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Digital Marketing , Voice of the Customer

Are you customer-centric? I bet you're not, and here’s why

by Stéphane Hamel, on Apr 12, 2018

You will never achieve customer-centricity if you are not considering digital analytics and Voice of the Customer (VoC) from the perspective of a single customer experience, regardless of the channels involved.

As a 'web guy' with over 25 years of experience, I have seen Digital Analytics (the quantifiable analysis of online customer behavior) and the Voice of the Customer (the qualitative analysis of the customer experience) evolve to become sophisticated disciplines.

Each discipline relies on a host of tools and technologies and have become hyper-specialized, leveraging the latest concepts of machine learning, automation and visualization. Yet the poor child, as with any technological transformation, has been the cultural transformation, which should accompany these disciplines.

That is, understanding and influencing 'people' is difficult, be it your customers or your employees. They are irrational, infinitely diverse, mimic each other in some, but not all their values, and the list goes on.

The Greek philosopher Epictetus said, “We have two ears and one mouth so that we can listen twice as much as we speak”.

So maybe, from a marketing standpoint: 

“We should spend twice as much energy listening to our customers, rather than shouting our marketing spiel on all social media outlets.”


It’s time to grow

Among the many things I do as an independent consultant, I help digital marketing and analytics agencies grow their analytics practice so they can better serve their own clients.

The same approach applies to my own clients, where I mentor them to climb the digital analytics maturity scale. Sometimes I work with large clients and well-known brands - the kind you are most likely to read about in white papers or hear about at conferences.

Why am I telling you all of this? Because there’s a common trait. They all claim to be ‘customer-centric’. 

Every one of them will want that infamous ‘360-degree view of the customer’. Yet, when asked specifically what are the concrete steps they take on the path to Valhalla, they still address behavioral analysis and VoC as two distinct, siloed disciplines.

We commonly refer to digital analytics and VoC as the ‘what’ and the ‘why’ - a gross oversimplification that doesn’t stand in today’s complex world of data. Every client I work with wants to merge online behavior data, typically collected through Google Analytics, with proprietary or cloud-based back-office outcomes. In some cases, they want to combine this same behavioral data with a SaaS-based CRM platform such as Marketo or Salesforce.

But do they see the value of merging, say, their Google Analytics with their VoC data? Rarely.

In the first two cases, we’re talking about tactical operational efficiencies and automation, while in the latter case, we’re talking about a genuine desire to understand customers' intent and interests.


Where do VoC and Digital Analytics fit in?

Since a picture is worth a thousand words, let’s consider this schema I often use at conferences, in the courses I’m teaching to Master’s students, or as an intro with my clients:


We can approach this universal schema from many angles:

  • It doesn’t matter whether you work for a company, an NGO, the government or even a group within a global organization. It doesn’t matter which vertical you’re in - you get money from somewhere, you provide value through transformation and operations which cost something, and you have customers, clients, employees, partners, investors, government (through regulations and laws, for example), interests groups (like lobbying, or simply being a good corporate citizen), etc. However, you won’t be there for long if you can’t balance revenue and costs. Oh, maybe you will survive for a while, but if satisfaction isn’t at the rendezvous, you won’t be there in the long run.

  • An obsessive focus - or lack thereof - on any of the three core elements will kill profitability and long-term chances of survival for your organization. Put this any way you want, we have plenty of examples of companies with high revenue but no profit; we have recent examples of companies that played everything on profit but neglected customers and partners satisfaction.

  • Revenue, costs and satisfaction aren’t bound to 'online' or 'offline' - you have one customer, with potentially multiple touch points. So please, it’s about time we drop the 'online' or 'digital' qualifier - it’s just reminiscent of the 'e-whatever' era of the early 2000! Check out my post -  'You don’t need a digital strategy' - for more information.

  • When defining your KPIs, the closer they are to revenue, costs and satisfaction, the more meaningful and actionable they will be. While, if they tend to be about profit, they will be more abstract and less directly actionable.


Consilience enables confident decisions

I’m always flabbergasted when vendors, digital marketers and analysts try and reinvent the wheel because something is 'digital' and therefore it is so unique and different.

Take for example the concept of 'consilience' in science - I use this word because it’s fancier than 'convergence of evidence', but you get the point:

Consilience refers to the principle that evidence from independent, unrelated sources can “converge” to strong conclusions. (Wikipedia)

If you want to achieve consilience, your data landscape will typically look like this:



As you see, there are at least two methods, two sources of data for each Key Success Factor, and for each of front/back-office focus on customer or operations. Overlooking the use of digital analytics or VoC will leave you blind in one important aspect or another.

We could argue about the exact fit for the various types of systems, but the main point here is this: 

"You can’t pretend and you will never achieve customer-centricity if you are not considering digital analytics and voice of the customer from the perspective of a single customer experience with your brand, regardless of the channels involved."

From an analysis standpoint, you’ll need well-rounded people with the right skills to leverage different tools, different data sets and slightly different concepts - or find ways to let the 'systems' do the grunt work and surface what truly requires your precious attention. 


Banner source image: Unsplash

Stéphane Hamel
Stéphane Hamel

Stéphane Hamel is a seasoned consultant and distinguished thought leader in the field of digital analytics. One of the few recognized Google Products Strategy Experts (2016), named Most Influential Industry Contributor by the Digital Analytics Association (2012), he has made significant contributions to the industry, including creating the Digital Analytics Maturity Model (2009) and the Web Analytics Solution Profiler (2006) quality assurance tool, and recently launched his new product, Da Vinci Tools. He is frequently called upon to speak at events around the world and an often-quoted media contributor on the topic of digital intelligence and analysis. Stéphane advises a number of organizations and holds an MBA specialized in eBusiness from Laval University (Québec) where he teaches future marketers, analysts and managers on the topic of digital analytics.

To read more articles by Stéphane Hamel check out his blog Digital Analytics: A Managerial Perspective

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