Providing analytics to customers has become a major focus for many organizations in recent years. Offering products and services alone is no longer enough to attract and keep customers. In today’s competitive business environment, companies and consumers are looking for insights into efficiencies, cost savings, and performance in addition to the products and services they buy and use. The ability to measure performance and costs are as valuable as the products and services themselves.
Analytics has become the de facto add-on offering to fill this need. Analytics incorporates key metrics used to measure vendor performance, costs, and operational efficiencies. In combination with traditional business intelligence (BI) historical reporting, machine learning (ML) and artificial intelligence (AI) are techniques used to enhance analytics to uncover patterns, trends, and predictions. Today’s cloud platforms and solutions have now made these capabilities affordable and accessible to companies of all sizes. The time and skill sets needed to develop ML and AI solutions has been decreasing steadily.
With analytical tools and resources being readily available to most organizations, how can companies differentiate themselves from their competition? Often, customer-facing analytics (CFA) is an afterthought. Something made available to check off a box. To really separate yourself from the competition, CFA should be thought of as a product. A focus on customer experience that incorporates quality analytics is necessary.
CFA as a Product
The introduction of the iPod fundamentally changed how consumer technology was thought of and developed. The iPod, and later the iPhone, became the gold standard of consumer product development for many reasons.
In addition to being a solidly engineered device, a great deal of focus was put into design, ease of use, and accessibility to quality content. It was a paradigm shift from being technology-driven to customer-driven, the mindset of “How many features can we offer?” to “How do we create a great experience?” and technology-based to experience-based.
When considering CFA, the same mindset can be applied. What do our customers really need? And how can we deliver it in the best possible way? The answer is: People first, technology second.
What Do Our Customers Really Need?
The obvious first step: Just ask. More specifically, ask your customers about analytics. Even better, engage your customers about analytics. Don’t just ask what they want, but why they want it. How does it fit into their workflow? How does it fit into their business processes? What are their goals? What problems are they trying to solve? How do they measure performance? The deeper your understanding of what your customers’ needs and goals are, the deeper your relationship becomes.
Once a mutual understanding has been gained regarding which information is needed to support the needs of your customers, execute a plan to monitor progress towards the defined goals. Make adjustments along the way. Adapt to changes in the business environment and goals. Your customers’ successes are your successes. This is creating an active partnership in delivering an exceptional CFA solution.
Creating an active partnership with your customers around analytics is the only way it will be successful. CFA must adapt as the needs and goals of customers change. This can only happen by maintaining an ongoing relationship around analytics.
What is the Best Possible Way to Deliver Analytics?
To use our product analogy, the success of the iPod and iPhone was largely contributed to their design, ease of use, and quality content. The same can be applied to a CFA solution.
Design: CFA is an extension of your company’s branding. The portal, dashboards, and reports should have a consistent look and feel. There are numerous resources available that provide examples of various analytic solutions and rules to follow when designing content. A general guideline is “less is more.” A streamlined visual layout looks more professional and is more intuitive to interpret and navigate the solution.
Ease of Use: The organization of – and navigation to – content is crucial to the success of a CFA solution. A cumbersome path to information that a user seeks makes for an overall poor experience. It is even worse if the user must follow the same multi-step path every time they log in. A minimum number of clicks should be required for a user to get the information they need.
Support for multiple user roles adds another layer of complexity. The data needs for an operations user are different than the data needs of an executive. Considerations for meeting the analytical needs of a customer include the who, what, where, and when. An operations user requires transaction-level data in near real time for daily activity. A manager may require summary level historical data on a monthly basis. Executives may require quarterly trends and forecasts. Interactive and exploratory reports are available for analysts. Each user may prefer a different format of data accessible online or delivered via email, laptop, or mobile device.
The challenge is to provide flexibility and customization for users while maintaining a high level of usability and an overall great user experience. Bookmarks, saved searches, and configurable dashboards are a few techniques that can be used to reduce the number of clicks a user must make to get the information they need.
Quality Content: Approach data content in a way that creates as complete a picture as possible. Source content from third parties. Obtain additional data from the customer. Augmenting these sources with your own internally generated data will be required. Identifying this data is an outcome of needs assessment with your customers. The data needed to meet the goals is set by the customer.
Quality Analytics, Quality Customer Experience
Focusing on these three elements is the best route to take in delivering customer-facing analytics. Companies must get beyond the mindset of what they believe a product or service consists of and embrace the concept that CFA itself is a product. Incorporating the customer experience with the delivery of quality analytics must be a high priority.
At Prodigo, it’s our belief that customer experience goes beyond metrics presented onscreen, evolving into a partnership between us and the clients we support. A visualization is simply, by definition, the representation of an object, situation, or set of information as a chart or other image. The actions taken based upon the interpretation of the visualization emphasizes the importance of analytics.
In other words, we must not only identify but – more importantly – implement operational changes to drive trends in the right direction. Prodigo’s customer experience team is committed to rolling up our sleeves and working alongside our partners to ensure analytics drive action in support of our client’s goals.