Seeking the best out of data is one of the biggest challenges businesses face. Far too often businesses get lost with a focus on stats and insights that provide for a great optics, but in many instances these are insights are rather broad natured and generalized. Considering the efforts and planning involved in seeking the in-depth and accurate insights, it is not surprising to see most businesses favor such quick presentation dynamics.
Institutional and sales data comes to us from all quarters of operations, and most of it is crucial as almost all business functions are deeply interlinked. However, one particular area of data is of utmost importance when it comes to the faculty of Sales, Customer insights. It is natural and only logical that all sales planning inherently needs to maintain its focus on being customer centric to maximize the sales potential, therefore it is equally crucial that we harness and gain insights based on similar criteria too. The importance of a customer centric focus is also heighted in the latest survey published by Salesforce, which states that over 80% of sales reps view pre & post customer relations as a crucial factor for success in the current economic conditions.
As a first step towards this process would be the requirement to understand what Customer Focus truly means for your business. In today’s interconnected and hypercompetitive world, expectations from customers are always at an extremely heightened level. Most of our customers expectations now extend far beyond the dynamics of simpler sales cycles, often bundling up with pre and after sales care and many a times extending well into a supply chain partnership or co-marketing campaigns. Therefore, a true customer focus in today’s world needs to take these additional sales factors in consideration. A thorough examination of all key customer intersecting points is vital in building a data harnessing structure built at meeting the needs accurately. And its also equally vital to keep in mind that such customer-centric analysis is not conducted as a simplistic internal exercise, especially when one is to consider that while 80% companies consider themselves to be delivering a ‘super experience’, less than 8% of customers hold that opinion (Bain & Company report).
A customer centric outlook in data collection use can utilize several key channels, including:
· A well designed customer segmentation plan with further breakdown of customers/users to personas that help identify all points of business intersection and decision making map
· Direct feedback from Users and Customers to understand their experience with the product and all peripheral connected support services
· Tapping into social channels outside of immediate sales interfaces to tie that feedback into related sales lifecycles
In addition to the above mentioned data collection channels, implementing a test-and-learn plan can further assist in delivery of greater customer data of higher relevance, as well as enhance end customer experience. Above all, it helps eliminate institutionalized internal opinions about the customer and forces a rethink of customers actual needs and preferences.
A key advantage of such customer centric data approach is the gains observed in putting context behind the data that would otherwise be qualified as generalized and overlooked. It provides a clear map of the use of service or products on offer; who is using it, how exactly is it being used — a factor that can provide some surprising insights — and what are the crucial factors about the same which impact the customer, both positively as well as negatively. While that is the desired state, currently it is also the most challenging. The previously mentioned Salesforce survey also highlights that a majority of sales reps face multiple challenges in seeking customer insights, which include not having enough time (75% respondents) or the capabilities (72% respondents) to extract meaning from the available data. A fact that becomes even more alarming when one considers that 42% of these reps also feel they spend too much time discovering customer needs.
However, in order to maximize the potential of a customer centric data strategy businesses can now utilize the power of AI. Readying a customer focused 360 system geared at engaging with customers through use of automated cognitive agents or deciphering the minutia and intricacies of flowing customer data can help boost valuable insight generation while ensuring the end-user needs are being catered to satisfactorily. Once again, the importance of utilizing AI towards understanding of customer needs ranks as the topmost factor of sought after benefits for most high performing sales reps. Since developing such AI based systems is time consuming and requires in-depth planning, business can instead opt for partnering with solutions providers specializing in this arena and who already have the capability of deploying such technology solutions with their existing platforms.
 Salesforce: State of Sales 4th Edition