Unlocking the value of data
Written By David McWilliam, Director at Cortell Corporate Performance Management
Within any industry, understanding the needs of your customer is of the utmost importance, and in no industry is this more relevant than the retail sector.
Catering to the needs and requirements of customers is the cornerstone of retaining customers in the retail industry, and keeping loyal customers is easier and more profitable than winning new ones.
Lack of customer loyalty is often as a result of poor customer relations, which again makes it vital to have a clear view and understanding of the customer, in order to drive exceptional customer service and retain profitable business.
Retailers have access to a wealth of information regarding their customers, in a variety of disparate sources, which can help to drive improved understanding and customer service.
However, unlocking the value of this data can be a challenging task. Harnessing the power of business intelligence and analytics tools will help retailers to gain insight from their information, but technology alone is not sufficient.
Retailers need to develop a close understanding of their business and what they wish to achieve from data analysis.
This, in combination with the right technology from the right partner, will assist with improving service levels and response times, ultimately improving customer satisfaction and as a result, retaining their loyalty.
Retailers have many repositories of customer information, from both structured and unstructured sources, and it is important that any analytics solution can pull in data from both in order to provide maximum value and insight.
While customer information files, forms and other formal documents can be useful, there is often an abundance of vital information hidden within sources such as emails and call centre transcriptions.
In addition, retailers have access to information from an incredible variety of other sources. Order forms, the content of people’s shopping baskets, enquiries, complaints, warranty information, customer reward programmes, surveys and feedback cards, competitions, and even retailers websites, can provide much fodder for deriving additional insight into customer behaviour and requirements.
The challenge for retailers, however, lies not in collecting the necessary information, but in understanding which information will drive the most useful insight.
Furthermore, while technologies such as Business Intelligence (BI) and analytics can assist with unlocking the value from this information, it is not feasible or particularly useful to indiscriminately analyse all data.
For retailers, the difficulty often lies in understanding the business well enough to know which information should be analysed to derive value.
The reality is that technology solutions around big data analytics are not a ‘silver bullet’ solution. Simply implementing powerful technology without having a solid business case and a road map of what needs to be achieved will inevitably end in perceived failure.
Technology partners can assist with deploying the right technology, but the onus is on the retailers themselves to understand not only what data is available to be collected, but also most importantly what data would be valuable in gaining greater insight into customers.
For example, it is valuable to know what people are buying, and what items they typically purchase together, to improve merchandising and stock levels, and also to ensure optimal store and aisle layout and product placement.
This helps to provide a better experience for customers, which in turn improves profitability. Within the call centre environment, customer complaints can also become a selling opportunity if information is available to offer the customer an alternative solution.
With the right information available, the call centre has the potential to become a positive experience for the customer, becoming a place where retailers can be proactive about responding, rather than reacting to problems.
Rewards programmes too are another area that can be harnessed to drive enhanced customer service, through a variety of initiatives including more effective cross selling.
Understanding customer behaviour and their taste and purchasing patterns can assist retailers with delivering a more personal service and customer interaction.
While the current buzz is all around harnessing social media data, the reality is that using the information you already have is easier and less expensive to achieve, and can deliver excellent results.
Unlocking the power of existing information, before pursuing the information contained within the vast ether of social media, can help to provide real insights that can be actively used to improve the business and its profitability.
Customer information is critical, but the value of information that retailers have to collect is an area that is often overlooked.
Technology itself acts as an enabler and can be fairly easily implemented by the right partner, but in order to gain returns using this technology, the first step always lies in understanding what information you have, what information you need, and what value you hope to derive from the analysis of this data.
5 minutes with... Janthana Kaenprakhamroy, CEO, Tapoly
Founder and CEO of award-winning insurtech firm Tapoly, Janthana Kaenprakhamroy heads up Europe’s first on-demand insurance platform for the gig economy, winning industry awards, innovating in the digital insurance space, and leading with inclusivity.
Here, Business Chief talks to Janthana about her leadership style and skills.
What do you do, in a nutshell?
I’m founder and CEO of Tapoly, a digital MGA providing a full stack of commercial lines insurance specifically for SMEs and freelancers, as well as a SaaS solution to connect insurers with their distribution partners. We build bespoke, end-to-end platforms encompassing the whole customer journey, but can also integrate our APIs within existing systems. We were proud to win Insurance Provider of the Year at the British Small Business Awards 2018 and receive silver in the Insurtech category at the Efma & Accenture Innovation in Insurance Awards 2019.
How would you describe your leadership style?
I try to be as inclusive a leader as possible. I’m committed to creating space for everyone to shine. Many of the roles at Tapoly are performed by women and I speak at industry events to encourage more people to get involved in insurance/insurtech. Similarly, I always try to maintain a growth mindset. I think it’s important to retain values to support learning and development, like reliability, working hard and punctuality.
What’s the best leadership advice you’ve received?
Build your network and seek advice. As a leader, you need smart people around you to help you grow your business. It’s not about personally being the best, but being able to find resources and get help where needed.
How do you see leadership changing in a COVID world?
I think the pandemic has proven the importance of inclusive leadership so that everyone feels supported and valued. It’s also shown the importance of being flexible as a leader. We’ve had to remain adaptable to continue delivering high levels of customer service. This flexibility has also been important when supporting employees as everyone has had individual pressures to deal with during this time. Leaders should continue to embed this flexibility within their organisations moving forward.
They say ‘from every crisis comes opportunity’, what opportunities do you see?
The past year has been challenging, but it has also proven the importance of digital transformation in insurance. When working from home was required, it was much harder for insurers to adjust who had not embedded technology within their operating processes because they did not have data stored in the cloud and it caused communication delays with concerned customers at a time when this communication should have been a priority, which ultimately impacts the level of customer satisfaction. This demonstrates the importance of what we are trying to achieve at Tapoly in driving digitalisation in insurance and making communication between insurers and distribution partners seamless.
What advice would you give to your younger self just starting out in the industry?
Start sooner, don’t be afraid to take (calculated) risks and make sure you raise enough money to get you through the initial seed stage.