Data Mindset – Creating a System of Action

In this hybrid digital age where we are constantly glued to our phones, skimming online websites balanced with in person transactional experiences consumers and companies feel left out in the cold because they don’t know how to properly listen and engage with client needs. Customers (me included) feel like we’re not being heard by companies – be it our technology providers or local grocery store.

Customer service is in my blood – I love to help others and serve. I loved working in retail because it enabled me to listen to clients, meet them where they were and make a transactional moment an enjoyable experience. Working in a large department store as a specialist for many years I exceeded quotas and actually remained in a customer facing role outside of my college background because I saw a way to help customers connect with the products they need in the moment and across their journey.

I didn’t see my retail job as simply being a cashier, I sought to understand what my clients liked and disliked. I asked how they’d like to be contacted about promotions and new merch and set up my own client book. Crazy and time consuming – but I wrote hand written thank you notes and emailed and texted about sales. If I knew they had a family issue or celebration (birthday) – I called to check in. It sounds crazy to spend that much time on client interactions – but the data shows it paid off. I was strategic and truly engaged in every interaction. The personalized touches were not darts in the wind but mindful meaningful interactions because I LISTENED to clients and wanted to help guide them with helpful information and that led to sales.

If I had simply focused on ‘we have a big sale today and buy this because it feels,’ I would have gotten the sale – and at times that’s sufficient, but in this crowded marketplace we need to be impactful. You can drive a car by starting the ignition and hitting the accelerator, but want sets the best sales professionals apart is the ability to ‘listen and pay attention to the road/surroundings’ and ‘steer accordingly.’

I still hear from many of those clients years after leaving retail and I love the relationships we built. Many clients because repeat customers and fueled my success simply because I met them in the moment. If they had a complaint, I listened with empathy and worked on a solution with management. Sometimes issues couldn’t be resolved, but the empathy and trust of recognizing I cared about them and their ‘why’/’want’ helped with retention and also acquiring new customers.

I bring this up because too many businesses lose site of how to truly tap into what their clients need/want. As sales people we often think we understand the ‘why’ because we have the ‘what’ – but even with the best data, the best insights, the best discovery – without a system of action that truly meets the customer along their journey companies and sales professionals will fail.

Companies have a product that can help, Sales people have a solution to a customer problem. On paper come deals should close immediately just based on data – but a data mindset goes beyond raw data – it looks at the holistic picture.

  • Why are the clients looking for a solution
  • How do they make money
  • What is important to them
  • What is important to their clients
  • How are they connecting with their clients
  • If they implement the solution HOW are they going to use it to solve the problem
  • What barriers are there

I work at Qualtrics and invented Experience Management to help with core business challenges. These are focus points I’ve worked on targeting my entire sales career because being in the field we have blinders on sometimes. We see our POV and not the customers. We only look at certain data – but don’t act on it. We get feedback but don’t change anything.

Experience Management focuses on improving experiences across the customer and the employee journey.

Let’s look at Retail:

A department store has an online website, social media page, in store presence. Due to COVID things are short staffed and customers are concerned about safety. The companies that have excelled in Experience Management in the pandemic have used a DATA MINDSET to research sentiment from across listening posts (social media/online/in store/surveys) and not just let that data sit or put the feedback on a ‘to do list’ – no They use the data mindset to translate that feedback into meaningful action on an individual client journey and across the entire ecosystem of the business.

Agility is key. Listening is essential, but you still need quantifiable data to ensure you are targeting the best response and predictive action.

Many companies small and large have a way to collect feedback – be it a phone call complaint or online survey – and some are good at fixing the issue in the moment with an apology or refund. But it is still a one off situation.

You have several key issues:

  • Companies collect the feedback or spend exponential amounts of money on researching the market, but don’t actually listen to understand the customers and their specific place in the market (brand identity). Example: Retail store sees that competitor is starting a surf line of clothing so they do the same – but the reason for x department stores churn isn’t because success of competitors clothing line – it is because they don’t have a good return policy and are out of a lot of sizes. Their new clothing line may be great – but it doesn’t speak to their consumer and ends of costing them business. Competitive advantage is not always trying to copy and improve – you have to look within your company brand and figure out how you should differentiate based on your consumer market.
  • No omnichannel listening mechanism:
    • How often do you get frustrated when you call in to a company (say an airline to change a reservation) and you speak to a customer care clerk. Tell them the story and issue – but they are not empowered to solve the problem? So you are sent up the chain, but the supervisor says it will take a few days to fix and they’ll be back in touch. You wait and eventually get an email from support – but your case is closed with no resolution. So you reach out via chat online and repeat the process and it is exhausting.
    • Businesses must meet customers where they best connect – some Social Media, others in store, phone…etc…but you need to have an omnichannel view into that customer journey. This DATA Mindset means you can be more efficient in dealing client support tickets and can also ensure you tailor marketing and follow-ups based on their needs. A system like Qualtrics can help with this, which I’ve enjoyed learning about in my current role.
    • Get a system in place so you can aggregate your data and take action on it.
  • All the great feedback tools but no system of action.
    • 99% of customers I believe want to stay loyal…but 80% stop working with a business after one bad experience. Clients just want to be heard and know you care and want to help them. The only thing more frustrating than a bad experience is complaining about it and getting no help from the feedback. It not only burns bridges with the client, but they will tell their friends about the issue and it cuts your business. With a Data Mindset you must have a system of action.

Focus on Data Mindset

  • Invest in a software that can help you drive the right insights and work to ensure you have the data and actionable steps to meet the customer in a meaningful way and along their customer journey
  • Businesses cannot rely strictly on their ‘What – what they do’ – but also excel in providing quality and EFFICIENT customer experience. The customer experience isn’t about bending over backwards necessarily – but rather using the data to listen to real needs and act on them in real time. Treat customers like people.
  • Use the data to help support customers along their customer journey. Tools like Qualtrics can help.
  • Use the data to get to the real ‘Why’ to ‘why you have churn/attrition/’ then use that data to empower the business to make across the board changes to ensure retention and how you need to invest and grow moving forward
    • Example: a shoe company is losing business even though they have great social media presence and celebrities like their shoes. For years they have been seeing slumping sales and feedback that the shoes are great but website won’t work leading to #cartabandonment. Up until this point – the shoe company thought they just needed to advertise more an invested millions in superstar endorsements. The real ‘why’ though wasn’t quality of shoe or brand recognition – rather clients couldn’t buy the shoes consistently on the website. The feedback wasn’t being heard. No actionable change. When they did act they could focus on repeat sales and expanding revenue generating share of pocket.

Why does this affect me as a sales professional?

You are in sales to make a difference. I truly believe sales is one of the most important careers because it is about listening, learning and helping to connect people and solve problems. As a person of faith I jokingly say God put me in sales so I can help people and also rely on HIM to hit my quota (we all know the prayers of the end of a quarter).

We have limited bandwidth so we need to be meaningful with our interactions and have a Data Mindset too.

Sure 100 calls gets you to 5 meetings booked – but why are you meeting with them? What is the data for that call – how can you use the feedback/data/information from discovery to drive the conversion towards a meaningful dialogue.

I am going to be focusing on Solution Selling in February – but without first taking the data we got in discovery and analyzing with a Data Mindset you cannot move into a solution sale successful. You need to understand from a client perspective their expectations, needs and how you can target that. Why leads to the data behind why and that empowers the HOW – how are we going to solve the solution can can we close the loop and provide meaningful impact.

*Note – I work at Qualtrics, but this is my own post. If you want to learn more about Experience Management – the XM institute is a great start.

Please add me on LinkedIN – love to connect with readers

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