No matter what you sell and serve customers, your team has more information at its fingertips today than your e-commerce and retailing forerunners ever did.

But your organization faces a big challenge: How do you best manage all that data and convert it to meaningful customer experiences and brand assets?

Creating Better CX

Giving customers the best experience possible, whether it's in-store, online or a seamless integration between both worlds, is essential to business success. Your customers expect more today, and they have more outlets to share both positive and negative experiences.

"Capturing timely feedback-data is critical for the customer experience because people talk about their daily experiences to each other in person, over social channels, via reviews and surveys, or even through handwritten letters," said Jeff Morris, vice president for strategy and success at GoodData, a San Francisco-based creator of analytics and smart business applications software.

A 2016 survey by Boston Retail Partners found the customer-feedback form is the top measurement of satisfaction (60 percent of respondents use it), followed by social-media comments (59 percent).

It's imperative that vendors listen and respond to customer interactions as quickly as possible to create the highest degrees of loyalty in each relationship, Morris said.

Data Should Serve Two Masters

The challenge for businesses now is to move beyond gathering data, but to find ways to use it to satisfy the needs of both the company and its customers. Take the Fitbit, for example.

These digital fitness trackers and health devices capture data every second of the day, from the steps a person takes to the pace and distance he or she runs as well as heart rate, stairs you climbed and sleep patterns. Then, it packages and displays that data in ways anyone can understand and apply to alter personal behavior.

So what we need is a Fitbit-style view for our businesses that sorts through all of the data streaming in from point-of-sale terminals, online checkouts, customer feedback forms and other sources and then displays it in such a way that anyone — from employees to customers — can understand and apply in personal ways.

The bar is definitely higher today, and creative uses of data will help businesses rise above it.

2 Ways to Capitalize on Data

1. Tie data to business outcomes

Eric Tunquist, vice president of customer feedback for the fast-food restaurant company Jack in the Box, tries to help franchise operators understand and act on the customer feedback that floods into the company's more than 2,000 locations.

"I try to put myself in the operator's shoes," he said. "I need to provide the data in a way that's actionable and timely and most importantly tied to business results — how they can make more money by acting on the information I'm providing."

Tunquist correlates the data with important outcomes such as sales growth. This helps operators understand how improving guest service can improve results, like sales.

“It's very compelling when I can show them that those restaurants with better guest service scores have more sales growth."

2. Package data to focus on your customers

Data drives the personalization of marketing messages, which in turn builds customer engagement and creates a better experience, said Drew Neisser, founder and CEO of Renegade LLC and author of "The CMO's Periodic Table: A Renegade's Guide to Marketing."

"We're in a give-to-get economy. Marketers have to give something of value to get the customer’s attention, and data can be very helpful for that," he said. "Start with your customer. Focus on the customer. Don’t think of data as a way of increasing sales. Instead, think of data as a way of improving customer experience.”

Enterprises are now creating analytic packages to boost performance across KPIs and create more engagement among their built-in networks of agents, franchises or storefronts. The key to success, however, is in how and to whom you package available data.

Title image by Tim Swaan