Customer Insight or Circuit Overload. By John Hendrie

A tsunami is in the news, and that is with what we now deal, a huge wave of daily data.

We start our day with a simple premise.  The better I know my Customers the better I can serve their needs, respond to their concerns, deliver a quality product or service and make a profit.  My Finance people have all sorts of reporting systems for me to track performance.  My Managers carefully watch our employees, attentive to scheduling and productivity.  I get out from behind my desk and walk about.  Also, I have all those social channels and on-line avenues available to provide me with data, information and insight about my Customer.  Why do I feel inundated, bombarded, crazed and inert?  Easy– too much Customer information and Feedback to effectively manage.
It used to be so simple.  We had a Comment Card system.  Write me about your Experience.  A small percentage indeed did that – we learned from complaints, smiled with praise, while we kept those cards in inventory over there in the corner.  We would also respond, usually in writing, perhaps a phone call to that Customer, establishing a lasting relationship.  But, our world changed, became wired, started to move ever so quickly.  We had to look at our marketplace not monthly but almost minute by minute to keep competitive and responsive.  Our Customers were an impatient lot.  They had taken advantage of technology, and we had to react on their terms, not ours. 
So, we began to automate how we learned about our Customer.  Smaller, niche businesses could continue to rely on Comment Cards and the personal relationship; most of us had to take our Feedback approach to other levels.  We figured as long as we controlled the means, we could control our reputations.  We began to invest in automated Feedback Systems, where we could push out requests for information about their stay, meal, shopping or show with us.  We collected Consumer information – an e-mail address or cell phone number, far more than that home address of yore.  We let our Customer know we wanted to hear about their Experience with us.  And, they responded.  We sliced and diced that information,   and we learned, with many of us managing by Dashboard – who and how is doing what, where?  Automation was a great tool.
Then, boom, a shift in Feedback started to occur, where our Customers, Fans and Foes alike, started to take things into their own hands – Social Media and User Generated Reviews.  These were new avenues, where we had no control of what was shared, and they were powerful.  A Buzz on Facebook or Twitter could make/break a business or topple a country.  Opinion ruled the airwaves and cyberspace – everyone a critic, a “talking head”.
Social Media was about building relationships throughout a network.  This became a terrific means for marketing, and, if we managed the flow, we could also resolve problems, complaints and innuendo.  We hired Digital Managers to compile, translate and respond.  User Generated Reviews were a different animal altogether.  Opinion to make a buy decision or book a room or table is impacted by these reviews.  We may not ever be able to control the slams we may receive, but the first line of offense is to be aware of what is being said about our lodging or restaurant.  If you do not know, you cannot respond. 
Fortunately, there are companies and automated systems available which bring all this information to you, further simplified by compiling the data on your existing Dashboard.  That is where your power resides.  Just as we seek critical information  as we drive our cars, our boats or planes, all the information you need to better manage and navigate the Customer Experience can be synthesized into a Dashboard – data both solicited and not.  You can cross that Digital Divide, integrate fact, fiction and opinion, and prosper!