This article was written by Peter Harris, CEO at Bastion Insights, and first featured on AdNews here.

Single idea.

The centre of gravity in business has shifted from inside the organisation to the customer. Consumer centricity and agile has resulted in more customer research happening than ever before by more people. This has resulted in many more people in the organisation needing to talk to customers and democratisation of information has become an imperative. A whole of company imperative.

The impact of external factors such as COVID, market conditions and laws/regulations has created a few key challenges for most senior exec’s when it comes to managing customer research. These challenges relate to capacity, doing more with less and the perception of being data obese but impact lite. The future of effective use of consumer insights is not about brilliantly insightful market research anymore, it is about something much bigger. Something that delivers clear impact & ROI connecting customer understanding directly to business execution.

What we see

Many business professionals advise that they have more research to complete with less money and fewer people. More people across their businesses are expected to talk and engage with customers. Without models measuring the impact, the businesses are going to lose out. Insight has changed and now the focus is on the impact; about what happens after insight has been delivered.

The way a lot of insight is purchased is part of the problem. Project based rather than part of a continuous strategic approach that stretches right through from customer understanding to activation. What is required are teams of customer and data specialists working together to deliver and track impact. There is a need to have continuous engagement with the organisation. Unfortunately, the transactional nature of ad hoc customer conversations set parameters that limits the strategic narrative. A mindset shift is required from outputs to outcomes.

The rise of customer communities and investment in CX measurement and tracking over time requires impact measurement. The current state of CX is concerning. More customer feedback than ever before, unstructured feedback galore, but we must leverage technology to make better sense of it so to drive impact/action. Technology applied without a clear purpose and without human intelligence in both design and execution is likely to struggle to deliver impact. Many great companies are failing by delegating CX to customer facing roles instead of taking a whole of company approach. It is possible to win by enabling deep customer insights into the hands of the right people, at the right time. We cannot think of it as being owned by one function. WE cannot simply deliver a metric; brands need to understand the WHY at scale. This is how to unite an organisation around the customer.
To build out an insight team that can deliver in this connected era an organisation’s priorities should be to:
1. Provide impact to the business/brand rather than collect data and present insight,
2. Ensure you can integrate data from different sources to see a complete customer picture and
3. Be able to influence change.

Blending Humanisation and Digitalisation.

To do this, you need the right blend of humans and technology. Time between insight and action has shortened considerably in the last 12 months. The ability to harness customer input is moving at light speed. With ever increasing mountains of customer data, leaders need to balance three key factors, doing more with less, being flexible in volatile and uncertain times while developing an ability to deliver value at speed.

To do this you need a customer insight team built for the connected era. One that can understand ‘why’ at scale across all customer touchpoints and using technology to show the right people the story, in both a timely fashion and in ways they enjoy it and understand it. More research is being requested with less experts internally to do this. What is required is a blend of technology and support that extends right through the customer/revenue value chain.

For Agencies it is hard to balance services and technology – especially when a blend of both is required to really deliver value. The business and funding models are often in conflict with what clients need. Customers get frustrated with either service expectations not being met or the tech solutions not self-service enough. This is where a ‘Do it with you’ Agency partnership model can really unlock value for customer experience focused professionals. Human expertise supporting brands to maximize the power of the latest technology.

In today’s connected era, finding the right blend of technology offer and service support will unlock big value opportunities. Too much technology is being slickly sold and then not used to its maximum impact because internal teams are already overloaded. Targeting a hybrid tech and service model is worth the time and focus and will enable leaders to deliver impact, not just data or insight.

So, to achieve greater impact, challenge your customer insight team to think wide. Search for partners that can not only deliver technology solutions to understanding customer feedback at scale but those that can also wrap smart, committed account teams around this tech to ensure the impact is both tracked and delivered in spades.

The most successful brands are balancing this human touch with digitalisation to create impact.