There is no doubt COVID challenged us to rethink many things — for the better. The same positive tendency is happening in the market research and customer insights industry. This trend doesn’t come without challenges and struggles; however, businesses express the need and will to do things differently. Hopefully, these intentions will set the path ahead with well-paved foundations and a clear direction.
But let’s take a step back, and analyse essential facts. Fundamentally, the critical business questions haven’t changed over the years. Companies want to connect with their (prospect) customers by actively listening and understanding their needs. But that is not an easy task, considering customers’ needs change and fluctuate all the time —regardless of COVID or any other external factor. When we look at it as an ever-changing, dynamic discipline, we can say customer understanding is continuously transforming.
So, the big question is, “how to make your customer-centric efforts a success story?”. Many companies are still on a journey to reach this objective and fully implement a customer-centric mindset throughout the organisation. For some, COVID has accelerated that journey. For others, they had to rethink their approach either because of decreased budgets or because traditional methodologies are not adequate anymore.
Based on some great projects we did last year here at boobook, from our perspective, businesses still invest in customer understanding — some even more than in the past. But is this the case for most organisations? Is customer-centricity a key priority now? What if budgets are not there to invest in customer understanding?
To get a broader view of where customer-centricity stands today, I decided to interview eight senior marketing and customer insights leaders across a wide variety of sectors, both the ones that are doing well because of the pandemic, as well as those being impacted badly. To share this in-depth analysis of current trends from the perspective of experts, we collected all the interviews in an extensive e-book you can download here.
Here are the experts we’ve talked to:
Through our conversations, many fascinating insights emerged. While it was interesting to hear each person’s viewpoint and experience, my goal was to discover the red thread that connects the dots between different companies and their sectors. When gathering the feedback and revisiting my notes, I defined seven key topics that best describe the overall status of customer-centricity today.
There is the general belief that companies are behind on being truly custom centric compared to others. It shows that they feel there are still significant gaps to fill and that customer-centricity is still not the core focus of the organisation, at least not in terms of implementation. Truly listening to the customers isn’t an easy shift for many organisations, especially the bigger ones, as it is challenging to implement it across all departments.
A consensus is that customer-centricity has always been important. Truly listening to customers, being responsive, and implementing “outside-in” thinking has been a high priority for many years. The pandemic did not necessarily change this, but it did impact other business aspects.
Businesses still have plenty of data, but it is about analysing the right data. Additionally, more than before, data needs to work much harder. This comes from decreased budgets, data sources that aren’t fully accessible (e.g., social media data), or the changes that force us to act fast.
The best way to listen to the customer is to do this in two ways, by combining transactional and primary research data. More than ever, businesses need both views to understand the customers’ needs and behaviour. Organisations who want to understand their customers know how important it is to pair both sources.
Organisations are more focused on building their expertise in customer understanding, driven by cost, time, and the abundance of inexpensive DIY tools. This trend only shows how vital customer-centricity has become. But how far are companies on this journey? Are they striving to have all expertise in-house? And how do they manage spreading this expertise? And more importantly, what role should the customer insight managers and providers play in the future?
While technology excels fast forward, we are overwhelmed with many basic and advanced tools. Those tools that focus on visualisation and reporting, like Tableau or PowerBI, are widely used, while the AI tools are following this trend very slowly. Many of these platforms claim the same benefits: “Fast, visual and easy to use by non-data scientists”. So how come they are not entirely accepted and implemented within the organisations yet?
In conclusion, there is no doubt that customer-centricity is getting more and more attention these days, even though it has always been important. Most companies are on a journey to integrate it fully into their operations and bring it to the core of many decisions. But the question arises: “Which organisations will be most successful on this journey?”.
Many things have changed since the pandemic, both in our personal lives and at a business level. Hence, it’s understandable that we, as consumer and customer, have different needs, but what are the changes in our conditions exactly? Will this change be permanent, or will it be “back to normal”, or should we say “back as it was before”. These questions have been raised so often since the pandemic hit us, and they all lead to customer-centricity.
COVID also highlighted one of the main issues in customer insights: having lots of data isn’t sufficient. At the end of the day, what counts is understanding the data, its application, and how to extract valuable insights.
Listening to customers and extracting the correct insights can be achieved through different methods. An excellent example of the customer-centricity journey is “data democratisation“, a critical topic mentioned many times throughout the sessions I had with experts in customer insights. Data democratisation is a term saying that customer insights and centricity are not centralised and steered by one team but many teams across the organisation. This is a significant step forward to embed customer-centricity in business processes and what all organisations should strive to achieve. However, that journey needs guidance, support and evolution to ensure the expertise is also correctly spread and understood. Every customer insights team, both within organisations and consultancy companies, has an essential role.
Want to know more about trends in customer insights and how the big players are pivoting through the pandemic crisis?