Our databases are bulging with data. But oddly enough, so few companies ever seem to do much with all that information. Which is a missed opportunity – because there’s valuable information everywhere for the taking.
Take your finance system, for instance. It contains all of the information you need to demonstrate the 20-80 rule. In other words, 20% of customers generate 80% of turnover. But we bet that your list of best performers has a number of surprises up its sleeve. Does it contain companies that you didn’t expect would be part of your leading group of customers? Often these are loyal customers that have grown steadily, yet virtually unnoticed. And if you take the time to analyse your customer base in detail, you’ll discover some interesting things you didn’t know. For example, where will you be this time next year if your customer base keeps changing as fast as it has done in the past three years? Which customers will buy the most products and what impact would the departure of your two biggest customers have on your business – or, indeed, what would happen if you gained two new big accounts?
Your e-mail traffic can also be an important source of information. For example, you might discover that one of your customers only signed a contract after you sent them 15 e-mails. So there must be measures you can take to shorten the turnaround time. Or you may find out that the person who ultimately signed your contract is not necessarily the decision-maker.
“When data gets fragmented, some potentially interesting insights may slip under the radar.”
Why is it that businesses are not good at carrying out these apparently straightforward exercises? One of the first reasons is awareness. People don’t realise how much fruit their efforts can bear. Of course it is difficult to know in advance what insights you might come across. Plus, these efforts do require you to spend time and energy. And this frightens off many companies.
A second reason mainly relates to your organisation. Companies generate a great deal of data, but are not always very good at structuring that information. For example, take your appointments and phone calls. In an ideal world, you would record every customer contact in a central system, including all of your e-mails and even the way you handle complaints. A CRM system is an excellent tool for doing this. By collating all your information centrally, you create more structure. You need this cohesiveness to draw useful conclusions. But what do we see in practice? That data is fragmented in many companies. Information circulates in standalone applications that not everyone has access to, or which is kept locally on laptops or the network. This fragmentation has one major drawback: potentially interesting insights slip under the radar.
“Share your financial data. That way, the sales department can make more efficient decisions.”
Take a look outside. There’s a good chance that people are talking about your company on the World Wide Web. Your customers may be having their say about their dealings with you in all sorts of forums. You should also take a look at review sites. And then there are the tweeters, who entertain their followers with all kinds of utterances. And don’t forget the classic media, either. All of the items about you doing the rounds deserve your attention, whether they are positive or negative.
Finally, a tip to end with. Share your financial data. For example, introduce a credit rating system to your CRM. This may help the sales department to make decisions more efficiently. Imagine that your salesforce has identified a dream customer. The company looks dynamic and highly professional, etc. You want to start working with them. The only downside is their dodgy credit rating. But if you know that, then your sales people can take it into account and may want to do business with another company in the same group that has a better credit rating. That way, you gain the customer and the credit manager can sleep soundly. So everyone’s happy!