will inevitably upgrade customer success.

Turning behaviors into data

One of the major shifts in thinking in customer success is turning qualitative and behavioral information into data insights that can be leveraged for improving relationships. Instead of requiring sales and customer success teams to record their own insights, platforms that track communication can document it in real time. Howard explains, “By capturing the actual communications, sales leaders also avoid any ‘spin’ that might have been added in a manual note.”

That’s why more and more solutions for CRM are focusing on behavioral data as a means of assessing the health of any given account. Doing so empowers companies to take more informed steps on guiding clients into an extended contract or a new product. Unstructured information sources like email and calendars tend to feed this new behavioral data cycle.

Creating new metrics for engagement

The previous ways of evaluating customer success were all about measuring a customer’s lifetime value. The growing complexity of B2B relationships and the advent of the user-driven economy have put more emphasis than ever on the customer relationship over short-term revenue gains.

User engagement is now a critical factor in increasing lifetime value, and many companies are struggling to evaluate engagement properly. The key is tracking the health of a customer account through the relationship information your company has its disposal. Howard explains, “Existing methodologies rely far too much on manual data entry and fail to gather enough data to accurately assess the level of engagement with and by the customer.  If a customer or prospect suddenly stops responding to email inquiries and declines repeated meeting requests, everyone knows it’s a bad sign for the health of the relationship and yet no CRM systems automatically capture this data.”

Highly engaged customers are going to be the most likely to stick with a company for the long haul, so capturing information about how successful relationships are formed can help sustain the right behaviors and identify and eliminate the harmful ones.

Forming a strategy for implementation

Just having access to better customer data isn’t enough. Every company needs a fully formed strategy for implementation. Ideally, the more steps that can be automated the better the outcome.

That’s why companies are beginning to look for supplements to their customer success efforts that can leverage newer technologies like artificial intelligence and machine learning. These tools can help automate aspects of the data collection process, making it less of a hassle for companies to make the most out of their customer success data.

Why tap the gold mine?

Effective use of data can increase the productivity of customer success, sales, and marketing teams. Mary Wardley of IDC shared, “Cost savings and productivity enhancements can be seen in saving a sales person 20 minutes per week in writing activity reports, or answering four times the volume of web-based service requests in the same amount of time.” With that kind of potential to open up time for more profitable tasks, it’s clear why companies are working so hard to make the most of customer data.

This article is published as part of the IDG Contributor Network. Want to Join?

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