helping you master customer insight leadership

3 tips for maximising the impact of your Research team

research team
The winning creative team from the ArtSlam 2010 event by Realize Bradenton (is your team invisible?)

Starting with this post, I am going to share a weekly series of ‘3 top tips’ for maximising the value of each of the different technical teams within a Customer Insight department; starting with the research team.

This content is intended to complement our previous focus on holistic customer insight.

None of what I’m about to share is rocket science and is probably only a reminder of what you knew already. However, these updates will comprise lessons learnt, normally from getting it wrong first, and so are practical advice “from the trenches”. Given recent content has focussed on data or analytics, I will start with some advice for leaders to maximise the value of their in-house research team. (more…)

How to create a culture of action

culture of actionWhilst debating the relative merits of different metrics, I’ve been reminded of the importance of a culture of action within teams.

That debate was sparked by my recent post, encouraging those implementing Customer Effort Score programmes to learn the lessons of what happened with NPS (i.e. don’t waste time arguing over metrics). Ironically this then prompted comments debating the relative merits of NPS, CES or CSat as metrics.

But it’s always good to get comments and debate going, so I’ve enjoyed the ensuing conversation here and on Customer Think blog. Whilst debating there, on the relative importance of metrics versus action, I’ve been reminded of the importance of creating a customer insight team culture which drives action.

Over a decade of creating and leading insight teams has taught me that two aspects of team culture are critical for customer insight teams to make a real difference to the wider business.

One is collaboration between the different technical discipline (to deliver holistic customer insights), the other is action-orientation, galvanizing the team behind a vision of driving change in the real world. This goes beyond delivery of technical analysis or Powerpoint, to focus on the decision & action needed to deliver commercial results and improved experiences as judged by your customers. (more…)

How can you influence the top table?

influenceAs more and more Customer Insight leaders rise in influence within blue chip companies, it seems timely to consider this question. It is not just for Customer Insight Directors (CID), although that role and it’s American cousin (CKO, Chief Knowledge Officer) are appearing in more and more companies.

My last search on LinkedIn turned up nearly 50 CIDs in the UK (excluding research agencies where this job title does not have the same seniority) and over 700 CKOs in the USA. Once again, I’d expect the UK business trends to follow the US. Anyway, whether or not you have risen to the seniority of being called a CID, you are hopefully finding that your executives want to hear from you. So, when you get that call or regular appointment at the top table, what should you do?

Here are just a few tips I learnt through getting it wrong to start with: (more…)

Do you benefit from the full breadth of Customer Insight?

Customer Insight EcosystemDifferent businesses continue to use the term “Customer Insight” to mean different things.

Even in our poll of over 100 customer insight leaders, only half of you considered data management or database marketing to be part of Customer Insight. The majority also had only research reporting into them, not analytics. Does that ring true with your role?

In June, I shared a definition of Customer Insight that I find useful:

“A non-obvious understanding about your customers, which if acted upon, has the potential to change their behaviour for mutual benefit”.

I would stress 4 parts of that definition: First, that insights are non-obvious, they normally require the convergence of evidence for multiple sources to help spot themes and then dig deeper for motivations. Second, that true insights need to be actionable, as there is no point learning something unless you can change commercial results or customer experience as a result. Third, a good test of an “insight” is whether acting on it is powerful enough to change your customers’ behaviour (not just data to  target those you believe will act as they have in the past). Fourth, in this “Age of the Customer”, the importance of trust should mean any insight has the goal of mutual benefit for the organisation and the customer, anything else is short term success for long term value erosion. (more…)

Why should Behavioural Economics matter to you?

Behavioural EconomicsSince presenting at their regional events and writing an article for the CII’s Journal, I’ve continued to hear a demand for more understanding of Behavioural Economics (BE).

It appears the majority of insurers have delegated this challenge to their risk & pricing teams and few are engaging actively with their marketing and customer insight teams.

I think this is a missed opportunity, not just for better compliance with FCA expectations, but also for the commercial gains to be made from better designed communications.

That said, I suspect the majority of you have at least heard of Behavioural Economics. In recent years, the success of popular books on the subject, have ensured plenty of media coverage and social media debate on its implications.

Easy to read books, as introductions to the subject, have included “Nudge” by Richard Thaler & Cass Sunstein. More comprehensive and challenging is a classic text like “Thinking Fast & Slow” by Daniel Kahnemann. Both are well worth reading but there are now many others to choose from.

What makes this subject of greater relevance to the Financial Services industry, however, is the influence of Behavioural Economics on the thinking of both the UK Government and the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA). Government policy is being influenced by the work of their “nudge unit”. Meanwhile, the FCA has commented that it expects companies to consider how their customers actually make decisions. (more…)

Leadership coaching for you?

Coaching at workHave you experienced the benefits of coaching? Years ago UK business leaders appeared to just see this as an American business fad (for a culture who have also embraced the benefits of therapists and given us great TV like “In Treatment”). However, over the last decade more & more UK businesses have embraced executive coaching and the academic evidence for efficacy has grown substantially. Even in 2005, 88% of UK organisations reported using coaching and by 2009, 93% of US organisations.

The next revolution in coaching for businesses is the expansion of coaching to a wider leadership population. Once the preserve of CEOs or main board members, progressive businesses are now seeing the benefits of expanding to all directors, talent pipeline candidates or in some cases team coaching for the wider organisation. My personal interest is in the benefits of coaching for the rising star that is today’s Customer Insight Leaders. As I have blogged before, there is a growing trend to create Customer Insight Director or Chief Knowledge Officer roles, often for individuals who have never held C-Suite level responsibilities before. Such leaders are ideal candidates for coaching, not because of any deficits, but rather to ensure that they perform as well as possible and achieve the challenging goals for this new strategic focus.

So, what does coaching entail? Very briefly, the term covers a multitude of approaches and has many possible definitions. But most experts now agree that executive coaching can be defined as: “A relationship based intervention. Its focus is on the enhancement of personal performance at work through behavioural, cognitive and motivational interventions used by the coach, which provide change in the client.

That more academic definition hints at the fact of multiple models or techniques which can be used, where helpful, to facilitate sessions. The qualification that I’m completing on Executive Coaching includes learning coaching models including: Goal-Orientated; Cognitive Behavioural; Positive Psychology and Neuro Linguistic Programming. My own experience of coaching executives has taught me that different models can be appropriate at different times, with different clients, in different organisational contexts. The most important skill is still genuine active listening, but frameworks to help guide sessions and clear goals to be achieved do both help.

I’m encouraged by the positive messages being given by a number of organisations with regard to the importance of coaching (including ones as diverse as Network Rail and Mencap in this month’s “Coaching at Work” magazine). However, I have not yet seen this commitment applied to the Customer Insight leadership population. I hope that change will come and I am focussing part of my business on helping to meet that need.

Have you seen the benefits of coaching or mentoring in your leadership role? I’d love to hear more about your experience of this emerging profession.

Why you need your analysts to be storytellers and how to develop them

storytellers

I wonder how many of you value being a storyteller, as one of the most valuable skills in your analysts or data scientists. Do you?

Even writing that it seems a strange thing to say, almost an oxymoron for such quantitative roles. Surely you can’t expect these specialists to also master the humanities?

However, as I look back over the pieces of analysis which have driven most change in the businesses I’ve served, it is those which told the most compelling story that made the biggest difference.

This of course is not really surprising at all. Our researchers and all those with any social science background will tell us that storytelling is deeply embedded in human societies.  Over millennia we see examples of the most important truths for one generation to pass onto another being encoded in stories. (more…)