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Expert advice for developing a customer data analytics program

Find out what it takes to develop an effective customer data analytics program with expert advice on how to structure resources to achieve the best results.

In this section of the "An executive’s guide to customer data analytics and customer intelligence" guide, readers will find out what it takes to develop an effective customer data analytics program with expert advice and tips on how to structure resources to achieve the best results.

Readers will also find a case study on how Ipsos Reid dealt with customer data and a "single version of the truth" after some mergers & acquisitions (M&As).

Don't miss the other installments in this customer data analytics guide
* Exploiting the value of customer data with analytics
* Improve customer data analytics: Tips for using metrics, technologies
* Expert advice for developing a customer data analytics program
* Customer data analytics best practices from top performers

Companies that use customer interaction tools such as CRM, marketing automation and online self-service often ask for guidance on how to develop rules, priorities and even dimensions for use in algorithms.

Hypatia's top three rules for development of customer interaction strategies are:

1.     Know thy customer: For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction.

2.     Determine objectives and goals first.

3.     Ensure your information is accurate before creating interaction rules and techniques.

Once the foundational work of customer data management has been completed, companies need to determine why, how and when they need to exploit customer insight.


In short, organizations need to develop a plan that takes into account current resource and technical capabilities versus future desired outcomes. Certain analytical tools lend themselves to specific real-time customer interactions such as reduction of customer migration or fraud, while others are better suited for long-range customer issues such as loyalty and lifecycle management.

But remember that software tools solve only part of the problem. As articulated so elegantly by Steve Rook, Vice President, Simplification & Expertise Centre, Bell Canada, before selecting an analytics-based customer interaction management technology: “You have to have top-down sponsorship and change the game because a fool with a tool is still a fool … change management is a big part of achieving performance improvements.”

How to create an effective decision science ecosystem

To create an operational foundation for data analysis and decision-support, leading organizations most often take one of these three approaches in capturing, analyzing and utilizing consumer information derived from multiple sources of data:

1)     Self-reliant: Create an internal center of excellence composed of statisticians, analysts and database marketing experts for Decision Analytics services. Partner with the internal IT department to develop a cohesive customer data management process through utilization of a robust data warehouse and business intelligence platform (inclusive of ETL, data and text mining, data modeling and predictive analytics capabilities) in addition to select marketing automation, Web analytics, customer relationship management, data integration and quality tools.

2)     Source expertise: Partner with one or more providers of information services for flexible, on-demand expertise in:

        a.     List and data enhancement (demographic, lifecycle, behavioral, transactional, etc.)

        b.    Customer analysis/customer scoring/cluster analysis

        c.     Packaged models or solutions templates (ex. customer retention, propensity, credit risk)

        d.    Web-based subscription to analytical database (by industry or product-category)

        e.     Custom information analysis services

        f.     Customer data integration, data quality/hygiene and infrastructure services

        g.    Database marketing services: design, production, fulfillment

3)     Hybrid approach: Utilize in-house expertise combined with outsourced information services on a flexible per project basis, annual retainer or subscription model.

Customer analytics software selection criteria: Connectivity and interoperability are critical

While there are challenges to selecting technology that boosts customer analytics capabilities, Hypatia Research LLC believes the vendor landscape represents a strong opportunity for organizations of any size.

The variety of choices is vast. Some target low-end capabilities with trial versions; others offer high-end predictive analytics and modeling combined with multi-channel marketing automation capabilities. Marketing services providers also offer managed services for customer analytics, and these software and consulting capabilities can improve the capture, management, analysis and application of customer intelligence. There is no shortage of choices.

Figure 3: Select providers of customer analytics services and products


Select Customers


CRM Applications


Pioneer Investments, Bell Canada, Rodgers Instruments, HSBC Mexico



Virgin Money Australia, CMC Energy Services, Indiana University, Romanicos Chocolates



Australian Finance Group, Robeco Bank, UVIT Insurance



Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Florida; McKesson; North Carolina State University



Lloyds Banking Group, Ace Hardware, Hallmark, Continental Airlines


Customer Interaction / Marketing Automation Tools


Partners with Epsilon, Experian and other MSPs. Direct: Princess Cruises



MPS Investment Management, Alcatel, InterContinental Hotels Group



Best Buy, Lands’ End, ATB Financial, Wegener News Media


Marketing Services Providers


Levelor, Staples



Barnes & Noble, Walter Drake, TIAA Cref, Johnston & Murphy



American Express, Barclays Bank, Hilton International, Toyota


Merkle, Inc.

The Limited, Samsung Consumer Electronics, DirecTV


Not an exhaustive list of vendors or customers briefed by Hypatia Research, LLC. Source: ©2010 Hypatia Research, LLC

Now, for the first time, even a small business can start conducting customer data trend and pattern analysis in order to improve its customers’ experience, its quality of customer service, or its profitability. More importantly, the previous barrier to entry for most companies -- cost and time of deployment -- has been addressed by on-demand capabilities. These include easy and flexible set-up from multiple data sources.

CASE STUDY: Ipsos Reid: Mergers, acquisitions and the single view of the customer

During mergers and acquisitions, companies acquire more than just financial assets -- they also acquire large amounts of disparate customer data. This was the case for Ipsos Reid, a $100 million (CDN) market research firm. As Ipsos acquired various companies over the years, it also acquired numerous data-marts.

Ipsos Reid lacked visibility across corporate client records, which impeded the company’s ability to communicate and manage relationships effectively. Tracking the frequency, level and channel of communication clients received became corporate goals when Ipsos Reid decided to build a more customer-centric culture.

This presented the following operational challenges:

*  How to consolidate and provide access to client records on an enterprise basis

*  How to increase visibility and track client engagements

*  How to align clients with appropriate products and services

For Ipsos Reid, creating a customer-centric operating environment was a corporate challenge. The company took a centralized approach by creating a repository that contained client, prospect and product lists. To create this, it began a search of the vendor landscape to evaluate potential CRM systems. Ultimate selection was based upon the technology’s ability to:

*  Support robust interactive campaign management

*  Provide ongoing service, support and maintenance

*  Remain viable in a competitive marketplace

With its new technology in place, Ipsos Reid was well equipped to deliver highly personalized communications to clients and prospects -- at every customer touch-point. But technology alone never fixes a business process issue. Organizations that undergo changes resulting from mergers and acquisitions need a phased approach to leveraging technology investments combined with innovative business processes and best practices.

Ipsos Reid’s greatest cost savings can be measured in three compelling areas: productivity, capacity and velocity.

Productivity -- With in-house marketing capabilities, Ipsos Reid no longer needs to rely on external marketing service providers and advertising agencies.

Latency and capacity -- There is virtually no delay in communicating time-sensitive information out to the marketplace.

Velocity – Delivery times have gone from four campaigns a month to four campaigns a day, consisting of highly segmented press releases, direct marketing and webmail.

About the Author:

Leslie Ament, research vice president and co-founder of Hypatia Research, LLC, is a customer intelligence management thought-leader and industry analyst who focuses on how organizations capture, manage, analyze and apply actionable customer insight to improve customer management techniques, reduce operating expenses, and accelerate corporate growth. Her research coverage includes: business intelligence, media intelligence/search/text analytics, CRM, Web analytics, marketing automation and customer data management/data quality.

Previously, Ament served on management teams and led global marketing and market research groups at Demantra, Inc. (acquired by Oracle), Arthur D. Little Management Consulting, Harte-Hanks, Banta Corporation, International Thomson Publishing (Chapman & Hall, U.K.) and Carnegie Hall, Inc. She is a member of the American Marketing Association, Society for Competitive Intelligence Professionals, Customer Relationship Management Association, DataShaping Certified Analytic Professional, Arthur D. Little Alumni Association, Software Industry Information Association and a board member of the Product Management Association.

Ament completed her doctorate Phi Kappa Phi at the University of Illinois, Urbana Champaign and her master's and bachelor's degrees at Indiana University-Bloomington.

Don't miss the other installments in this customer data analytics guide
* Exploiting the value of customer data with analytics
* Improve customer data analytics: Tips for using metrics, technologies
* Expert advice for developing a customer data analytics program
* Customer data analytics best practices from top performers


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