For those in the midst of updating or creating strategic plans for the upcoming calendar year, it’s go time. Before getting too far down the road, one topic must be assessed with brutal honesty: Do you have the customer insights needed to drive a strategy that will hit the mark in 2014 or are you winging it?
It’s not an easy question to answer. All organizations understand who their customers are to a certain point, without a doubt. There is a difference however of understanding and incorporating customers into your strategic decision-making and goal development.
To get your customer perspective firmly represented in your strategy and operations, you need to give them a seat at the table through the application of solid, statistically relevant data. Here are three check points to ensure customer insight is truly effective:
- Recognize the line between anecdotal and data-driven insight. Most organizations agree customers are at the center of their decision-making. But is it really the perceptions of managers and executives serving as proxy to the actual customer voice? Great organizations know where the line is between anecdotally and data-driven perspectives.
- Manage the customer story that matters. All organizations get customer feedback whether they want it or not! The proactive apply solid research principles to capture customer feedback, but the wise know how to tap into it and make customer perspectives powerfully relevant throughout the organization. Customer insights spotlight excellence, show barriers, reveal gaps and identify challenges that need to be addressed. By the way, these are some pure ingredients of any good suspense plot, which feeds into the power of storytelling on behalf of the customer.
- Turn problems into opportunities. This is where customer insights firmly fold into strategy from a SWOT analysis perspective. Chronically unhappy customers are a weakness to any organization’s success. Just because they haven’t left yet might just be because switching is too burdensome…for now. Early Q4 is the time to re-approach customer feedback with an audit-like focus and find areas that need resolution and improvement.
A point to stress: Customer feedback really needs to be shared with your key management and executive team before you start creating 2014 initiatives.
Do you have time to do this now? Let’s frame it this way: annual strategic planning sessions are just that — a once-in-a-year moment to be exceptionally purposeful toward long-term organizational success with all your thought leaders in the same room. Talk about rare opportunities! Honor this but be sure to arm everyone with the best customer insight you can. It’s not too late, but remember… it’s go time!
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