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The business which wants to work with its customers in order to create products and services which deliver real solutions has to step away from superficial data and to stop asking questions which lead to preconceived results.
‘Know your customer’ is a mantra which is as old as the hills but it is one which is as little understood today as it was in the last decade, or the decade before that, or the decade before that… In fact, despite this era of big data, in many business sectors we understand our customers less today than we did in the age of corner shops and village stores, way before the computer was invented.
It’s an easy excuse to blame the rise in customer numbers or the advent of global shopping for this falloff in deep customer understanding but really that is no excuse at all. After all we have access to our customers’ shopping habits and spending patterns, loyalty card data and online accounts bring us vast amounts of cross-selling data, and then there are all those surveys and opinion polls which we can fling out online at will.
With all this data at our fingertips are we really learning anything; more importantly are we asking the right questions? Isn’t there a danger that we put too much faith in the collection of data which reveals only superficial spending patterns, not the drivers beneath? And is the science of polling really as advanced as we think it is; after all just look at how the pollsters got the last general election and the Brexit vote badly wrong. In fact, Brexit is already throwing up some interesting commentaries about the way in which both sides were misled by big data and opinion polls which failed to reveal the mood of large sections of population.
Insight and business
What’s that got to do with business? Absolutely everything. We now live in an immensely complex and interconnected world. Our customers can come from anywhere as can our competitors. In fact, in a fast moving technological world, the disruptors of tomorrow may not even be in existence today. Businesses have to be innovative in order to stay ahead of the game and to deliver customer excellence and this means adopting Next Generation Organisation characteristics of collaboration, adaptability and intelligence.
The business which wants to work with its customers in order to create products and services which deliver real solutions has to step away from superficial data and to stop asking questions which lead to preconceived results. Meaningful intelligence gathering only comes about when you are prepared to delve beneath the surface and to gain real insight into people’s attitudes, intentions and drivers.
Big data may get you part of the way, with intelligent analysis pointing the way towards the type of questions which you should be asking but it is only when you sit back and look laterally at the data, when you start to bring insight and intelligence into your questioning that you can really say that you know your customers. And only then can you hope to start to deliver products and services which are really designed with your customers in mind.