Got Data? Now What? By Sue Morgan, OnTrack Consulting

Most companies gather data (information) from their customers via surveys or interviews. Most companies ask their customers how well satisfied they are with their products, their services, etc. And once they have data, what do they do with it?

What really matters most to customers? It is when the company reviews the data collected and:

1. draws the right conclusions and insights from that data,
2. forms an effective action plan,
3. takes the data results and action plan back to the customers, and
4. improves their performance based on that data from the customer.

How do companies fail after gathering data from their customers? They fail to take the above steps effectively. Or they do all of the above steps EXCEPT take it back to their customers. The company doesn't get any points from their customer, if that customer doesn't know what was done with the valuable and valued data provided. In fact, my experience performing hundreds of surveys and interviews is that not reporting back the results and actions to be taken --- can actually HARM the relationship.

Think about it. Consider that you do business with a company that provides your company with key products and services.

They ask you to complete a survey. This shows the company cares about your opinion and experience, right?
You take the time out of your day to provide input.
You actually want that company to improve.
You need that company to improve its services and products to better meet your business needs.
Their success means your success (if you're dependent on their products or services).
Is that company going to DO anything with your input?

Sharing the results of the data and the actions the company will take, will show that the company cares about customers. This goes a long way towards establishing trust and expanding the relationship.

What makes this situation worse? The company who asked for your input has that customer data. The customer data gets reported in an aggregate form somewhere in the company. It's probably on a dashboard that executives look at quarterly. Those executives may ask: "we're surveying our customers for input on how we're doing, so why are we still experiencing significant customer churn?" Three reasons come to mind: 1) the data being gathered doesn't lead to action, 2) the data is good but isn't acted on, and/or 3) if it is acted on, the customer never hears about it.

What's important? If companies want to ensure customer data collection doesn't fail, first and foremost: they need to ask the right questions to ensure the data being collected is actionable. Don't waste the customers' valued time unless there's a strong commitment that something critical and beneficial will be done based on the customer data.

A final note: Data is only useful when something is done with it. I hear from many companies when collecting customer data, that they get a report and just don't know what to do next. My recommendation: analyze it, create the action plan, and get back to your customer. When that data provides the customer's perceptions of a company's performance it is PRICELESS - when the action taken leads to REAL improvement.

Need help designing a customer data collection program? Need help analyzing your customer data and creating effective action plans? Contact me. I'll put my years of experience to work for you, ensuring your customer data is both valuable and valued.

Sue Morgan

As an HP internal consultant to HP strategic sales managers and HP's Fortune 500 accounts, Sue Morgan conducted state-of-the-art assessments of the B2B relationships. As an independent consultant and co-founder of OnTrack Consulting, Sue enables clients to reap more benefit from their customer experience management (CEM) programs. This includes aligning CEM to other key programs and processes, and providing training to maximize the value of the collected customer data. OnTrack Consulting also creates and manages web-based survey programs, saving clients valuable time and resources.