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PHOTO: Brendan Steeves

The road to recovery is paved with data, where data provides the fuel to power better and faster decisions, stated a recent McKinsey article. Remember, data-driven processes and digital transformation are two sides of the same coin. You need data to drive digital processes. Digital processes create more data. By becoming digital and unleashing the power of data, organizations gain three significant benefits.

They can do new, customer-centric things across departments and functions faster, with more relevance and consistency. Analysts and data scientists can spend more time answering critical business questions and less time finding and stitching together data. And they can build stronger, more lasting relationships with customers because they can show that they truly know their customers.

This is all well and good, but many businesses still need to ask: how do you make all that data available and ready to use at a moment’s notice?

Customer Insights Platform for Customer Data

Consider a customer insights (or customer intelligence) platform. Companies invest in a customer insights platform so they can become a customer’s first choice, leveraging data management and analytics to harness the value from the volume, variety and velocity of data and data sources available to them.

A customer insights platform allows companies to use, analyze, govern, manage and share data — all data — across all channels and business processes in support of customer experience initiatives. By applying automation and intelligence to integrate and link together data of all types, customer insights platforms serve as a foundation for analytics and third-party model frameworks for organizations to acquire, grow, and retain customers.

Related Article: Gaining Customer Insights: A New Twist on an Old(er) List

Components of a Customer Insights Platform

The customer profile is a foundational element of a customer insights platform, relying on a powerful customer data foundation compiled from numerous data sources at very fine-grained detail. Because getting customer interactions right is so critical, much of the success and adoption of a customer insights platform hinges on the platform’s ability to match data from many different and diverse data sources for the best version of a customer record.

It then enriches the profile with derived or inferred attributes intelligently gleaned through reasoning and data synthesis of interaction and transaction data and applies new capabilities, such as AI and ML, to surround the profile with additional context for a view of customers that’s based on all relevant data.

A customer insights platform consists of a number of end-to-end data management technologies, including data integration, data cataloging, data quality, data enrichment, master data management, data governance, data protection, and application integration. Cloud, automation, and configuration-based software, including microservices, AI/ML and NLP, and low- or no-code technologies, make it faster to implement and easier to customize, manage, and use a customer insights platform.

Related Article: Data Ingestion Best Practices

Why Is a Customer Insights Platform Important?

Customer insights platforms help companies use their data to overcome a lack of understanding across the customer lifecycle and low visibility into customer demand. Most commonly, the data foundation allows companies to create more targeted segments, identify points of friction and churn, predict customer behaviors and propensities, identify next best action or non-action, optimize campaigns and analytics, and more.

Companies gain advantage from deeper, richer, and more relevant insights by employing advanced models and analytics against a foundation of governed, trusted, and contextual data. They can then use these insights to feed programs and actions based on customers’ revealed needs, behaviors, and preferences — and then deliver them at the right time and in the right place, to the right customer.

Customer experience has become a competitive factor for 99% of companies across B2B, B2B and B2B2C industries. Poor customer experiences — which are often a result of a lack of customer insight driven by siloed data and processes — is correlated to mismatched outreach, poorly timed and irrelevant communications, and inauthentic interactions, which creates friction between customers and the companies they do business with. This friction frequently results in increased customer churn, low wallet share and poor customer satisfaction. In these situations, customers will seek out and select more customer-focused companies.

Related Article: Personalization: Where Data and Content Intersect

Simple, Value-Added Interactions

The data within a customer insights platform can be used in a variety of ways. One of the most unexpected ways is to dispel myths or reveal long-standing false assumptions. Business process owners may be unaware of customers' frustration with friction in processes. A customer insights platform could help isolate where customers become frustrated and drop from an online process or switch to a higher-cost channel, and why.

Another use may be to identify the next best action, or next worst action, if NOT doing something is more appropriate. By mapping household or complex business relationships, not just single individuals, a customer insights platform would add visibility into the purchase behaviors or satisfaction levels within those relationships to help identify right offer to make, and determine if now is the right time to make it.

Capabilities of a Customer Insights Platform

Customer insights are focused on — but not limited to — the customer domain. A customer insights platform includes capabilities that bring together data and deliver insights or intelligence about customers, not only at a marketing or departmental level, but across an entire organization. This is important since — from the customer’s point of view — they interact with a company or individuals that represent a company, and not with “marketing,” or any other siloed department.

A customer insights platform builds a comprehensive and contextual customer view and includes data, relationships, analytic outcomes, and visualizations. These insights are then delivered to sales, marketing, service and support, data scientists, analysts, and other areas based on the purpose — dialed up or down according to the perspective that’s needed.

The Road to Recovery Is Paved With Data

Customers expect brands to know who they are and translate that knowledge into simple, value-add interactions. This expectation shapes the mandate at many organizations to carve out competitive advantage with personalized, omnichannel customer experience. Organizations that transform themselves into best-in-class, data-driven organizations are fueled by a single customer view, analytics, and predictive insights that scale across core operational processes for personalized, relevant customer interactions. They are the ones creating the standards for competing on customer experience.