What is Customer Intelligence (CI)?

AI & Customer Intelligence

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The business environment has never been more competitive than it is today. With no shortage of options for consumers, businesses must find ways to differentiate themselves in meaningful, non-gimmicky ways. While it might seem obvious, the key is to look back at the old adage, ‘know your customer,’ and take it a step further by harnessing the power of customer intelligence to gain a deeper understanding of their wants and needs.

Customer intelligence provides businesses with the opportunity to capitalize on the information already at their disposal to thrive in our current customer-centric environment. But what does that really mean?

This post will equip you with the knowledge you need to answer common questions about customer intelligence like:

  • What is customer intelligence?
  • What does customer intelligence do?
  • Why is customer intelligence important?
  • How do you build customer intelligence?
  • How do you create a customer intelligence strategy?
  • Which tools should you use to get started?

What is customer intelligence?

Customer intelligence (CI) is the process of gathering and analyzing data from your customers and deriving actionable insights to inform business decisions. In this era of e-commerce and digital relationships, there’s no shortage of data points waiting to be harnessed. 

Traditionally, customer intelligence data has been limited to simple basic structured data like demographic information and website interactions. Until recently, we were limited to knowing essentially only who was on your website and what they did while they were there. While that information is helpful, it by no means provides the whole picture. 

For true customer intelligence, the voice of the customer must be taken into account. Once you know who your customers are and what they’ve done you must then incorporate what they’ve said, and why they’ve said it. With this data, you can be much more effective when it comes to targeting and providing solutions specifically for unique customers, and capitalizing on the micro-moments that make all the difference. 

This kind of intelligence keeps you one step ahead. Instead of shooting marketing messaging into the dark or reacting to customer cues, customer intelligence empowers businesses to anticipate needs and ensure that customer communications are happening proactively at critical moments.

What is customer intelligence and analytics?

Customer intelligence analytics is essentially the continuous process of deriving actionable insights from customer interaction data. Raw data can either be analyzed by humans or by a customer intelligence platform. When humans are involved, the process is very inefficient thanks to inefficient processes like manually tagging qualitative data or depending on manual data entry. This leaves room for, well, human error. 

That’s why the importance of leveraging a robust customer intelligence platform as part of your customer intelligence strategy can’t be overstated. A platform like Idiomatic’s customer intelligence solution would leverage artificial intelligence and machine learning to uncover actionable insights in real time.

The most important thing is to equip product, marketing, and customer experience teams with easy to understand actionable insights. And it’s difficult to do this effectively when you’re waiting for people to pull reports after they’re useful. Put plainly, customer analytics is the key to acting on data, and not letting it languish in a customer relationship management tool.

What does customer intelligence do?

Customer intelligence equips businesses with the power to leverage a wealth of data points spanning customer interactions, conversations, and online activity to capitalize on their customer relationships. It helps businesses improve customer journeys, customer loyalty, and overall sales by analyzing touchpoints, feedback, conversations, and interactions across multiple channels.

Customer intelligence can be used to help guide product roadmap decisions and make the customer experience better. By improving customer experiences, businesses will see improvements in customer satisfaction, retention rates and brand loyalty. When businesses unlock the ‘why’ behind customer feedback, support teams can act with confidence to address and eliminate customer pain points swiftly.

There is no part of the business that doesn’t benefit from having greater insight into customers at their fingertips, 24/7. 

Why is customer intelligence important?

91% of consumers say they’re more likely to shop with brands that provide personalized offers and recommendations.

In one 2019 study, 75.5% of businesses saw increases to their ROI by leveraging personalization. Another survey from the same year found that personalization had a huge impact on American consumers, with 70% saying they’d choose or recommend a brand that personalized their messaging over others. 

All of this means that customers want to know that companies are listening to them and giving them exactly what they want. If hundreds of customers request a specific product feature or have the same complaint about their account login process for years and a company doesn’t take notice, that tells customers they’re not top of mind. Worse, if a competitor offers that feature, you’ll lose customers and their revenue. Understanding your customers inside and out with customer intelligence allows you to make decisions based on the customer’s wants and needs, offering targeted solutions for them.

Today’s marketplace is oversaturated and highly competitive. Companies that don’t take advantage of their data and the messages, both implicit and explicit, that customers are sharing with them, will find themselves losing out to companies who care.  

In this environment and with this context, it begs the question: can businesses afford to not embrace customer intelligence initiatives? 

How do you build customer intelligence?

Building customer intelligence can be broken down into two major components: 

  1. Collecting and unifying customer data.
  2. Analyzing that data to identify actionable insights.

Customer data that contributes to creating true customer intelligence (ie. more informative and powerful than your basic ‘name, email, and region’ CRM fields) can be gathered from many different sources. 

Some of the ways customer intelligence can be collected include:

Lead capture forms

Whether they’re downloading an e-book or checking out of your e-commerce store, the information provided in that form is the cornerstone of your data. It tells you the basic information you need to begin personalizing communications. Form submissions give you email addresses, names, demographic information, geographic data, and communications opt-ins in many cases. It’s always possible to add custom fields to these forms to ask more personal questions about shopping preferences, product sentiments, and more.

Website transactional and behavioral data

The way people interact with your website can tell you a lot about what they’re looking for and when they’re ready to purchase. Behavioral data and transactional data like browsing and purchase history helps you infer what your customers think and feel by showing you what they actually do.

Interviews & Surveys 

When you’re curious about your customers’ sentiments and overall satisfaction, sometimes the best way to incorporate their feedback and feelings is by asking them questions in feedback forms, focus groups or other customer surveys (like net promoter score surveys) and acting on their answers. One of the most powerful components of a customer intelligence platform is the ability to leverage AI to tag and glean insights from qualitative data and natural language feedback.

Support team interactions

The interactions between your customers and your support teams are full of insights around your product, common pain points, and where customers experience friction along their journey. Chat and help desk conversations can help identify customer pain points and guide product roadmaps.

Social media engagement

There are plenty of things your customers might have to say about your business or product that they are more likely to tweet then privately email some anonymous info line. Similarly, social media interactions between your brand and your customers can tell you a lot about brand sentiment and preferred conversation channels. A little social media activity can go a long way when it comes to customer engagement and public perception. The same goes for app reviews and other public discussion around your product.

Individually, each of these data sets is interesting, but until they’re analyzed in unison, they can’t be absolute game changers for your business. Once you’ve identified your data sources, collect and unify them within a single customer intelligence platform for analysis and action.

Building a customer intelligence strategy

As you set out on your customer intelligence journey, there are some key steps that you’ll need to take to ensure you’re on the right path when building your customer intelligence strategy.

Strategy ultimately leads to action, so you have two key decisions to make:

  1. What data are you going to collect?
  2. How are you going to make the resulting insights available to your team to support their decision making?

Whether teams request insights or insights are delivered to distinct teams, the bottom line is that your strategy needs to empower your team to take action and actually act upon the intelligence. Customer intelligence is only valuable if it’s used. 

Customer intelligence tools

Every customer interaction and touchpoint is a key to a greater insight into their ‘why,’ but due to the sheer volume and complexity of the data required to be meaningful, it’s borderline impossible to analyze and interpret this data manually. In order to keep the data meaningful and actionable in the moment when it matters, customer intelligence platforms exist to leverage machine learning to analyze and tag data points quicker than any data analyst can. 

Put your customer data to work

The days of bias confirmation and business decisions based on speculation are over. Get ready to go beyond manually tagged data that’s susceptible to human error, and unlock market potential.

Within a matter of weeks, your business could be seeing real business results from leveraging Idiomatic’s powerful customer intelligence solution, without needing a heavy internal lift to make it happen, having a real impact on your product, marketing, customer experience, sales and customer support departments.

Ready to make your business smarter and more agile? Book a free demo to see Idiomatic’s customer intelligence platform in action.

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