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It’s time to talk about customers

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Every company says, “The customer is always right,” and they listen to what their customers want and try to do the right thing. But customers don’t always know how to express what they really need. They are the lifeblood of your organization, and your employees likely aren’t talking about them enough.

Investment in listening to customers is on the rise, and the influence of marketing on technology management spend is rising with it. But is that investment being leveraged across the entirety of your workforce? The answer to that question could be the next big opportunity to shift the competitive landscape.

What we do today

As we struggle to adapt to the age of the customer, we have taken great steps to listen to customers and analyze data associated with our markets. The “social” and “big data” buzzwords are bearing fruit. The next steps are to recognize what we do well and where it leads to the next opportunity.

We listen

There are a lot of proven solutions to listen to customers—from training customer-facing employees to be more empathetic to installing social listening technology within your contact center. Having a good ear is only half the battle—what your company does with what it hears is equally important. Moving the “voice of the customer” through your firm more rapidly is the next step.

We analyze

Companies gather product requirements and mash them together at the front end of new product development cycles. Companies test the “temperature” of their brand on social media and adjust marketing messages accordingly. Those are examples of actions taken directly from accumulated knowledge of customer needs. With the proper care, customer insights can be actionable, searchable, useful digital assets.

We don’t share

So, we are gathering and analyzing more data than ever before, even acting on it under certain circumstances. But in many cases, the majority of employees are not included in the conversation. We all hear the stories about social listening and the ability to react. Ever hear the story of United Airlines and the guitar? Yeah, we all have. The real question is, do we fully disseminate that information to every worker and make it part of every decision he or she makes every day? No, we do not.

We don’t fully engage

Like every useful conversation, it takes two—listening and talking, giving and taking, acting and reacting. Not every information worker has direct interaction with customers, and not every customer talks to our employees, so firms must be diligent about sharing information and communications. Firms need to harness the power of communications and collaboration technologies to bring experts and decision makers together, to bring insights and innovative processes together, to bring customer needs into every decision-making process.

What we need to do tomorrow

That can sound daunting. Here’s the bad news. It’s going to take a while to get there. Here’s the good news. You’ve probably been laying the foundation for your employees working this way for a while. And your foundation likely has already begun to address key technology and cultural challenges. How will employees buried deep within your company hear the customer as they design or execute fulfillment processes, record financial transactions or hire the next generation of workers?

Create a strategy to share critical insights more broadly

The infrastructure for that may already be in place in the form of advanced enterprise social business and/or unified communications and collaboration investments. If yours is like many organizations, those investments may not be as highly adopted as planned. Use them to deliver the customer’s voice to your employees and their value will be enriched.

Establish context as a critical capability of analytics

The goal of analytics in this instance is to establish context. Context can be the right role, community, individual, information or process that will benefit from the insight. Once context is established, it is possible to target an application. At the most basic level, this could be an enterprise social community of interest that could benefit from the insight. However, the breadth of potential target applications can be very wide, up to and including traditional process-driven applications.

Rethink security

While pulling information in from external communities leads to a set of very interesting possibilities, it also leads to the possibility of employees connecting directly with external customers through secure internal communication channels. And that requires a fundamentally different approach to establishing and maintaining security as well as provisioning systems.

Give us your feedback. To fill out the survey, see http://tinyurl.com/p563rt3.

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