Forrester Report: Navigating the Shoals of Evolving Customer Intelligence

3 minute read
Barry Levine avatar

The report, "Navigating the Future of Customer Intelligence", points out that customer intelligence is undergoing change primarily because of two factors. Consumer behavior is changing, and companies are driving change because they want to take advantage of the opportunities.

Rethinking Customers

Consumer behavior is changing, according to the report, in large part because of the rapid adoption of the smartphone and other mobile devices, which create double-edged opportunities for companies. On the one hand, the devices are always on, and are highly interactive. On the other hand, consumers have little patience for clumsy attempts to grab data about their behavior.

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To handle this change in consumer behavior, the report says that organizations need to rethink how it views customers, so that it is able to identify and follow specific customers as they move from channel to channel. And a key to optimizing communications with the customer is preference management, where consumers have “some level of control over subject, content, frequency, and channel of communications.” The report says that this kind of customer-driven control helps to improve customer engagement and loyalty.

In an age when every thing can and might contain its own sensors, or RF product ID, or might be continually reporting on its status, the report says that a definition of customer intelligence (CI) needs to be expanded to include product data, especially as “the line between users and their product data blurs.”

Big Data

This evolution can include insurance companies using embedded telematics data from cars to improve their underwriting practices, or health practitioners using metabolism-tracking data to improve their diagnostics. But CI becomes an important part of this data use, the report says, because CI teams will know how to manage the data -- and, it is implied, how to manage the customer.

In fact, so much potentially useful data is being generated that Forrester predicts “a further push toward data exchanges and marketplaces” that go beyond what exists today, where the data from a product could become more valuable than the product itself.

Learning Opportunities

Which leads to Big Data, one of the biggest buzzwords and trends in analytics, consumer marketing, social media, CRM and virtually every other customer-facing business process. Sensibly, the report advises that, “instead of capturing every last tweet and call center transcript, firms need to take an ROI-based test-and-learn approach to data sources,” looking at actual cost, potential risk, usability and business value.

Learning from Spiderman

“With great power comes great responsibility,” Spiderman’s Uncle Ben told him. The lesson applies whether you have the ability to swing on spider threads between skyscrapers, or analyze skyscraper-high mounds of data for those precious threads of customer intelligence. Forrester repeatedly emphasizes this side of responsible customer intelligence -- best practices for data governance, the potential financial damages of inappropriate use, and the risk to the brand if the organization is seen to be a disrespectful user of customer data.

Forrester indicates that this kind of approach will not simply involve being a good corporate citizen, but will become an essential sensibility as customer engagement programs replace “old-school CRM” and loyalty programs. On the way there, loyalty marketing will be redefined, marketing technology will require new approaches, and customer intelligence will become more aligned with customer experience.

Though short -- only six pages -- the Forrester report raises a substantial number of intriguing ideas about how customer intelligence is changing. There's a lot more detail to be gleaned from this topic not covered in the report, but it's a start.

Image courtesy of mini.fini  (Shutterstock)