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Don't ignore customer data; use it to create a better experience

I recently participated in a family intervention for the first time. It was for a family member whose outgoing and fun-loving personality had been drastically altered after hanging out with a new group of friends. All her closest friends and family members were present and everyone agreed that something needed to change. Negative feedback can hurt, and that’s why we often ignore it. But when it’s coming from those that know and love you the most, it’s probably time to listen.

In business, your customers are like your friends and family. They know you well and love you enough to invest their money into your products and services. It’s true that customers aren’t always right—and neither are friends and family. However, when a large percentage of customers are frustrated, it should be a sign that it’s time to reevaluate. Many of the top companies in the world are starting to pay closer attention to their customer data to drive large scale transformation. Help and support centers are not only a way to troubleshoot individual customer issues, but also a tool to fuel systematic company interventions. In fact, customer data can power key policy changes, new product development, and major rebranding campaigns.

Help and support centers are not only a way to troubleshoot individual customer issues, but also a tool to fuel systematic company interventions.

Customer data fueled a response to customer-driven calls for change

Amid safety complaints, Uber and Lyft used their customer support data to improve safety policies. Customers were turning to the rideshare services’ customer support teams to share experiences that unfortunately included sexual harassment and assault during rides. Customers were not satisfied with apologies or reimbursements. They didn’t want their money back; they wanted to see change,

After taking a good look at their customer support data, Uber and Lyft listened to their customers and made changes to protect them. Riders can now take sexual harassment claims straight to court, ending mandatory confidentiality requirements and arbitration clauses. Uber even decided to publicly share all sexual assault and harassment data. There are now stronger background checks and an in-app emergency button, too.

Have you taken your customers’ pulse recently?

Amazon also learned some lessons the hard way. In 2009, the company removed illegal copies of books from users’ individual Kindle devices. It wasn’t long before Amazon’s help and customer service discussion board (which was more recently updated to a digital and device forum) exploded with angry customer feedback. Learning that it isn’t wise to make decisions without first taking the customer pulse, Amazon reconsidered their policy. Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos put it best:

“If you make customers unhappy in the physical world, they might each tell six friends. If you make customers unhappy on the Internet, they can each tell 6,000.”

A more precise way to measure customers’ reactions to new policies is to run customer data through software that measures sentiment. J Ryan Bradley, CEO of one of the top 20 insurers in the U.S., used customer data to test his idea of no longer accepting credit card payments before making it an official policy. Not only did the data confirm that this was a wise choice, but he was able to identify the main opposition points for customers who preferred to pay with credit cards.

Steve Jobs took a different stance, however, preferring to collect customer feedback after a product launch, even if that means risking frustrated customers who might very well have a lot of complaints. Jobs took a lot of heat when he argued that market research isn’t valuable because “people don't know what they want until you show it to them.”

Although everyone might not agree with Jobs, his theory is really the foundation of how Apple releases its iOS updates. Customers see and interact with the new technology and Apple then uses customer feedback to identify what they need to change for the next update. In the end, it’s customer feedback driving product changes. For example, iOS 12 promises Siri shortcuts and group FaceTime, per customer requests.

In the end, it's customer feedback driving product changes.

You don’t even have to be a tech company

You don’t need to be a tech company like Apple to use tech to gather customer data. Chobani, which makes and sells yogurt, sources customer data directly from customers by integrating their customer support into their social media pages and website. The company uses customer data to decide what flavors to keep, which ones to ditch, and to source new flavors. If you have a new flavor idea for Chobani, share it with them. Chobani’s founder, Hamdi Ulukaya, might even read your suggestion because he receives customer feedback straight to his phone.

Like greek yogurt, lipstick and eyeshadow probably aren’t the first products that come to mind when you think about technology. But L’Oreal used social listening, the practice of tracking consumers’ online conversations about its brand, to fuel the development of their app, “Makeup Genius.” The app was created to satisfy customers’ desire to try on makeup looks before making a purchase. The cosmetics line continues to use their social listening data to help create content for the app they know their consumers will love.

“We’re not a tech company, but we see tech as the conduit to make valuable connections with our consumers,” said L’Oreal’s Senior Vice President of Global Open Digital Innovation and Business Development, Esohe Omoruyi.

Covergirl also used social listening and other types of consumer data to power a recent rebranding campaign. The brand was previously known for its female actress and model brand ambassadors, who tended to be on the younger side of the age spectrum. However, customer data revealed diversity in terms of age, gender, and occupation. As diversity has always been one of Covergirl’s core values, the brand decided to choose ambassadors that better represented its consumers. Some of the new icons will include 70-year-old Maye Musk and James Charles, Covergirl’s first male icon. After customer data revealed that makeup was a tool for confidence—not “easy and breezy”—Covergirl came up with a new slogan: “

Covergirl’s Chief Marketing Officer Ukonwa Ojo said: “The most powerful tool… is listening...really listening and understanding who you are serving and then creating products and services and experiences that absolutely delight them and then you have the secret sauce.”

After customer data revealed that makeup was a tool for confidence–not "easy and breezy"—Covergirl came up with a new slogan: "I am what I make up."

Ojo puts it best: Listen to customer data. Don’t ignore it or let it just sit there. The solutions to problems you need to solve, or great new ideas—or the secret sauce—are there. After all, your customers know and love your brand more than you might think, and they can help you grow.

Hannah Wren is an Email Marketing Specialist using customer data to develop multi-touch nurture programs for several audiences across the customer lifecycle, from on boarding and education to conversion and retention. Her hobbies include trying new foods and thinking about the human impact of technology. Connect with her on LinkedIn.