Data: The Key to Better Understanding Your Customers

With increasing pressure to demonstrate ROI of customer experience and design investments, the most sophisticated organizations are finding ways to use data to support these strategies. While measuring the impact of design outputs or digital experiences on business outcomes is a key piece to the puzzle, harnessing data to directly inform customer experience strategies is another, potentially more impactful, piece.

As customer expectations evolve more rapidly than ever before, understanding how to effectively and efficiently harness the massive amounts of data available to better understand and meet customer needs is critical to staying competitive. As we’ve observed with companies like Apple, Netflix, and Venmo, the ability to deliver intuitive, personalized and valuable digital experiences to customers is paramount. Further underlining the importance of experience, companies like Blockbuster show how failing to evolve your customer experience can eradicate decades of brand equity, rendering even the largest of companies irrelevant.

Begin with a fact-finding mission
So, how do you leverage data to deliver a best-in-class experience to your customers? It starts with understanding your organization’s full data landscape — specifically, what data types and sources exist, and what can each tell you about your customers? While most people immediately think of web analytics or sales data, it’s important to throw the net wide when considering customer experience. In fact, from a customer experience perspective, we see that the most powerful applications of data bring together both quantitative and qualitative inputs. For example, while website click data is great for identifying current behavior flows, call center data often highlights needs that are completely overlooked by the current digital experience.

Create data-driven journey maps
One of the most powerful tools for understanding customer behavior and prioritizing business opportunities is a data-driven journey map. This output brings together qualitative and quantitative data, distilling thousands of data points into an actionable illustration of a customer’s end-to-end journey. It provides all the benefits of a traditional qualitative-led journey map—surfacing customer behaviors, needs and pain points in the context of current or future experience touch points—with an additional layer of quantitative data. This quantitative data can be used to size and prioritize the most meaningful areas of the customer experience and ultimately drive strategies for growth. Layering quantitative data into the journey map also helps organizations identify key success metrics that can be used to set benchmarks, articulate improvement goals and measure performance for relevant points of a customer’s journey.

Data-driven journey maps are a tool for design methods to be leveraged across industries to better meet customer needs and maximize the value of investments.

Bringing all the pieces together
Now comes what many organizations experience to be the hard part – bringing it all together. With multiple data owners, formats and priorities, obtaining access to the right data can be extremely difficult. Overcoming these challenges requires a strong data-driven culture that promotes close integration of data, people and decision-making. While most organizations recognize the importance of this type of culture, implementing it takes dedicated effort and time.

As companies struggle to respond to changing customer expectations and pour millions of dollars into digital transformation efforts, the value of data has never been more clear. Those who embrace the transformative value of data are the future, while those who do not are quickly becoming the past.

If you’d like to learn more about our data strategy practice or have a project you’d like to discuss, email