4 ways to create better customer experiences with data

BrandPost By Anne Taylor
Aug 01, 2022
IT Leadership

Data is critical to delivering personalized, superior customer experiences. Experts discuss how to use it more effectively.

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Most organizations realize that using data to better understand customer needs and preferences is vital to creating consistently great customer experiences. The challenge many face is how to put all of the data they’re collecting to work toward that goal. 

We asked the CIO Experts Network, a community of IT professionals, industry analysts, and other influencers, how businesses can make better use of their data to improve customer experiences. Here are four key takeaways from their responses.  

Be a better listener

Positive customer experience is good for business. McKinsey research has found that improving the customer experience (CX) can increase revenues by 2-7%, boost profitability by 1-2%, and increase shareholder return by 7-10%. Yet organizations continue to struggle with customer experience management. A McKinsey CX survey found that just 7% of the customer voice is shared with CX leaders and only 13% of CX leaders are confident that their organization can take action on CX issues in near real-time. 

“Customers are the heart of every company. However, too many organizations don’t listen carefully enough to them,” said Scott Schober (@ScottBVS), President/CEO at Berkeley Varitronics Systems, Inc. 

“Each customer’s data tells a story that cannot be expressed through gut instinct, emotion, or by committee,” Schober said. “When organizations understand a customer’s habits, buying patterns, and preferences, they will gain that customer’s trust for a lifetime of recurring revenue.”

The good news is that, given the wealth of data that organizations have access to in our digitally driven world, they have more opportunity to analyze customer behaviors and preferences to develop improved experiences, according to the experts:

“Data is ultimately the footprint and behavioral pattern of one’s customers. The data can show what they are using, as well as how, where, and how long they are using it. For example, solutions like website heatmaps can be used to understand a customer’s behavior on a website. Studying that behavior can allow developers to improve the customer experience.”

Jason James (@itlinchpin), CIO of Net Health

“Businesses applying customer data to website personalization [should focus on] creating unique online experiences that delight customers and lead to 1:1 connections that increase return visits to the site and, more importantly, sales.”

Will Kelly (@willkelly), Senior Product Marketing Manager at Section

Invest in tools for managing, analyzing, and using data

Deeper insights about customers require a modern data foundation and tools for gathering, verifying, and integrating data. Investments should focus on improving data quality, ensuring data governance, and layering in tools such as artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning to accelerate insights and make predictions that drive innovation:

“Many businesses don’t do a very good job of verifying data, which leads to customer frustration as they try to navigate through a business. Data quality is even more important than data quantity. Estimates are that up to 30% of corporate data is inaccurate or corrupted. That is a major impediment. Utilize as much data verification as you can manage, especially as there are many tools available to help in this task.”

Jack Gold (@jckgld), President and Principal Analyst at J. Gold Associates, LLC

“Business leaders should centralize real-time customer data profiles by integrating data from across the customer journey. Access to the profiles should go through a data governance process that enables business leaders from sales, marketing, customer service, and operations to create segmentations based on their objectives. Segmentations help drive ongoing experimentation to learn about customer objectives, which leads to creating personalized experiences.”

Isaac Sacolick (@nyike), StarCIO Leader and Author of Digital Trailblazer

“Capturing and analyzing implicit and explicit data from available data streams to answer specific questions and spot patterns improves the customer experience and provides the business with actionable insights. Adding AI and ML to the mix offers a recipe to whip up a competitive advantage that not only delights customers but also helps a company leapfrog — and stay ahead of — its competitors.”

Gene De Libero (@GeneDeLibero), Chief Strategy Officer at GeekHive.com

Break down data silos to open up collaboration and innovation

Unifying data helps businesses “eliminate data silos and ensures all departments — from product and services to sales and marketing — can observe how their work impacts the customer experience, and can work towards improving it,” said Sridhar Iyengar (@iSridhar), Managing Director at Zoho Europe.

It’s also important to recognize that “the customer experience doesn’t end at the front of the house,” said Peter B. Nichol (@PeterBNichol), Chief Technology Officer at OROCA Innovations. “Leaders can coordinate treatments, tactics, and offers across channels by linking back-end processes with front-end services or interactions.” 

To bring it all together, Nikolay Ganyushkin (LinkedIn: nikolaygan), CEO and Co-founder of Acure, offers an example of a telecom company that re-configured how user requests for technical support were processed. “By connecting this data to the CRM system and to the network monitoring system,” he said, “we were able to set up automatic reporting of problems, which reduced customer churn and increased customer loyalty.”

Build awareness on data literacy and privacy across the business

Although data and technology infrastructure play a critical role in improving customer experience, our experts also note the importance of supplementing technology with proper training as well as awareness around privacy issues.

“Teach the data user how to use the insights,” said Frank Cutitta (@fcutitta), CEO and Founder at HealthTech Decisions Lab. “There are illusions that if we simply give them data, we will see the results; or if we visualize the data they will better understand it on their own. Data requires coaching and storytelling, not just do-it-yourself PowerPoint decks with no notes or talking points.” 

Iyengar (@iSridhar) added: “There is a fine line between use of customer data to enhance customer experience and abuse of data privacy. It’s essential that businesses avoid data exploitation, which requires customer consent in all areas of data usage related to marketing, clearly listing all data practices in an upfront privacy policy, and using business tools that are industry-compliant with security and data protection regulations.”

The bottom line

Today’s business and IT leaders realize that data is critical for creating better experiences, but many continue to struggle to enable their people to act on that insight. Organizations can get closer to gaining a 360-degree view of their customers by investing in a modern infrastructure and tools, unifying data across the business, and training the workforce to apply analytics and insights to their daily activities. That’s how a data-driven approach to CX can drive better business outcomes. 

“Hyper-competitive companies know that data-driven environments change customer behavior for the better,” said Nichol (@PeterBNichol). “The conventional request-reply encounters are a thing of the past. Instead, customers demand a superior experience, designed around their data, from purchasing to production.”

Learn more about ways to put your data to work on the most scalable, trusted, and secure cloud.