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by Olivia ‘Libby’ Duane Adams, Chief Customer Officer, Alteryx, Inc.

During a financial downturn, maintaining consumer confidence and rewarding loyalty is pivotal. Yet, this requires an organisation to move to a move customer-centric approach – considering the needs of the customer, over immediate sales. It’s the long game but those that play it well will be rewarded by earning the right to do business and more business as well as customer loyalty even during an economic crisis. Those that don’t will see unhappy customers turn to their competitors in a bid for reassurance. How to navigate this long game requires customer insights that far surpass experience alone. How to gain these insights requires embracing data and analytics.

Facing our fears

Data and analytics play an essential role in understanding – and responding to – customer demands and expectations for every business. The issue is, however, is that some business leaders have come to fear the outcomes that data and analytics recommend anxious that these data-driven insights are disparate to their own understanding and experience. While in need of the optimisation that data and analytics can bring, some business leaders have been guilty of resisting data and analytics in favour of an ego stroke. Yet, as the downturn continues, businesses must look to reconcile their innovative efforts with the requirements and expectations of the customer – and not their fears.

Thankfully, alongside the Chief Information Officer and Chief Technology Officer, there is another member of the c-suite who is using their experience to champion the use of data and analytics across the business – the Chief Customer Officer (CCO).

Prioritising technology in customer-centric change

CCOs are responsible for ensuring the satisfaction of customers within the business – it’s the same today as it was in the 1980s. The difference, however, is customer expectation. Technology has had a major impact on how customers interact, build relationships and expect loyalty to be rewarded. Platforms such as Twitter have provided customers with public forums to openly share their feedback with businesses and brands uncensored. For CCOs, ensuring that the business can keep up with this change is important as listening to and learning from what customers tell you is vital in 2020.

The problem, of course, can often be in the monitoring of these interactions. Twitter is just one platform of many that customers can use today to share feedback or engage with a business.  Yet, these interactions hold valuable data that can, when analysed, tell you something about how to improve the customer experience to maintain confidence and ensuring loyalty. In fact, when customers give you feedback, it means they care. This cannot, and should not, be overlooked.

Contrary to belief, analytics can be introduced in a number of simple ways that have a huge impact. For example, using text analytics to review the sentiment of social media or survey responses. Alternatively, another well-known practice like the Net Promoter Score can provide analytical insights for an organisation that wants to understand how customers are using products and services with success, or where improvements can be made. When combined, these insights can then be used to inform the delivery of products and services, showing the customer that we can through action. The reality is, when an organisation acts on feedback we, as customers, feel that they care for us too – and our loyalty grows.

These examples aren’t difficult to implement and offer important information on how customer experience is being impacted. And yet they do require organisations to have tools that make analytics accessible – not only to the data scientist, but for every data worker who is usually equipped with little more than a spreadsheet.

The Curse of Captain Hindsight

With the pandemic amplifying the shortcomings of businesses processes, some now wish they had embraced data and analytics sooner. As lockdown saw customers move online in unprecedented numbers, those with little to no virtual presence had to adapt quickly. Yet, today’s customers expect more than just a functioning website. It is essential to deliver an unmatched, personalised customer experience digitally. Being data-driven is central to this. Those that were unprepared have suffered, while others who were already well-versed addressing customer needs through data and analytics thrived. Take fitness apparel and accessories brand, Gymshark, for example.

Even before the pandemic began, Gymshark recognised the importance of incorporating data and analytics to improve their processes and correlate customer expectations with their business objectives. This ensured that, when lockdown began, Gymshark were already operating online and could expand their digital presence to get in front of new and existing customers in the places they resided with ease. This ensured that despite the devastating impact that the pandemic has so far had on our high-street, Gymshark remained fit and thriving.

Sadly, this success story isn’t the same for every company and an “analytic divide” is now emerging among businesses in the UK where companies with access to analytics and automation skills are leaving those who lack those capabilities behind.  As CCO, we must play a major role in encouraging all business leaders to fully embrace data and analytics to improve current processes, skills and, as a result, customer experience. If neglected, businesses will remain stagnant and eventually, cease to exist as customers go elsewhere. I’ve seen it more times than I care to admit to – resistance, evolves into fear, which prevents innovation, and cannibalises experience. The cycle perpetuates.

Amidst uncertainty, many firms will shy away from making changes and seizing opportunities for growth. But, frustratingly, there is no better time to embrace data and analytics.  Empirical evidence is invaluable in mapping business objectives, ensuring customer satisfaction and meeting demand. What’s more, at such a time, the importance of delivering exceptional customer experience that keeps the end customer in mind at every stage cannot be underestimated. By re-exerting ourselves as customer advocates and taking part in the digital transformation process, we are ultimately able to dispel growing concerns on how to steer the ship to satisfy both business leaders while never losing site of the customer.

Olivia Duane Adams (Libby) is the chief customer officer (CCO) and co-founder of Alteryx, and one of only a handful of female founders to take a technology company public, along with her founding counterparts, Dean Stoecker and Ned Harding. Libby’s vision and leadership in the creation of the world’s leading data science and analytics community is a key factor in the company’s 20+ year success. Under Libby’s leadership, the Alteryx Community has grown both on- and offline, serving as an incubator for the workforce of the future and empowering women in business via the Alteryx Women of Analytics initiative.

Libby recognized early on that creating a customer-centric culture went beyond delivering a successful product experience and set out to enable a global community of passionate data lovers, where Alteryx users can solve more together, boldly step into the unknown, and achieve more than they ever thought possible. Libby spearheads the growth of the Alteryx Community as an engaging platform online as well as offline, with support for local and topic-focused user groups, launching what is known today as the Alteryx Inspire user conference and introducing the Alteryx ACE program.

Before co-founding Alteryx, Libby held various sales, customer, and marketing roles at Strategic Mapping, Donnelley, and VNU Business Media.

Libby earned a bachelor’s degree from Castleton University in Vermont and is an active member of the university’s alumni association.

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