Creating actionable insight – if you’re still asking ‘so what’, start asking ‘why’

8 12 2013

Creating actionable insight is the cornerstone of being a customer-centric organisation. And in principle is sounds quite simple – find something insightful within your data and then take action based on what you found. Easy!

Maybe not… recent research by IPSOS MORI for Verint suggests that while nearly all organisations collect some form of customer-related feedback or insight, most are not leveraging this feedback strategically. Those that are doing something with it seem to be focusing on using it to measure their people/processes rather than to improve customer experiences. Some aren’t even doing that much, including many sports organisations.

The reason for this is starting the process with the wrong question. Too often the starting questions are “what data can we easily get” or “what do we already measure”? As a result, its very hard to then find insightful “so what” answers that can inform relevant action.

Instead the starting question needs to be “why do we need the insight” or “what will we to do with the answers”? Knowing what the insight work needs to answer, and how it will be used, provides direction to the work. It defines what data needs to be captured and from who, and it also identifies who will be responsible for acting on the answers.

So let’s look at the process for creating actionable insights, and where the friction points and blockages might be. Creating actionable insights is a simple 4-step process:

Actionable Insight

Collect – source, gather and aggregate raw data about your current or potential customers – who they are and what they are saying, thinking, feeling and doing about your sport. To achieve growth you will need to be capturing both current behaviours (what/how/when) and the influences & motivations driving those behaviours (why).

Analyse – crunch the data to find trends, patterns and potential relevance across the different data sources.

Interpret – review the analysis in the context of your organisation/customers/market, to understand what’s happening and why it may be of significance to you. This “so what” step is what turns data into insight, yet its the one often missed out or rushed. However without being clear about the “so what”, organisations cannot then respond successfully.

Respond – take timely action in response to what the insight is telling you. This response can be both internal – improving plans, processes, delivery etc – and/or external – improving the offer to customers or just letting them know you were listening.

This still looks quite simple, or at least straightforward. So where are the challenges? Three I’ve seen recently are:

Starting in the wrong place – projects are being scoped based on what data can be captured, rather than what insights are required. By not asking why the insight is required, the data subsequently captured might be interesting but doesn’t help drive action and growth.

Losing control – the “so what’ interpretation is being completely outsourced along with the data collection, rather than benefiting from the expertise of people across the organisation. As a result it’s much harder to identify “so what does this mean for us”, and misses the opportunity to engage the organisation in creating customer-centric responses.

Missing in action – the outputs of the “insight work” appear in presentations and newsletters, but don’t subsequently spark any considered action. This maybe because the “so what” is missing, or because the staff aren’t engaged with the work or because the reports weren’t created with actions in mind.

Given these challenges, why bother? Simply put, the opportunities for creating and acting upon improved insights are huge (as are the risks of doing nothing). Sport has a massive opportunity to drive sustainable growth through an improved understanding of how to add more value to current and potential participants. And this improved understanding will improve the focus and effectiveness of delivery, which means this growth can come with an improved return on investment.

Thanks to Michiel Lely and Roula Andari at Verint for prompting this post, with their presentation and subsequent discussion at the Directors Club breakfast.

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