Jul 30, 2015

Business leaders and directors are paid to make the commercial decisions that matter for their organisations - to outline strategy and oversee its implementation. In many cases, they need to use their business instincts and gut feelings, but sometimes it's foolish to ignore what the data is telling them. Similarly, it's unwise to overlook the input of role specialists, who have the insight and expertise they lack on certain subject matters.

Take customer service and CRM for instance. In a report published in July 2015, the Institute of Customer Service (ICS) claimed that many chief executives and boards of directors have no understanding of what customers want, but continue to ignore the input of their experienced employees. Of the 650 workers surveyed by the organisation, just half (51%) thought their leaders were genuinely interested in customer insight. Only 50% thought C-suite professionals really understand customers and what they need.

The ICS discovered that just 36% of managers think their bosses actively listen to consumers, with a view to raising standards of customer service. Also, a mere 44% of service staff feel their ideas are listened to, while 28% think profits are prioritised over delivering value for customers. This is a dangerous scenario for many companies, as they look to increase sales and drive revenue.

Jo Causon, chief executive of the ICS, commented: "If employees suggest that customer needs are not understood in the boardroom, what must customers be feeling?" She added that unless senior decision makers take the time to analyse customer preferences, behaviour and levels of satisfaction, they should not be surprised to lose business to their rivals. Ms Causon claimed that all boards need to have representatives who have direct experience of customer service roles. The customer should be "a constant reference point", she added.

Deploying the right technology can help board members make more informed decisions when it comes to customer service. Using CRM tools, their organisations can draw insight from user-level data, filtering, segmenting and funnelling individuals, existing customers and abandoned sales to feed their campaigns.

Board members must be willing to consider what the data tells them - or what they are instructed by their own customer service teams - but investing in CRM is a solid starting point. It gives them a foundation to work from, to make more informed decisions, providing they can rein in their own egos.