Dec 14, 2022

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‘Survey says’: Customer intelligence counts

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This is a guest article by Joel Passen, co-founder, Sturdy, a customer intelligence platform designed to help teams improve products, relationships, and revenue.

Dilbert cartoon. First speech bubble says, "Our survey of customer satisfaction shows improvement." Second speech bubble says, "The focus group spontaneously attacked our researchers using number two pencils as shivs." Third speech bubble says, "That's an improvement?" Fourth speech bubble says, "Last year the attack was pre-meditated."

B2B SaaS businesses haven’t invested heavily enough in tools and technologies to help them better understand their customers. Today, leaders still struggle to create a complete picture of customer needs, frustrations, and intent. To a large extent, this is due to a reliance on outdated survey-based systems that, for decades, have formed the foundation of customer intelligence. In many businesses, there are entire teams dedicated to managing surveys and deciphering results.

While many of us can’t rid ourselves entirely of surveys, they continue to fall short for three reasons.

  1. Surveys are a backward-looking tool in an era where customers expect near real-time remedies.
  2. Survey results are often ambiguous, failing to reveal the cause of customer frustration.
  3. Survey data is often seen as unreliable and not contextually substantive enough to drive real business impact.

Fortunately for business leaders, there is an alternative to surveys. Artificial intelligence (AI) allows new customer intelligence solutions to aggregate, normalize, and analyze data at scale. Customer experience (CX) is finally catching up with other business units, including marketing and revenue management, that have already transformed through the aggregation and analysis of rich data sets. Today’s CX leaders finally have a choice. They can use surveys to ask customers about their experiences. Or they can use data about customer interactions to predict whether customers will remain loyal, cancel, or consume more.

What is customer intelligence?

Customer intelligence (CI) is the practice of collecting and analyzing key customer-generated data to glean crucial insights such as risks, trends, and opportunities—all of which help drive revenue.

Imagine if all of the customer data across your company—email, tickets, chats, surveys, community, etc.—worked with your critical systems—CRM, CSPs, BI tools, etc. Now imagine the efficiency your organization can achieve when you’re not only collecting relevant data but you know exactly what steps you and your team need to take to provide a better customer experience based on insights. This is the new world of customer intelligence—distilling the insights from the noise so teams can take the following best action.

How SaaS businesses use customer intelligence

We recently published the “2023 Customer Intelligence Index.” Throughout our interviews and research, we learned that leaders are looking for ways to do more with fewer resources while maintaining a high customer satisfaction rate. The right customer intelligence solution can be a force multiplier by making teams more agile and empowered to make decisions based on more qualitative data.

SaaS businesses are always on a quest to become more data-driven. It’s not enough to collect the data (just because you are logging it in Salesforce doesn’t mean it’s usable); businesses must use it to drive their business forward. When discussing the importance of customer intelligence for a modern-day business, it’s critical to understand the end goal. There are three main areas in which CI can make businesses more effective. They include:

  1. Maintaining product-market fit
  2. Improving quality of service (QoS) processes
  3. Understanding relationships

In the 2023 CI Index report, we expand these concepts and provide additional data on the critical outcomes that customer intelligence can provide, including:

  • Improving net dollar retention
  • Influencing customer advocacy
  • Creating deeper customer relationships
  • Fostering a collective reality for customer experience
  • Democratizing customer insights

Navigating the customer intelligence landscape

The hype about customer intelligence doesn’t come as a surprise. CX has emerged as a top priority amongst cross-functional business leaders, with more than 87% of senior business leaders indicating that CX is the leading growth engine for their businesses. The VC community has also taken a keen interest in customer intelligence-related startups pumping billions of dollars into the space in the past few years. In addition to pure-play customer intelligence, the funding has been distributed across a variety of sub-categories as well. Here is a breakdown of some of the best-represented CI sub-categories.

Customer intelligence subcategories pie chart. Customer intel: 35.9%. Customer intel - sales: 25.6%. Support focused: 20.5%. Customer intel - product: 12.8% Health score tools: 5.1%
Customer intelligence is a rapidly maturing field. And the good news is that there are already incredible CI platforms that can help you get the most out of your data. Using customer intelligence will not only help you increase your revenue, but it’s also a powerful way to help you maintain product-market fit, foster customer advocacy, gain efficiency at scale, and much more.

Whether you’re already sold on the value of customer intelligence or looking for ways to take your business to the next level, download our report featuring industry experts, CI uses cases, and notable vendors. Learn the key considerations you need to know about choosing the right customer intelligence platform for your needs.

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