Rapid advancements in technology mean consumers now have the power to dictate the rules and control their relationships with brands.

Chief Customer Officers (CCOs) must ensure their companies are able to keep up with these expectations about quality and speed of service, in addition to the data that arises from these behaviours.

Business’ are undergoing a customer-centric transformation

Amongst the variety of economic schemes Chancellor of the Exchequer, Rishi Sunak has initiated, he has recently proposed a government grant to small businesses per trainee they recruit. This initiative is mutually advantageous to the government as they prepare for the economic burdens that increased unemployment stimulates, but also facilitates an opportunity for innovation as businesses look to prosper.

Now more than ever, with enhanced customer expectations and emerging technologies, the CCO must pave the way for organisations to champion customer-centricity through the momentum of digitisation.  Nonetheless, this innovation requires the combination of democratising data, automating business processes, and leveraging human ingenuity to allow businesses to undergo a positive transformation.

According to a recent McKinsey report, customer-centric transformation entails an entire rethink of a business model. A fundamental change of mindset focusing on the customer can generate a 20-30 percent uplift in customer satisfaction, a 10-20 percent improvement in employee satisfaction and economic gains ranging from 20-50 percent depending on a business’s specific objectives, according to the firm. Although such fundamental changes may seem daunting, the benefits are palpable to those who undertake the journey.

Listening to customers and learning from what they tell you is vital for success in 2020 and beyond. But, to enjoy this success, businesses big and small must ensure that data analytics is central to identifying, responding to, and developing communications with the customer – allowing a mutually prosperous relationship to blossom.

At present, when data is used it’s often used in a descriptive way – condensing data sets into short summaries to reinforce gut decisions.

While this may provide decision-makers with a level of reassurance, the information provided can lack insight from across the organisation and often arrives too late to prove actionable. Sadly, this is a trap many businesses have fallen into time and time again.

They understand the need to put customers first but fail to fully embrace a data-driven approach to support this business strategy.

It’s time for the CCO to be heard and their focus supported. With the help of data analytics, the CCO can play a leading role in a company’s digital transformation efforts, championing customer-centricity during this change.

Championing technology in Age of the Customer

Forrester calls this “The Age of the Customer” – and for good reason. Customers are savvier than ever and have never had so many options for how to spend not just their money but their attention. Customers have an unprecedented ability to inform and express themselves across a wide variety of channels – and they also have an unprecedented desire for authentic relationships with brands.

CCOs are responsible for channelling customer desires within the business. Technology has had a substantial impact on how customers interact, build relationships and expect loyalty to be rewarded. For CCOs, ensuring that the business can keep up with this change is integral; through responding to and shaping innovation as a result of customer feedback is the foundation of recognising the “Age of the Customer”. When a customer provides feedback, that means they care.

The problem, of course, can often be in the monitoring of these interactions. Quantifying these interactions unlocks a myriad of valuable data that can, when analysed, tell you something about how to improve the customer experience to maintain confidence and ensuring loyalty.

From text analytics to simply reviewing the sentiment of social media or survey responses, analytics can be harnessed and utilised in numerous ways that require little effort yet have a huge impact to the wellbeing of your customer base. Such insights are invaluable in informing the delivery of products and services and most importantly, ensure that the customer is the thumping heart of any business-critical decision.

The reality is, when an organisation acts upon feedback we, as customers, feel that they care for us too – and loyalty is enhanced.

Hesitation allows opportunity to be lost

With the pandemic amplifying the shortcomings of many businesses, many now wish they had embraced data analytics sooner. What once was the season of beachwear for high-street retailers, quickly became loungewear as lockdown forced the nation into more comfortable clothes as their staple. Those data savvy were able to recognise this shift in demand very early and reflect it in their products and services. Take fitness apparel and accessories brand, Gymshark, for example.

Lockdown meant a big change for Gymshark’s core customer base of gym-goers, forced to reconfigure workouts to reflect the sizes of their living rooms. It also meant the fitness brand was attracting a whole bunch of new customers, enticed into healthy living by the surge in home-workouts available across social media. Using Alteryx, Gymshark were able to alter their website strategy quickly based on data insights. They could see what categories and products were performing well among different segments of shoppers, and tailor their website homepage to boost visibility. These insights were also shared with the marketing and sales teams, who then tailored products and services to further capitalise on customer demand. Unlike many others in the market, Gymshark’s early adoption of data analytics has allowed it to thrive – providing the and responsiveness needed to weather the turbulent storm that is Covid-19.

Unfortunately, the success of Gymshark has experienced during the pandemic has been few and far between for others. And as conditions toughen further in certain markets, we are beginning to see an “analytical divide” emerge between those embracing the full force of data analytics to stay one step ahead and those not.

CCO’s keys to the kingdom

The CCO has a significant responsibility of encouraging business leaders and C-Suite executives to fully utilise data and analytics to improve their legacy systems. The consequences of neglecting data-driven insights can be devastating, as I’ve seen time and again, businesses that remain stagnant will eventually cease to exist as customers will divert their valuable attention elsewhere. Fear encourages resistance, which inhibits innovation, which naturally causes the demise of many companies.

Now more than ever, business must confront their fears and innovate in response to the “Age of the Customer”. Although many businesses will shy away from innovation and seizing the opportunity for growth, due to the uncertain economic landscape.

One fact remains certain, that data and analytics provide certainty amidst uncertain times. Empirical evidence is invaluable in determining business objectives and maintaining customer loyalties. It is crucial to deliver exceptional customer responsiveness at each and every stage of their experience, to initiate a mutually beneficial relationship. Through understanding ourselves as customer advocates and contributing to the digital transformation process, we simultaneously dispel both customer and business fears whilst also, embedding customer-centricity into business objectives.

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