Companies are reconsidering how to identify their
most valuable customers, against a backdrop of the proliferation of new customer
communication channels, including social networks, microblogs and wikis, that
has led to a deluge of information. Customers are sharing not only their
opinions about the brands with which they do business, but their ideas for new
products and marketing strategies as well, according to a new report.
Beyond improving how they respond to customers,
companies that are able to interpret and act upon these insights can also
enhance how they develop new products and operate their businesses.
As a result, this new wealth of information is
forcing a majority of companies to reconsider how they determine the value of
their customers. This is the main finding of a new report,
Redefining customer value: corporate strategies for the social web,
produced by the Economist Intelligence Unit and sponsored by software firm, SAS.
The report, the first of a two-part series, includes a survey of nearly 400
executives from around the world, as well as in-depth interviews with business
executives and experts.
The EIU says while this effort is still nascent -
- very few companies have figured out just how to rewrite the definition of a
valuable customer - - a majority of respondents (75%) say that customers are now
a critical source of innovative ideas. And more than half (55%) say that
customer service is now an enterprise-wide responsibility, indicating a
recognition among firms that customer insights need to be harnessed more
effectively and by more than just the marketing function.
“Executives realise that customers need
to be approached in new ways, to give them a greater opportunity to share
insights and ideas about new products and services,”
says Debra D’Agostino, managing editor of business research at the Economist
Intelligence Unit and editor of the report. “However,
companies still struggle with how to measure the actual value of that effort, or
how to create processes that allow for the easy transfer of customer insight
across the enterprise. Firms that can find ways to do this will have an edge
over their rivals.”
Other findings from the report include:
- Extracting a competitive edge
from these new channels will require improved analysis of customer behaviour.
Analysing the new patterns of customer interactions will not be easy,
considering their high volume and frequency. Given the many ways in which
companies are interacting with customers, data will need to be shared more
widely and analysed quickly and effectively so that the appropriate action
can be taken. This presents a significant challenge: just 52% of survey
respondents are confident that their companies are using technology
adequately to understand customers, and just over one-quarter believe that
their companies are able to respond adequately to new business environments.
- Organisations need to broaden
their approach to market information. In the
C-suite (CEO level), this means that the CMO (Chief Marketing Officer)
should consider how to integrate multi-channel customer feedback–including
via social networks, blogs and online communities—with conventional inputs.
Marketing executives will need to be as comfortable interpreting these data
as they are with traditional means of tracking customers.
- The CMO should partner with
the CFO, and share information more frequently with the legal and risk
departments. Currently, this link has been
forged primarily in the heat of crisis, when companies are facing falling
revenue or a situation that can harm the firm’s reputation.
The quantitative findings presented in the report
are based on an online survey conducted by the Economist Intelligence Unit in
October 2010. A total of 391 senior executives from a broad range of industries
participated in the survey, of which 45% are CEO or above. Around 30% of
executives are based in Europe, 25% in the US and Canada, 26% from the
Asia-Pacific region, and the remainder from the Middle East and Africa.
Participants also represent a wide cross-section of company sizes, with 25%
posting annual revenue of over US$5bn per year.