You Can Collect Customer Data and Deliver a Better Experience Without Violating Privacy
Create customer loyalty with these real-world strategies.
Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.
Companies of all sizes collect information on their customers. Whether it's contact information or tracking buying behaviors, we are constantly collecting data purposely or indirectly.
Sometimes these intended motivations can be used to violate privacy. Take Uber's God View as an example. But, what about the companies that use their data collection to better their customer experience without harm? Being an entrepreneur myself, I obsess over collecting what I call "customer intelligence." I use the information, when appropriate, to deliver an experience my customers have never seen before.
The three affordable ways I collect customer intelligence is for these purposes:
- Continuously increase the value delivered to customers which increases loyalty.
- Empower my team members to have fun, overdeliver and challenge themselves.
- Build an admired brand.
1. Create a Customer Advisory Board (CAB).
At Baro, the 16,000 sq.ft. restaurant and venue in Toronto that my partners and I built, we have created a Customer Advisory Board. Consider it a new-age focus group without executives peering behind a pane of glass.
A CAB is a mix of selected customers who volunteer their time to provide you feedback by way of intimate conversations. These customers aren't just your most loyal customers, I recommend inviting customers you have wronged in the past to ensure you are given multiple perspectives.
Related: To Grow Your Business, You Need to Handcraft Your Experience With Early Customers
The meetings take place monthly or quarterly and are round table conversations where customer share positive and negative feedback. I also recommend sharing new products or procedures with this group. For example, if my restaurant has new food or bar menu items rolling out, I would first share it with our CAB members to gather their feedback. If you're a B2B company, you may want to share your new invoicing system and process with your customers. You should leave each meeting with more knowledge on the current state of your customer experience than before you started.
I don't recommend monetarily compensating your CAB members with cash because you want them to genuinely want to be there to better your business. However, you can compensate them in other ways. I give our members exclusive access to events, allow them to try food and drinks before anyone else and, on occasion, give them gift cards. You'd be surprised how many of your guests would jump at the opportunity to work with you if you simply ask.
Outcome: CABs have provided me massive success in my career because it's the intimate conversations we have during meetings that can't be found in traditional customer surveys.
2. Social media stalking (with integrity).
Pardon the title of tactic number two but after all, isn't following someone, whether it's online or offline, a form of stalking?
Appoint someone in your business to search your customers' online channels, and funnel the information to the person responsible for managing the customer experience.
Every one of my companies has a Single Point of Accountability (SPA) within the business -- this person could do this full-time or part-time depending on the size of the business, affordability and bandwidth -- to leverage information found online to create never-seen-before customer experiences.
If I managed a moving company and noticed that my customer, who I was helping move in a week (finding the information well in advance is imperative), constantly tweeted that he loved Canadian Ice Wine after a trip to the Okanagan Valley in British Columbia, what do you think I would arrive with in hand?
Now, this is where most companies go wrong. You can't approach your customers with "Mrs. Anderson, on Tuesday, I saw that you tweeted that you liked Canadian Ice Wine. I picked you up a bottle to show you my appreciation."
The approach must be more subtle to influence the positive experience. This is how I train my team. "Mrs. Anderson, I appreciate you giving us the opportunity to help you move to your new home. My team and I can't wait to make this a hassle-free experience. Please accept this bottle of Canadian Ice Wine as a token of my appreciation."
Related: You Sell Experiences Whether You Realize It or Not
You can expect the following things to occur for your business by leveraging this customer intelligence:
- Your customers will become loyal because no service provider has ever done this before.
- Your customers will refer more business to you because of the experience.
- Your employee's morale will increase because your customers will be a pleasure to work with.
Outcome: These are the affordable things companies of all sizes must do to leverage their customer intelligence and deliver storytelling experiences to customers and guests.
3. Leverage your employees. They harness more data than you may expect.
As an entrepreneur or business leader, your frontline employees may speak to more customers in one day than you might in a month, quarter or even a year.
After this has been acknowledged, it may propel you to create an Employee Advisory Board. Like the aforementioned CAB, the EAB is also a form of listening by way of in-person conversation. During these monthly conversations, ask your team members to share ways that they believe you can improve the customer experience. After all, they are the trusted team members who live within the systems and processes you have built. I guarantee a great customer loyalty strategy will come from this meeting.
After each meeting, it's vitally important that you close the loop with your team members to ensure that you have followed up with their suggestions. Some of their ideas will be deployed while others may be too costly or not the right time. Either way, to continuously motivate your team to bring forth new processes, you must make them feel that their voices are not only being heard, but acted upon.
I don't recommend inviting managers to these meetings. Why? Because they have already been labeled as leadership. You want to dig one layer deeper and grow your next layer of leadership. One thing I know very well is that customer-focused companies build massive companies. Take Airbnb, Amazon and Warby Parker as case studies.
Related: 6 Strategies for Being a Better Listener
Outcome: If you devote your company to becoming customer-obsessed, you will grow, which means you will need more leaders. EABs are a surefire way to collect customer intelligence to grow your business and develop leaders for the future.
Your CRM software is full of data, whether it's email addresses or the last time your customer purchased, but what else can it be used for? I recommend that you devote a section within each customer file and label it "customer intelligence." It's the area where you train your team members to record appropriate information about your customers to deliver an experience your customers have never seen before.
Do this, and expect your customers to become more loyal -- which will help you sell more products and services.