“Gathering intelligence” might sound like something that’s straight out of an espionage movie, but marketers do it, too — specifically, gathering customer intelligence (CI). Why? Because right now, the customer is more powerful than ever. In a study from Dimensional Research, a whopping 90% of people who read online reviews said that their purchasing decisions were influenced by positive reviews, while 86% said negative reviews swayed them. 

Consumers nowadays are likely to investigate the real value of products instead of relying on what a company says. The key to being successful in this instance is to be proactive — you should know enough about your customers so that you can predict and address issues before they even arise. The way you do this is with customer intelligence. 

What’s Customer Intelligence?

Think of it this way: Business intelligence (BI) encompasses the technologies, applications, and practices, for the collection and analysis of business information. It’s a way to support better business decision making. Customer intelligence is similar, in that it’s for better marketing decision making — it’s the collection and interpretation of information about customers through quantitative methods (like data and analytics), and qualitative methods (such as customer surveys and focus groups).

When you combine customer intelligence with a customer relationship management system (CRM), it helps you build your customer relationship strategy for improved customer service and increased customer retention

Example Sources of Customer Data

Customer Intelligence begins with reference data: basic vital facts about the customer, such as their geographic location. Then, you need to supplement this information with reports of customer activity, like purchase history. 

Below are a few ways to collect customer intelligence. You can use these methods to glean customer information such as what industry they work in, their interests and hobbies, where they get their news from, and much more. 

Closed-ended surveys and online quizzes (Quantitive): When a survey or quiz is closed-ended, it means that the respondent can’t provide unique answers — they have to choose from a list of pre-selected options. For example, a closed-ended question is, “Would you like to go swimming or running today?” as opposed to, “What would you like to do today?” 

You can use closed-ended surveys and quizzes when you’re trying to:

  • Get a higher completion rate. Closed-ended questions provide an easy survey experience because customers can choose from a list of pre-selected answers.
  • You need statistical significance. Closed-ended answers are conclusive so that you can get statistically significant stats. For instance, with closed-ended questions, you can come to the conclusion that 60% of people like beans and 40% don’t. 

Open-Ended Surveys and Questionnaires (Qualitative): Open-ended surveys and questionnaires give you rich qualitative data because they prompt a conversation. They’re used when you’re looking to get an in-depth understanding of your customers by delving into their feelings and motivations. An example of an open-ended question in a survey would be, “What are the top priorities for your business at the moment?”

You can use open-ended surveys and questionnaires when you’re trying to target answers from smaller groups of people. Sometimes there are too few people to gain any meaningful statistical data so open-ended questions will give you more valuable input. 

Focus groups (Qualitative): A focus group is a market research method that brings together diverse people to provide feedback regarding a product, service, concept, or marketing campaign. Use focus groups when you’re trying to figure out your brand perceptions, decision processes, and consumer language. 

Success With Customer Intelligence

To effectively use customer intelligence, you must have the three building blocks in place

  • You need to find a way to efficiently collect the enormous amounts of customer data across numerous channels, including purchasing patterns and customer activity on your website.
  • You need the technological infrastructure to analyze the gathered data so you can have actionable insights. In short, you should be able to segment your customers into groups based on lifecycle stages.
  • You need to be able to optimize future marketing actions based on your analyses across all communication channels. 

How Customer Intelligence Can Help Your Business 

Customer intelligence is critical to your business because the where, what, and when are almost meaningless without the why. Why are customers acting a certain way? Why have they stopped doing business with you? Why are they happy? 

Customer intelligence empowers your business to make smart, strategic decisions based on what you know about your customers and their experiences when interacting with your company. Overall, customer intelligence boosts customer loyalty, improves your sales efficiency, and helps build a more relatable persona for your brand. When customers feel like they’re having an excellent experience with your company, it makes you more than a brand, it makes you their friend.

Ready to further discuss the importance of customer experience? Let’s talk about the common customer experience metrics you should be measuring. Read more here

Angie Tran
Author