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New thinking for new times

Customer know-how is based on a simple, brutal thought.

That if you want to improve customer performance, you first need to know what creates – and destroys – it in customer terms.

Then, you need to focus on this to the exclusion of all else.

Analysing something is not the same as improving it.

The great gift that digital has given us is an explosion in the information about customers – behavioural, transactional, social – that’s available to brands.

All of which is brilliant, and we are fortunate to work in such a world.

But information is not action. And analysing something is not the same as improving it.

The explosion in information and tools has not been matched by a comparable increase in our ability to bridge from these to effective action.

Instead, a growing proportion of time and resource is given over to collecting, analysing and reporting customer information, with the focus on ‘new insights’.

This is squeezing out the space in which to properly think through what things mean.

And to explore – purposefully, imaginatively, entrepreneurially – how we might use what we know to improve customer and, thereby, commercial performance.

Here, suddenly, we hit rock.

A brutal simplicity of thought

The reason brands need customer information is to use it to improve performance. That’s its sole purpose and its true value.

So, tracking what matters to customers should  drive better commercial performance; measuring customer experience should translate into increased loyalty and lower churn; segmenting customers should  increase sales and/ or reduce cost to serve… and so on.

For that, brands need to be able to distinguish ‘the signal’ from ‘the noise’. To sift out ‘what matters’ from everything else, and to focus on this single-mindedly.

And that means starting from what you want to achieve – from outcomes, not inputs – and working backwards to what you need to know.

As M&C Saatchi would say, a brutal simplicity of thought emerges:

  1. Start from what you want to achieve.
  2. Think through what you need to know.
  3. Find out what’s known already and infill what’s missing.
  4. Work through (a) where you should invest, and (b) what you should measure.
  5. Execute, and align your customer performance metrics.
  6. Throughout, focus on what creates – or destroys – customer performance.

Very simple.  Very clear.  And a lot more difficult than it sounds.

Which is where Customer know-how comes in.

Five basic principles underpin Customer know-how

[1] Think outcomes:  Regardless of market, brand or brief what matters is the desired outcome.  Start there.  Work back.

[2] Think ‘and’ not ‘or’: No-one thing is the answer on its own. So think people and screens; research and data; digital and real world; small data and big data; brand building and sales activation; new and existing knowledge; qual and quant; intellect and intuition. Above all, customers and money.

[3] Think customers and money: Follow the money, not just the customer. Connect customer measures to commercial ones to show how improved customer performance drives financial performance.

[4] Think human and small data: Get into the real world, spend time with customers, go into their homes, explore their lives, look for the detail that illuminates the big picture. Use small data to develop the hypotheses that help make sense of big data.  Above all, think human and small data first.

[5] Think know-how not just insight: Know-how is practical knowledge of how to do something. Customer know-how is the commercial application of insight.  There are five sources of insight: asking, listening, collecting, observing, connecting. Customer know-how draws on, and synthesizes all five.

These five principles define our approach and how we think.