Knowing me, knowing you: How understanding customers keeps businesses in harmony


Anyone suffering from the January blues may find themselves searching the New Year sales to find a bargain that will boost their mood, meaning that retailers often experience one of their busiest times of year. But knowing exactly what customers are looking for – not just in retail but in every industry – is vital for businesses to thrive. A1 Retail spoke to seven technology experts on why businesses need to learn from their customers, and what technology can be used for this purpose.


Getting in sync with customers

When it comes to customers, what can be tricky is knowing where to start in terms of using your knowledge about them to improve company profits. Mihir Shah, CEO of StorCentric, parent company of Drobo, encourages businesses to learn from their less happy customers.


“As businesses consider the technology advances they can make for 2020, many businesses are investing in technology to learn about customer spending behaviour and trends – all geared at learning more about what they want and what makes them buy it. But all too often, businesses make the mistake of focusing on the happy customers and the business growth, and ignore complaints, reviews and emails that highlight any difficulties.


“In reality, customers are at the heart of most businesses and are crucial for company success; improving loyalty, customer service and experience can be the difference between a company that thrives and one that is lost in a crowded market. Knowing and understanding your customer is key to standing out from the competition. So if your organisation is looking to improve and innovate, then it is vital to embrace customer feedback and really take the time to know your customer.”


Gregg Lalle, SVP International Sales at ConnectWise, believes that educating business partners about customer insights is just as important.


“As an organisation, ConnectWise has been educating our partners – MSPs and VARs – on how we have moved to the CX or ‘as a service’ model and how that is different than the traditional model. At the centre of this premise is that there needs to be constant customer engagement. Marketing tends to shift to ‘pull’ from ‘push’, sales focuses on positioning and delivering business outcomes, heavy leveraging of automation for ease of doing business and scalability, and customer success drives adoption and gathers data for future customer needs.


“Likewise, our partners need to engage their customers in the same way. They need to view their customer at the heart of every interaction and then measure (KPI) the effectiveness of their efforts.


“By taking a leadership role in this transformation and teaching our community what they need to do to prepare to engage their customers in a more meaningful way, we are seeing that they in turn are taking those lessons and teaching them to their customers so that they can increase the effectiveness of the overall customer experience.”


More data means more knowledge

“Organisations are continually working to better understand their customers and efficiently deliver tailored services that meet the individual needs of every customer,” emphasises Krishna Subramanian, COO at Komprise. “To do this successfully, a business needs to be able to store its customers’ data efficiently and cost-effectively, and extract relevant knowledge from this data.


“Typically, this isn’t too complicated for transactional structured data, but it is often much trickier with unstructured data (such as videos, genomics files, IoT data, etc). Increasingly, the majority of a business’ customer data is unstructured, and it’s growing very rapidly. Businesses are now in need of data management solutions that help them understand, successfully manage, and extract value from this overwhelming amount of unstructured data, to keep customers happy and confident in the business storing their data.”


Liam Butler, AVP at SumTotal, also agrees that data is crucial in understanding customer needs, and highlights how data analytics can share valuable insights.


“The cloud has brought analytics back into the hands of business users, particularly in HR. In the ‘old days’, business analytics tools were shrouded in secrecy and owned by IT and MIS as part of the on-premise ERP system. Analytics are now part of our daily life, being used to enable insightful decision-making and to predict business outcomes. For example, the linking of workforce management data with training data allows manufacturers to predict workforce capacity planning issues in advance of a product launch, train employees prior to manufacturing demand or move shift patterns to meet demand.”


Keeping data out of harm’s way

Now that online shopping is becoming the norm, keeping the vast amounts of data shared by customers secure is more important than ever. Jan van Vliet, VP and GM EMEA at Digital Guardian, identifies the importance of data-aware cybersecurity solutions.


“While living in an increasingly networked world has its advantages, it also leaves organisations vulnerable to exploitation by malware, inadvertent employee actions and malicious attacks. For security analysts, spotting security incidents arising from within their company, which is arguably their own customer base, is particularly tricky because the attacker may have legitimate access.


“If the credentials being input are valid, the same alarms are not raised as when an unauthorised user attempts entry from the outside. Deploying data-aware cybersecurity solutions removes the risks around the insider threat because even if an adversary has legitimate access to data, they are prevented from copying, moving or deleting it. What’s important when it comes to insiders, in whatever guise, is to be able to detect malicious or suspicious activity and produce real-time, priority alerts that analysts know must be addressed immediately.”


“Mobility. Flexibility. Accessibility. These are some of the most important words that underpin the requirements of today’s workforce,” stresses Anurag Kahol, CTO at Bitglass. “Failure to provide a working environment that supports these requirements can mean the difference between attracting and retaining staff – or being left on the proverbial shelf. The mobile security challenges have been exacerbated in recent years by the rapid uptake of BYOD. These unmanaged or employee-owned devices require access to corporate data, but this increases the risk of sensitive data being leaked, especially if a device is lost or stolen. A further vulnerability is that BYOD devices represent a potential entry point for introducing viruses and malware to the rest of a corporate network.


“When it comes to knowing their customers – in other words, their employer’s workforce – IT teams must address a real dilemma – how to strike a balance between the security needs of corporate data and how employees want to use corporate data. Developments in cloud-based security tools have given rise to a new set of mobile security solutions that means encryption of sensitive data can be extended to whichever popular cloud apps their customers are using – be that G Suite, Office 365, Slack or Salesforce, which means that data is secure regardless of what application a user is accessing via their personal device.”


Putting it into practice

Paul Zuidema, Managing Director EMEA at Ergotron, shares an example of how knowing what your customer needs helps you to design and manufacture products that are suited to these needs.


“The business world is ever-evolving, but one constant that anchors any business is its customer base. Knowing them and anticipating their needs and preferences is key to business continuity. For us, employees working in desk-based, seated office environments are our end-user customers. As experts in designing and producing kinetic work environments, it’s important that we understand how to support their health and wellbeing while they’re at work, and promoting better physical and mental wellbeing through the use of the right ergonomic furniture, in the right kind of work environment. In a similar way, businesses would do well to also regard their employees as a type of internal customer base, providing the appropriate support and working conditions that will ultimately elevate their business bottom line.”


Without their customers, businesses – particularly retailers – would not survive, and so understanding what they are looking for and learning how to deliver it cost-effectively is crucial for growth and development. As these technology experts have highlighted, keeping customers in mind is only ever a good thing, and therefore so is investing in the technology that can best help businesses to do so.


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