IBM has one. So does SAS. does, too. Spotfire helps companies build them. KL Communications has built their own. What are “customer intelligence platforms” and why is everybody talking about them?

They are the most widely adopted and inherently useful system for generating actionable insights around new product development and corporate strategy. Specifically, Allsit, 451 Research, RPat Research and several other market research firms, including KL Communications, rank “customer intelligence platforms” as the most important tool in the toolboxes of marketers today.

Customer intelligence platforms are loosely defined as a software solution, essentially the combination of analytics, visualization and decision support, but can be so much more. Such platforms have the starring role in collecting customer data, analyzing it to discover patterns (i.e. insights) and then prioritizing those insights to spur an actionable response to the identified needs of the customers. It is a research platform, typically an organized online community with processes and protocols for engaging and interacting with customers, designed to tap into the individual and collective mindset of the customer base around a particular brand.

In the Absence of Customer Intelligence

We are living in a digital era with a global marketplace that both fuels innovation and notches up the intensity level around competitive advantage. As a result, consumer feedback is mission critical. Although there are fewer reported examples of the fallout that ensues when customer feedback is misunderstood, the repercussions are equally important. This is a topic of broad interest and relevance to the market research community which has been discussed previously at KL Communications.

There are numerous examples of products floundering in the absence of consumer feedback. For example, the Newton® MessagePad – innovative well over a decade before the iPad™ – but it offered nothing that consumers wanted or needed at the time. Computing mobility? Why did anyone need that? The HP® TouchPad™ was launched years later and eerily similar to MessagePad but offered none of the magic that its Apple® counterpart did.

How do Customer Intelligence Platforms Work?

Fast forward to today where more than two-thirds of all data is consumed on-the-go. Perhaps more than ever before, capturing this data has become as essential as it is insightful. Customer intelligence platforms are, by definition, customer-centric and designed to capture, harness and interpret customer feedback, insights, ideas, needs and opinions. Data collection has shifted from being sporadic and opportunistic to real-time streaming with insights flooding the internet. The success-limiting challenge today is no longer soliciting enough feedback to get the desired number of responses to be statistically relevant but is now the management and meaningful interpretation of massive amounts of data harvested across disparate sources. As a result, data lacks harmonization, may be ambiguous, have gaps and correlation may be hampered without an adequate ontology that defines the relationships across data types. Together, these aspects confound a marketer’s ability to derive meaning from the data to inform critical decisions.

Enter the customer intelligence platform. A robust platform, combined with the expertise of a market research company, can collect and interpret data. It comes complete with simplified visual renditions of the data to aid interpretation and promote rapid consumption of complex patterns elucidated from complex mathematical modeling and statistics. Customer intelligence platforms can be designed to track the source of the insight (for example, where and when that feedback was offered and by whom) to afford researchers with additional context that further enhances decision support. In the instances where that context may be lacking, researchers can call up the data entered, identify the source and extend an outreach request for additional clarification. At KL Communications, our proprietary customer intelligence platform comes in a full-service package that includes our expertise, insight and analysis of all the available information to ensure you use the data in the best possible way.

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Why Customer Intelligence Platforms are so Popular

These feedback platforms are already boasting high utilization with proliferation that has now extended into the majority of companies engaged in new product development. The adoption has gone beyond market research firms, like KL Communications, who have evolved customer co-creation communities into customer intelligence platforms because the results are clear. When a company invests in the infrastructure required to solicit and interpret customer feedback and demonstrates that it values the opinions and ideas of the marketplace, the company is highly likely to launch a successful product. Why? There are several benefits connected to this approach.

For example, customer intelligence platforms increase loyalty. By tracking the activity of each customer, assessments can be made to evaluate the viewing and experiential preferences of each customer. This, in turn, enables precision marketing that is designed to be highly tailored and specific to those personalized, individual preferences. In so doing, companies can boost customer loyalty scores by customizing their engagement with their customers to deepen the perception that “Company X gets me”. Done right, this perception becomes a reality and enables the company to build strong, long-term relationships with its customers. Having a group of built-in loyal responders ensures business agility, accelerates time to market and reduces marketing costs because communication and outreach efforts can be better streamlined via the features provided by the customer intelligence platform. Finally, all aspects combined, the company can enjoy a significant competitive advantage in the race to produce a relevant product offering that will take the majority market share, grow revenues and eclipse the competition.

Customer intelligence platforms are that one thing that every business needs. These valuable platforms serve as a two-way street for customer-centric engagement and as a vehicle to truly understand what motivates customer behavior. Make no mistake, customer intelligence platforms are critical in 2018.