How Customer Care Data Can Help Drive Business Strategy

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How Customer Care Data Can Help Drive Business Strategy

Companies today generate a lot of data about their customer experiences. From crash reports to A/B testing to optimization, they’re tracking every step of the customer journey to improve customer care.

Unfortunately, much of that data is still used quite myopically. It takes a very narrow view of the value and potential of customer care data for a business. Companies still often silo this valuable information into post-purchase customer experience decisions, focusing on reducing time to resolution and troubleshooting, when this could be some of the most insightful feedback for your company that can drive and inform business strategy moving forward.

This isn’t to say that focusing on better customer service experiences shouldn’t be a goal with this information, and many companies are improving as they become better at analyzing this data into actionable intelligence. Companies’ customer service experience is still one of the best ways to build loyalty and ensure and the future health of your business.

Customer care data can be put to so many other uses, though, touching any number of points across a company. It provides feedback from the most important and impactful focus group that that could be assembled – their existing customer base. Why wouldn’t companies want to take advantage of this information in guiding other aspects of their business, if it can be harnessed and optimized for those insights?

It’s easy to imagine these scenarios, because in many cases they are already happening. That data is being collected, it’s simply not being analyzed and applied in even more meaningful ways.

For example, a new product launches and the support site is updated with new information and troubleshooting scripts. The product is performing well, and self-service explanations of potential problems are resolving many of the customers’ issues effectively. However, many customers may be searching the support site for information on a certain feature that may not exist for the product, or how to integrate it with another service.

The customer service department should recognize these queries and provide the sought information for users, even if it is an answer that the product doesn’t support that feature. But too often, that is the end of the data feedback loop – post-product triage. Yet here customers are telling the company an added feature is wanted, so shouldn’t this information guide product development more closely? This is an opportunity to take real-time feedback from customers and deploy it for guidance on what the next step for the product should be.

The above example is fairly elementary, and many companies do of course pay attention to customer feedback in V2 developments of products. (It’s still surprising, however, how many don’t yet effectively cross-correlate this data). Now imagine if companies dove even deeper into customer care insights as market research to guide how their future strategies. Here customer service becomes the front line for recognizing market opportunities, especially as companies grow and need more real-world market feedback guiding their expanding business strategies.

Let’s consider a very real world example ripped from the headlines with which we are all likely familiar. The feedback from users over Apple’s pushing out the new U2 album directly to their iTunes accounts, for free even, caused an unanticipated (though in hindsight, not surprising) backlash.

What can we do with all that customer feedback, even though it’s negative, to positively drive future business strategy? We of course don’t have the detailed customer service data from Apple, but the reaction has been vociferous enough for us to consider some potential insights just on the surface.

First, Apple responded to customer concerns by putting up a special support page on how to delete the album. This was straightforward customer service triage. More interesting is the potential strategy intel and market opportunities that the iTunes and Apple music teams might have a gained – an aspect of Apple’s business we can assume to be reasonably integral to their strategies evidenced by their recent purchase of Beats, and continued speculation on how the music service will ultimately be integrated.

The music teams were hopefully watching closely, and can turn that bad customer experience feedback into effective market opportunities. They learned, for example, that push is not an effective strategy in this situation. Yet there is also something interesting here in the potential conflict of models between iTunes as owned music library vs iTunes as cloud streaming service that arises in the customer feedback.

The amount of space that the U2 album took up on your device was minimal, so why did so many customers revolt against it? The data may point to any number of reasons, and should be dissected (ie, actual figures on plays vs. deletions vs. signups, etc). Apple has a huge opportunity to learn about their customer base by correlating everything they know about their customers to the actions taken by customers. Ideally, they could find indicators in the data that would help them to improve adoption of future product and marketing endeavors while reducing customer backlash. Through this analytical data mining exercise, they could predict future behavior of users that were not interested, and indeed even somehow insulted, by having U2 in their library.

Maybe this is just hipster image control among Apple’s fanbase, but this reaction actually opens some interesting market opportunities as Apple music reinvents itself. Certainly the data will be useful in considering owned vs streaming models moving forward, and how exclusive deals will be offered. But perhaps Apple should offer more personalized giveaways – ie artists and albums based on what users already have in their library or stream the most.

Here we have two potential strategies come to light – opt in, and more personalized exclusive offers. The market opportunity in the latter could be valuable as no other streaming music service is really doing this aggressively. Furthermore, the feedback suggests a desire for more personally relevant, curated but individually controlled music experiences — information that might support something like Google’s recent purchase of curated playlist service, Songza.

All of this is speculation, of course, but Apple will have the real data from customer experiences and interactions to analyze and parse into their future music business strategy. If creating a new customer service page is the extent to which they use this information, then they will have missed a major opportunity to turn a bad experience into a proactive and data-supported strategy moving forward.

Most businesses won’t have the volume, or amplification, of feedback from customers that Apple has responded to, but all businesses should be looking at their customer service information not simply as holes to be filled, but rather as business strategy opportunities to be revealed. After all, making those strategic decisions in the dark may lead to pushing something on customers that they neither needed or wanted.