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5 Essential Steps to Mastering Customer Intelligence
Build loyalty, gain a competitive edge, and improve your bottom line.
Posted Aug 19, 2010
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You've heard the mantra from customer service advocates: "Listen to your customers. Hear what they say." But do you do it?

You may already conduct customer surveys to get direct feedback. But most companies capture feedback at infrequent intervals, or through one-off surveys. Few of those businesses follow through and take action on customer complaints. Fewer still use customer data to make better-informed decisions and improve business processes.

It takes more than collecting and analyzing survey data to cultivate satisfied customers — it takes an ongoing commitment to relationship-building. But the following five essential steps will help you gather and use customer intelligence to build loyalty, gain a competitive edge, and ultimately improve your bottom line.

1.    Combine science and art.

Any business can conduct a customer survey. But true knowledge of important issues and trends comes from ongoing customer input. Establishing a "voice of the customer" process using a customer feedback technology solution will provide your company with a scientific method to conduct regular customer surveys, set consistent measurements, and report on progress over time.
In addition to gathering data from survey questionnaires, remember that the voice of your customer can be heard through many channels, including open-ended survey questions, phone calls, social media sites, or emails. Your customer feedback solution should provide the flexibility to capture verbatim customer comments for valuable insights, which can be used to improve customer satisfaction and grow your business.

Simplex Grinnell, a leader in the fire and life-safety industry, uses an enterprise feedback management solution from MarketTools CustomerSat to manage 10,000 surveys and 35,000 verbatim customer comments a year. In addition to using daily survey data, the company's 150 local offices analyze unfiltered customer comments to incorporate verbatim feedback into action plans. The result: SimplexGrinnell's primary customer satisfaction indicator has increased 210 percent.

2.   Monitor your customer experience in real-time.

A customer feedback solution that captures transactional data at various touch points in real time will tell you where your business processes are working — or not. Your system should also send alerts when customer responses turn negative so you can identify problems immediately.

The field service organization of CareFusion, a leading global medical device company, uses transactional surveys as their "business radar." A poor satisfaction rating by any customer triggers an email alert in real time, and the team can take action right away. They monitor results of more than 500 transactions daily, which helps them address issues immediately and stay on top of trends. CareFusion has improved overall customer satisfaction by 26 percentage points over three years and elevated customer satisfaction to more than 90 percent after implementing a customer feedback system with MarketTools CustomerSat.

3.   Close the loop.

When a customer needs care, it's important to respond rapidly with the right remedial action. Alerts on negative feedback are powerful tools, but follow-up is critical in improving your customer's experience. An action management process integrated into your customer feedback solution will enable you to follow up automatic alerts by opening cases, assigning teams, setting deadlines, identifying root causes, and tracking and measuring results. At-risk customer relationships can be addressed and resolved proactively if you have systems in place to flag potential problems.

CareFusion knows the benefits of a solid action management process: When a customer interaction yielded a surprising ‘1' rating for field service, an alert immediately hit the email inbox of the Product Support Director, who took action. In less than one hour they escalated and resolved the situation: it turned out that the ‘1' was a typo; the customer had intended to rate them a ‘10.' Their quick response reassured them that they have the system in place in case a situation really goes sideways.

4.   Take your customers' advice.

Embrace constructive feedback and engage with your customers by acting on their advice. It's crucial to respond to negative feedback with information and action, and objectively measure the effectiveness of your responses. When customers see your business take corrective action, they know they've been heard and are more likely to become stalwart fans.

5.   Make customer satisfaction an integral part of your organization.

Outstanding customer service should encompass all your business activities. Strong backing from senior management will raise the visibility and effectiveness of any customer advocacy program. "Unlike other companies, feedback doesn't disappear into a black hole here. It's shared at the board level and has become a catalyst for change across the company," Jim Spicer, President of SimplexGrinnell, stated. SimplexGrinnell publishes a Customer Satisfaction Annual Report each year and uses this evidence of customer commitment to encourage new and repeat business.

Proactive customer service programs, supported by customer feedback solutions, have helped companies such as SimplexGrinnell and CareFusion boost the bottom line by improving customer satisfaction. With effective use of customer intelligence, any company can build stronger customer relationships and open up new revenue opportunities.

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About the Author

Justin Schuster (justin_shuster@markettools.com) is vice president of enterprise products for MarketTools, where he leads product strategy for MarketTools CustomerSat and MarketTools Market Research Suite. Justin has more than a decade of experience in software and services, having held management positions at Symantec and EMC.

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Please note that the Viewpoints listed in CRM magazine and appearing on destinationCRM.com represent the perspective of the authors, and not necessarily those of the magazine or its editors

You may leave a public comment regarding this article by clicking on "Comments" below.

If you would like to submit a Viewpoint for consideration on a topic related to customer relationship management, please email viewpoints@destinationCRM.com.

For the rest of the August 2010 issue of CRM magazine — revealing the winners of the 2010 CRM Market Awards — please click here.

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