Have you ever had one of those customer service ‘moments’ where the person you called actually knew who you were, understood what you needed and solved your issue right there and then?  

How did that make you feel? 

When I have an experience like that I want to reach down the phone and hug the person on the other end of the line! Not because they did anything particularly spectacular, but because those experiences are unfortunately so rare.

When we do have moments like these though it means four things have occurred:

  1. We’ve been recognised.
  2. Our relationship has been understood.
  3. The most appropriate message identified.
  4. And it’s been delivered to us in real time. 

An even wider opportunity for fostering these experiences exists online.

This is because:

  • Our underlying consumer needs haven’t changed – we still want to be recognised, valued and treated as individuals, regardless of who or ‘what’ is serving us.
  • Businesses have the all the raw information they need already flowing through their systems.

But when was the last time you wanted to hug a website? 

The bottom line is, the the old way of managing customer data is struggling to keep up with today’s connected consumers. We need a smarter, faster approach that not only brings data together, but puts it where it has most power – in the middle of live customer interactions.

One thing has become clear, success in this area is actually more about people than it is technology. 

Specifically your people, the people who know your business inside out and who intrinsically know what ‘they would do’ given any one number of different customer scenarios, if only they were ‘empowered’ to do so. 

Show me the money

Tapping into this organic ‘know how’ is a critical way to get buy-in for moving into real time.

Unless you have an endless supply of budget and a very trusting board, you will need to first demonstrate that real time customer intelligence can both delight customers and get the cash register ringing.

So here is a tried and tested approach for ensuring your real time customer intelligence initiative is on the money:

 stakeholder spying on staff


Step one: talk to your people

Ask them what they would do when observing certain customer behaviour. Here are some obvious scenarios to start with:

 “We thought Fred Bloggs was a lapsed customer but now he is interacting with us.”

“Ms Smith keeps looking at those shoes but hasn’t added them to their basket… I wonder why?”

 “Given everything we know about Mr Jones and what he likes – how would we change the site for his next visit, what would we say to him?”

“Ms Green doesn’t buy that much from us, but regularly shares our content on Facebook. What is that worth? What should we do about it?”

Seriously, go and print off some customer data and lock key stakeholders / contact staff in a room together and ask them “what would you do?”, “What would a shopkeeper do if he could observe this browsing/buying behaviour in his shop?”

Don’t restrict thinking by what you can or cannot see at this stage, don’t get stuck into ‘the means’ but make sure you have captured the opportunities.

Step two: be a data detective 

Chances are you won’t have immediate access to all the data you really want – but what can you get hold of? What can you infer / use as a proxy? Recruit a friendly web analyst to your cause – what behaviour can they export, even as an adhoc list?

The objective is not to solve the entire data issue, just to find a way of testing out a simple A, B, C hypothesis.

If I observe ‘A’ and do ‘B’ this is what I expect to ‘C’ happen.

Keep it simple, work out which of the opportunities will provide the quickest route to demonstrable returns. Talk to those with experience of deploying real time customer intelligence, see if they can help you can collect three months of data to support your business case. Luckily the technology we work with makes a proof of concept easy to setup – others may work in a similar way.

Step three: test and learn

Use sellotape, blu tack and, yes, even Excel – but find a way of turning that insight into action.

Tip: Don’t forget you can actually use humans in this test phase (you’ll probably learn more this way as well) it’s the process you are proving, not the technology.

For instance, don’t waste three months waiting to integrate and automate the email tool, waste three days getting someone to send emails manually instead – you get the idea.

Obviously a critical thing is to make sure you can actually prove the results of what you have done versus what would have happened naturally. Setting up a control and test group is a highly recommended approach to say the very least.

Step four: the results.

Having collected a few months’ data you should be in a position to quantify results and develop the business case.

Often the justification of deploying real time customer intelligence can be done on just a single area of benefit alone, evidence this and point to the wider opportunities you’ve uncovered. 

So what is real time customer intelligence? 

Boiling it all down, real time customer intelligence is about making informed decisions based on what you already know about a customer, and how they are currently interacting with you.

It’s about being able to recognise your customers and give them the shopkeeper experience across all channels and to be as relevant as possible without being intrusive. 

The trick is to start small, focus on a part of the business that can quickly generate demonstrable results with the right people involved, and if you achieve a fraction of the results we’re seeing, then this helps have those ‘big’ discussions with the ’big’ people in your business about the ‘big’ money to be made from turning so called ‘Big data’ into real time customer intelligence.