Benefits and typical challenges when building an on-going customer and competitive insight program

Growth Decisions Inc. All rights reserved.

Growth Decisions Inc. All rights reserved.

Are you keeping pace, but feel like you have blind spots when it comes to your customers or competitors? Would you like to shore up these weak areas, and make sure you have alignment on strategy and growth expectations across your organization? 

Companies benefit from having a sound and well-articulated system to allow them to truly understand and easily visualize how their operations and strategies affect their client relationships and perceptions of their products and services vs. competitive offerings in the marketplace.

Customer and competitive insight is a process that begins with knowing and understanding what customers want and ends with factual evidence of their satisfaction with your company. It also provides useful understanding of the behavior, activities and developments of key competitors that could affect your company’s competitive standing. 

Many companies execute programs like these it as reactive, on-time exercises (i.e. when sales are down, new product are developed or evident menacing competitive threats appear on the horizon) but tend to forget that customers and competitive dynamics change fast and companies need time to plan, develop and executive responses to those challenges and opportunities.  This weakens the company’s ability to properly plan and respond to adapt to changing competitive dynamics.

A more strategic, proactive yet practical approach to managing customer and competitive insight is to provide the company with a continuous market sensing engine that enables management to identifying gaps, threats and opportunities for performance improvement and innovation on an ongoing basis.

A successful customer and competitive insight program will bring the following 6 benefits:

  1. Measure internal performance, customer behavior and customer perception

  2. Identify customer needs and expectations that cover not only products and services but also the overall level of service provided by your company

  3. Enable a review of your processes and functions to ensure they are customer-centric

  4. Motivate, encourage and focus employees on serving your customers and understanding competitive behavior

  5. Map, track and understand competitive behavior of key players so management is able to identify early threats and opportunities

  6. Provide actionable input to organization managers so they can implement action plans to improve the customer experience

Typical challenges faced by organizations implementing a customer and competitive insight program

A successful customer and competitive insight program is not built overnight. It should correspond to the strategy, culture and operations of each company. From our experience, these 6 issues are typical uncovered:

1.    Lack of strategic vision. Some companies see an effort like this just simply as creating a “survey” and do not successfully link the spirit of the initiative with the key strategic priorities of the organization. This usually translates into efforts that do not impact the performance and reduces the possibility of future buy-in inside the organization.

2.    Using only secondary or generic data. Although industry reports are widely available, usually they don't help answer specific issues that your company faces. The more specific the customer and competitive insight to your company situation, the more actionable and impactful.

3.    Neglecting the role of influencers. Purchasing behaviors are sometimes complex and the role of influencers should not be underestimated. They can be also included in interviews in case their input is critical to the behavior of your customers.

4.    Lack of a 360-degree functional vision. What is great for one function (i.e. Marketing) might not be the best idea for another one (i.e. R&D). Therefore, be sure that you understand the global impact of initiatives across all functional areas and not only at the department level where the performance improvement opportunity was found.

5.    Organizational commitment. To be successful, this process should be rigorous, simple, and timeless. It should be supported at the CEO/CMO level to facilitate the process, decide on trade-offs, and provide resources for execution.

6.    Periodic and continuous improvement process. When implemented multiple times, companies can make comparisons, manage metrics, set up corporate and functional goals, and facilitate implementation in future initiatives.

For more detailed information, please read our paper on this matter called “Uncovering customer insight to drive performance and innovation”.