helping you master customer insight leadership

Recruiting and retaining Analytical talent

Recruiting and RetainingThe well trailed difficulties in recruiting data scientists or other analytical roles, followed by the equivalent challenge in retaining them long enough to recoup your investment, have been likened to ‘talent wars’.

There are hotspots around the UK, but it seems all areas to some extent share this experience. London is perhaps the most challenging place to retain your talent, but there is more on the market (in amongst the charlatans & just plain deluded). In my own experience, it has been easier to recruit in South Wales & Bristol (the latter being particularly good for having a pool of analytical talent), whilst much harder in Bournemouth & Edinburgh for example. Several factors can improve your odds, including how you advertise, whether or not you use an agency and especially how clearly you explain the role.

Role description (more…)

Motor Insurers’ Digital Marketing Effectiveness

insurance disclaimer
andrew steinmetz (flickr)

A new type of ‘other post. Given the number of our readers who work within the Insurance sector, I thought it might be helpful to share the results which Global Reviews shared with me, from their Digital Marketing Effectiveness Study (Q3 2014) of UK Motor Insurance providers.

There are some interesting lessons for customer insight leaders from other sectors as well, when you reflect on the key findings into consumer behaviour.

Here are the highlights:

  1. One third of consumers decide, which car insurance provider to go with, via a comparison website

While 92% of UK consumers will use a search engine at some stage of the pathway to purchase motor insurance, 87% actually start the journey there. 30% then move to the brand website, however almost half go to a comparison or aggregator site. 29% are then making the decision to purchase and stopping their journey on the aggregator site. A further 9% of those who visit provider’s site are going back to aggregator sites. (more…)

Celebrate the Health Survey for England 2013

bathroom scalesOver the last couple of days there has been plenty of media coverage as to what the results of this health survey mean. The BBC in particular has debated whether it shows ‘more pill popping’ as a poor substitute for healthier lifestyles, or more ‘treatment where needed’ to prevent more serious conditions.

However, from a Customer Insight perspective, there is something else to celebrate here. That is the continued existence of a large quant longitudinal study of the type that does not happen elsewhere in Europe. A survey that interviews nearly 9,000 adults and over 2,000 children is not to be taken for granted by any business. Couple that with capture of consistent variables (in addition to topical ones) over 23 years, and you have a serious contribution to research evidence in the UK. An interesting throw away remark on Radio 4 yesterday was that the UK is often criticised as the ‘fat man’ of Europe, sometimes on the basis of the weight measurements taken in this survey, however at least for the UK we know the data. Such consistent record keeping of population height & weight does not exist elsewhere in Europe.


How to play to your strengths this year

StrengthsFinder-2.0This book is more of a resource toolkit than a narrative read, but it is one that I’ve found useful for my own development & when coaching clients.

It’s a book for which you’ll want your own copy, not just because you want to make notes & complete the cover with your top 5 strengths, but also because each book has a unique code for you to use to complete an online ‘strengths finder’  test.

That test is grounded in the Positive Psychology movement and in fact this pocket-sized book is dedicated to the ‘father of strengths psychology’ Dr Donald Clifton. The first 30 pages of the book explains the benefits of focussing on your strengths rather than your weaknesses. I have seen this in true with many coaching clients. Too many leaders in business are encouraged to flagellate themselves about perceived weaknesses or have to focus on developing areas where they don’t have natural strengths.

This can be self-defeating for two reasons: first, it often fails – you are asking the person to ‘swim upstream’ against their natural personality which is rarely sustainable; second, that it means people assume they have to be like others in the organisation & so often neglect playing to their natural strengths where they could really excel. (more…)

Coaching – how to choose a coach

Statue of Socrates with the Apollo column in the background (work of Leonidas Drosis)
Statue of Socrates with the Apollo column in the background (work of Leonidas Drosis)

The Institute of Leadership & Management (ILM) recently published a report entitled “Coaching for Success: The key ingredients for coaching delivery & coach recruitment”. There’s plenty of interesting snippets of research findings and practical advice.

If you have time it is well worth a read, but the points which caught my eye were a 3 stage process for coach selection. Following on from some of the concerns I expressed in my last post on coaching, I agree with the ILM that the selection of coaches often still lacks a robust structured process and so am going to share their recommended process as a good example.

This process can be used by an individual for themselves or by someone selecting on behalf of an organisation. It assumes that a long list of possible coaches has already been found. To achieve that you could go as Wild West as a general google search on ‘coach’/‘leadership coach’/‘executive coach’. However, I’d recommend starting with a pre-qualified list like the Association for Coaching (AfC) directory of coaches or equivalents from other coaching bodies.

Here then are the stages that the ILM recommend, to be used like a checklist of questions to ask (plus by way of example, I’ve added what I’d say if asked).

Stage 1: Long-list to Short-list

  • What experience of coaching does the coach have? (e.g. I could evidence my number of coaching hours & cite previous mentoring experience within a large corporate)
  • Can the coach demonstrate an understanding of the leadership challenges in your industry? (e.g. I’ve found some clients value my past experience in customer insight leadership or within the Insurance industry)
  • What training do they have? (e.g. I could evidence  my ILM Level 7 qualification in Executive Coaching & Mentoring)
  • What ethical standards do they work to? (e.g. I share with clients a copy of the AfC code of ethics and explain that I abide by that)
  • What supervision does the coach have in place? (e.g. I use AfC/University of South Wales co-coaching forums)

Stage 2: Getting down to the last few

  • What coaching methodologies does the coach use, when & why? (e.g. my primary tools are active listening, socratic questioning, goal-orientated models & where relevant positive psychology tools like Strength Finders)
  • What price do they charge? (e.g. average fees can vary around the country but between £100-250 per hour is typical, I normally charge £150 per hour)

Stage 3: Final selection

  • What does the coach believe they can achieve for the individual coachee/client? (e.g. this is where a free introductory meeting can help me clarify where I may be able to help or if another intervention other than coaching might help more)
  • What do they believe they can achieve for the organisation? (e.g. like an interviewee, it’s always worth doing your homework on an organisation & discussing context with client, before you can offer a view on this)
  • Will the coach and the coachee/client get on? (e.g. at the end of the day a lot comes down to personal ‘chemistry’, so I will meet up for a chat over a coffee and let us both assess if we feel it can work)

I hope you find that helpful, especially if you are facing this challenge. The ILM also suggests that competency frameworks from leading global coaching bodies can help, but I like the clear simplicity of the above list.

Has anyone found another approach to selecting a coach worked for them? Please share your experience.

What is coaching & should it matter to you?

what is coachingLast night I was reflecting with some fellow executive coaches (at an Association for Coaching, AfC, co-coaching forum) on some of the difficulties this emerging profession still faces. One of those is the lack of clarity in the minds of clients, and sadly some coaches too. So, what is coaching?

The amount of money being spent promoting superficial life coaching or NLP remedies can easily muddy the water & leave this key discipline looking like a bunch of snake oil salesmen or at least wooly thinking “Pollyanna”s.

Given the breadth of professions where clients can be helped by talking, some clients also confuse coaching with mentoring or counselling. One of the benefits of studying the Institute of Leadership & Management (ILM) qualification in Executive Coaching & Management has been an opportunity for me to clarify these differences and learn a robust psychological approach to coaching. (more…)

Festive Others

Christmas_lights_in_Sloane_SquareAs we approach December and experience ‘Black Friday’ becoming more established in the UK Calendar (perhaps without Thanksgiving we can make it a holiday to remember that retailers systems do crash too?), it’s time for a more festive post. This time I’m sharing a few Christmas related insight posts from others. Hope you enjoy them. Ho ho ho…

First, how about some gift ideas for your insight team?


Otherwise, perhaps it’s time for an infographic on the big bird for the big day?


If you’ve avoided the queues, enjoy reflecting on the number of Behavioural Economics biases being used by retailers on ‘Black Friday’ shoppers…


Hope that was a little fun as you look forward to those Christmas parties. Do you have any favourite festive data, analysis, research or database marketing stories to share? If so, please let us know below.