Make customer data your business fuel. By Tanmaya Varma

More than 90 per cent of the world’s data has been created in the past two years, according to Aureus Analytics. As the rate of growth continues at such unprecedented speed, the challenge for businesses is not capturing this data, but using it. With the rise of the Internet of Things and data now coming from everything from cars, washing machines and fridges, the data deluge is only set to rise.

In 2017, the ability to evaluate and apply aggregated data successfully will be the new common ground for the entire c-suite. Not only will it be essential for retaining existing customers and converting prospects into new sales, but also new initiatives around delivering on customer experience will fault at the starting block without a comprehensive view of customer data. In fact, properly managed, big data can create value and generate new revenue streams for manufacturing organisations. With an organisation-wide strategy in place, big data gives businesses the power to inform better decision-making, streamline the supply chain, improve capital management, and even co-ordinate individuals within and outside of the organisation for custom projects. The opportunities are huge.

However, the danger when dealing with data is that organisations can’t cope, overwhelmed with the amount available to them, and don’t know where to start to make it useful. According to a recent study by EY 32 per cent of respondents are overwhelmed by data, and while 81 per cent agreed that data should be at the centre of decision-making, only 31 per cent have adjusted their operations accordingly. In the growing digital business world of today, companies who do not embrace big data, or know how to structure it, could see their competitive edge slip away and face extinction in just a number of years.

With this in mind, businesses need to understand how to use data to deliver insight to help drive their customer experience, and the services the business offers. Therefore, the key to success lies in analysing data to gain useful information through breaking down their data into bite-sized, usable chunks.

The customer journey
When looking at implementing a data strategy, it’s important to align your internal business operations with the typical lifecycle of your customers. This can be done through what is called a ‘customer journey exercise.’ By mapping the customer journey, any organisation can identify how a customer typically goes about making a purchase decision with the company. These exercises help to identify the areas where crucial customer data needs to be captured and puts a business in a position to continue to evolve and improve its services.

Through having large amounts of the correct data to peruse through, businesses can extract customer habits, customer behaviour and other significant patterns that can drive the personalisation and efficiency of services.

Using data to enhance the customer experience
In the world of manufacturing it’s easy to forget about the importance of delivering a personalised customer experience but business can be won or lost on this very principal. There’s plenty of evidence to support this statement. Consulting firm Gartner found that 89 per cent of marketing leaders expect to compete primarily on the basis of customer experience by 2016, compared with 36 per cent four years ago. Today, any manufacturer seen to be slow in their response to changing customer demands risks losing business in an instant – equalling millions of pounds in lost sales.

Sennheiser Electronic, the audio design and production specialists, has made some remarkable progress in this area. Significant global business growth and channel diversification made it clear to Sennheiser executives that they could no longer rely on homegrown solutions that kept data in isolated silos. They needed a more holistic approach, which made their divisions work more efficiently together and ultimately provide a better customer experience. They invested in technology from SugarCRM that could provide them with the flexibility, agility and scalability they needed. This enabled Sennheiser to map the entire customer life cycle and build a 360-degree view of each interaction.

The power of data analytics
Possessing consolidated information and knowing how to use it will allow businesses to give the customer what they need before they realise they need it, rather than offering someone something they might want to buy. CRM technology is an integral part of this process, providing the tools needed to synthesise customer information gathered across channels and platforms, and turn it into insights that can be translated into actions, practices and processes. Having these insights at your disposal will in turn empower a business to build deeper relationships with its customers, and support the growth of the business through helping it to keep up with industry demands and improve sales and service operations.

With the manufacturing industry growth at a 30-month high, according to the latest Purchasing Managers Index data, factories are gaining momentum. Therefore, if manufacturers wish to capitalise on the industry impetus then they must arm themselves with meaningful data. Through this, quality customer experience can be ensured and, its ability to retain and attract customers can help boost business revenue.

In today’s information economy, data is power, but only when it is insightful. The right CRM systems allow data to be ‘big enough’ to provide important insights but simultaneously ‘small enough’ to remain manageable, accessible and relevant. For organisations looking to avoid the big data deluge, tools are on hand to, help them make the most of their data, rather than becoming overwhelmed by it.

Tanmaya Varma
Tanmaya Varma is Global Head of Industry Solutions at SugarCRM. SugarCRM enables businesses to create extraordinary customer relationships with the most empowering, adaptable and affordable customer relationship management (CRM) solution on the market. Unlike traditional CRM solutions that focus primarily on management and reporting, Sugar empowers the individual, co-ordinating the actions of customer-facing employees and equipping them with the right information at the right time to transform the customer experience.