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7 ways small businesses can leverage customer data

Jennifer Lonoff Schiff | March 28, 2016
Marketing, customer experience and data experts discuss what small and midsized businesses can learn about customers from the data they collect.

“By tracking what product a customer buys, and when they buy it, SMBs can send promotional offers to bring the customer back in for a replacement when they are most likely to repurchase,” adds Mark Harrington, vice president of marketing at Clutch, a consumer management platform. “Timely offers not only deliver relevancy, they can also be viewed as a valuable service to the customer, which can translate into stronger affinity and loyalty to your brand.”

3. Identifying lapses in operations.  “By spotting patterns in when customers complain and what they complain about, business owners [can] identify specific locations, processes or even employees that don’t maintain the company standard,” says Troy Ruemping, senior associate, Point B, a management consulting firm. “The challenge is to blend data that is sufficiently aggregated to identify reliable patterns (rather than outliers) with data that is sufficiently localized to identify the culprits.”

“[Customer data] can help you discover and solve problems that otherwise may be hard to find,” says Jill Soley, vice president, marketing, Freshdesk, a provider of online customer support and help desk software. “For example, one customer of ours that ships wine domestically discovered through their help desk reports that there had been a disproportionate number of errors, where the wrong bottles had been shipped to several customers,” she says. “By providing additional training to their quality control team, they were able to [reduce errors] and make their customers happier.”

4. Improving customer support. “Understanding your customers and using the data you have about them is critical to customer support,” says Robert C. Johnson, CEO, TeamSupport, a provider of B2B customer support and help desk software. “Smart companies share customer-related data with their support teams so that a support agent can understand the whole relationship with the customer and see at an instant what products they have, what recent issues they have experienced and also notes or comments from the sales team about the account.”

5. Developing new features and products. “Mining data from support interactions can [also] be a goldmine for developing future versions of your product,” says Johnson. “The customer support team is on the front lines and communicates with your customer base every day. No other group in a company is as close to the users of your product as your customer support team, and the interactions they have on a daily basis with your customers are invaluable for understanding how your product is used and what features may be missing.”

“At the end of each call or email from our support team, we ask [customers] if there’s a feature they’d like to see in our product,” says Eric M. Ebert, marketing and communications manager, Lookeen, a provider of desktop search software. “These are added to a whiteboard in the support office, so everyone can see what the issues are. If a feature gets 10 votes, we add it to our ‘roadmap’ Trello board to discuss at our monthly development meeting.


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