What visual should I use?

Following on my last blog post, I am frequently asked what visual to use to display data.  While I often hear this question about dashboards, it also applies to many formats including websites, infographics and PowerPoint slides.

There are  many excellent sources that describe visualization best practices as well as recommend what data visualizations to use.  Here are three that I have used:

1.  Dona Wong’s The Wall Street Journal Guide to Information Graphics.  For more details, please see  http://donawong.com .

2.  Cole Nussbaumer Knaflic’s book called Storytelling with Data.  For more details, please see  http://www.storytellingwithdata.com/book .

3.   The web site from data to viz.  Based on the type of data you have, the website recommends different types of visuals.  In addition, it provides caveats so you can avoid common mistakes.

I hope you find this helpful the next time you are wondering what visualization to use.

How do I build a dashboard?

As I mentioned in my last blog post, creation of a dashboard should begin with understanding the user, their needs and their priorities.  This will enable you to identify the metrics that matter.  The next step is organizing those metrics into a dashboard.

You organize a dashboard on two levels.  First, each dashboard page should have a consistent look and feel.  For example, the filters or slicers always appear on the top or along the left hand side.  Once a user is familiar with the layout of one page, it will be easy for them to navigate subsequent pages.

Second, dashboard pages should be organized from the highest to lowest level.  You start with the high level key performance indicators so that users can see the state of their business.  It may be sales, customer retention, first call resolution, net promoter score, etc.  It could also be trends to indicate whether the metrics are getting better or worse.  Whatever matters most to the user should appear on the first dashboard page.

The next layer of dashboards should enable the user to do analysis.  For example, revenue has declined.  Why might that be?  If a user has a dashboard that shows the number of customers paying for each product, he can determine if the number of customers has declined or the mix of products sold has changed.

The lowest level dashboards should enable users to drill down to the customer or prospect level and enable users to extract the data in a meaningful form so that they can take action.

Lastly, you should user test your dashboards to make sure that you have captured the metrics in a way that is intuitive and easy to use.


What do you think of my dashboard?

I was asked recently to provide feedback on a dashboard, particularly the look and the feel of the charts.  Instead, of evaluating the layout of the page or the use of particular chart types to display data, I started asking questions:

  • Who are the users of the dashboard?
  • What do they already know about this topic?
  • What are their priorities?
  • What do they need to know to make decisions or take action on this data?

Often I am asked to critique a dashboard or another form of data visualization.  However, you cannot evaluate data visualizations until you know the use case.  A use case is the specific situation in which the data visualization, in this case a dashboard, will be used.  Without this knowledge it is difficult to tailor the dashboard to meet the needs of the user or the situation.

Once you know the use case, then the questions become:

  • Is this data new or does it offer something new?
  • Is the data being reliably captured?
  • Is the data timely and accessible?
  • How can you bring the data to life with visualization?

Extracting value from voice of the customer data

In my last post, I talked about Voice of the Customer data and what it is.  The next question is, how do you gain valuable insights from Voice the Customer data?  The answer to that question depends on what type of Voice of the Customer data you are dealing with.

The unstructured Voice of the Customer data typically consists of voice recordings from call centers and text strings from emails, chats, tweets, agent notes, open ended survey questions, etc.  You could also consider behavioral data as Voice of the Customer data but that data is typically structured and thus easier to handle.  For this blog post we will restrict ourselves to the unstructured data.

Voice recordings require transcription.  Some customer interaction software like CallMiner have built in transcription.  There are also stand alone tools that will transcribe calls.  Transcription tools are not perfect and it is likely that cleaning and iterative processing will be needed. In addition, it is best if you can separate what the agent says from what the customer says.  Not all systems support that distinction.

Text scripts have the advantage of not needing transcription.  However, they have their own challenges as abbreviations and misspellings can interfere with analysis. Thus, these files will almost certainly need to be cleaned as well.

Once the Voice of the Customer data is cleaned and free form text, it can be analyzed.  Topic modeling will identify the reasons that customers are calling.  Beyond identifying product, process and customer experience problems which I mentioned in my last blog, this will enable you to identify coaching and training opportunities for agents.

Further, sentiment analysis will identify how customers are feeling.  Sentiment analysis can be difficult some situations, for example, using agent notes or call recordings where you cannot distinguish what the caller said from what the agent said.  Sentiment is valuable because you can use it to prioritize efforts and gauge the impact of problems and policy changes on customers.

Unstructured Voice of the Customer data requires more cleaning and processing than structured data but it is well worth the effort.

What is Voice of the Customer?

Voice of the Customer is a commonly heard phrase in many businesses.  You may be wondering, what is it?  Voice of the Customer refers to feedback provided by customers and that feedback can come through a variety of channels including inbound and outbound ones.

Inbound feedback is typically feedback that comes when a customer proactively contacts a company.  Think contact center calls, emails or chats for example.  The customer is reaching out and telling you about your products and/or processes.  This feedback is typically free form voice recordings or text documents.

Outbound feedback is feedback that the customer has provided in response to defined queries.  An example would be a market research survey.  The questions are set by the company and the feedback is structured.

Some people even consider behavioral data to be part of Voice of the Customer data.  If you stop using your online banking account or no longer shop at a favorite store, you are providing valuable feedback even though you haven’t directly told the bank or the retailer how you feel.  I read somewhere that for every 1 customer who complains, there are 26 who do not complain.  They simply leave without saying a word.

Voice of the Customer data is important because it provides valuable insight.  By knowing what your customers are saying, you can identify problems with your products, processes or customer experience as well as product enhancements and other innovations.  In addition, you can use this information to rebuild customer trust and retain customers.

Keep it simple.

Recently I was writing a presentation for the global marketing lead of a Fortune 500 company.  As I was writing, I kept thinking, keep it simple.

Short.  The goal is not to speak for the entire meeting time but rather to engage in a dialogue.  To do that, I plan to use half the time or less.  Brevity forces me to refine my message and focus on what’s most important.

Illustrate.   Use pictures and stories to illuminate the data and the findings.

Macro.  For this audience, the presentation should be very high level.  It is tempting to dwell in the details but that it is why you have an appendix.  Put the details there in case you need them.

People.  We often talk about customers as segments or numbers but they are people with families, careers and interests.  Humanize your data to make it more relevant and memorable.

Light.  In addition to short, the presentation should be light on text.  The temptation is to write down everything you want to say but you should speak to each slide rather than read it. 

Engaging.  You are often competing with someone’s phone or laptop for their attention.  An engaging presentation will keep their eyes on your presentation instead.  They are also more likely to remember it.

I hope you find these ideas helpful.

Can you reach Millennials with email?

Do Millennials engage with email?  Everyone I know is trying to find the best strategy to reach Millennials.  Is the right channel email or social?  Do they need tailored content (e.g., user generated for authenticity or curated content that addresses their particular lifestage) to generate engagement?  What offers would resonate most with them?

The answers to these questions will vary on your industry, your product and your approach.  However, I have found that Millennials are less likely to open or click an email than Gen Xers, Baby Boomers or the Greatest Generation.  However, a recent study by Epsilon found that Millennials were using email more than other age groups to find products and services.  Perhaps Millennials are less likely to respond to “push” marketing and want to determine when and how they interact with marketing.

What will a Chief Customer Intelligence Officer do?

In my last post I talked about the value of a Chief Customer Intelligence Officer.  You may be wondering, what would a Chief Customer Intelligence Officer do?  Here is a high level summary.

1.  Integrate insights across teams.  There is a wealth of customer intelligence being uncovered by your Big Data, CRM, Digital, Market Research, and Social analytics teams among others.  However, insights need to be shared so that the company benefits.  For example, I recently shared customer insights from the CRM group with the Social team to insure that the best current customers were targeted on Facebook for a promotion.

2.  Identify the story within the data. Customers are telling us how they feel about the brand and what their intentions are with every action, whether it be a call into the call center, a visit to your website, a comment on Facebook or a purchase in the store.  By triangulating all the available data, you can get a fuller picture of different customer segments and socialize their stories to senior management.  For example, I found that there were three types of visitors to a client’s website.  By layering on customer data, I was able to see which on-line attributes were most closely related to off-line purchases.

3.  Develop a customer strategy based on the data. Once you have identified customers’ stories, you can insure a consistent and compelling customer experience across channels.  This is the result of synthesizing the wealth of information and integrating analyses to support the strategy.  For example, web site activity could trigger a direct marketing piece for some customer segments.

4.  Manage a cross-functional team. To accomplish all this, the Chief Customer Intelligence Officer will need to manage a cross-functional team that encompasses Big Data, CRM, Digital, Market Research, Social and any other analytic teams within marketing. This will facilitate the integration of insights and development of a consistent customer experience.

5 reasons why your next hire should be a Chief Customer Intelligence Officer

Have you heard the story of the blind men and the elephant?   In this famous Indian legend, a group of blind men touch an elephant.  However, each man feels just one part and it is a different part of the elephant for each man.  They compare notes on what they felt and are in complete disagreement.  In many ways, this is how the customer is seen by some companies.  The digital marketing team has one view of the customer, the product marketing managers have another view and creative might have a third view.  Here are five reasons why you should hire a Chief Customer Intelligence Officer who will integrate and disseminate insights for a holistic customer-centric approach:

1.  Grow revenue. An integrated understanding of your customers and their journey with your company will enable you to up-sell and cross-sell effectively to them. Only with a comprehensive view of the customer will you know whether he wants more of the same or if he needs something different. Rather than the product managers focusing on promoting their products and meeting their sales goals, customer preferences and needs would take precedence.

2.  Reduce acquisition costs. Consolidating insights across channels and products will enable you to segment your customers by purchase history, demographics, lifestyle, lifetime value, etc.  Thus, you can provide the right message to each segment and find new customers who look like these segments.  With better targeting and identification of your best customers, you can find new customers who are similiar.

3.  Enhance customer retention. Customers expect a coherent and consistent customer experience across channels.  If you integrate insights and provide an experience tailored to their needs, behavior, and attitudes, they are more likely to be retained and become advocates of your brand.

4.  Improve campaign performance. Customer insights from the direct marketing channel can inform strategies used in the digital marketing channels and vice versa. For example, you could re-target visitors to your website or social media advocates via direct marketing.

5.  Increase customer satisfaction. Customers will reward your focus on their needs and preferences with increased satisfaction and willingness to recommend your brand to others.


Team building is an art

I am currently interviewing candidates for an Analyst position on my team.  It is hard enough to find someone with the right skills and experience.  But there are other considerations as well:

1.  Any new hire needs to compliment the rest of the team.  A variety of skills, personalities and experience are needed for the team to be successful.  In Walter Isaacson’s great book on the digital revolution, he quotes Steve Wozniak as saying, “Every time I’d design something great, Steve [Jobs] would find a way to make money for us”.  Wozniak was the engineer and Jobs was the marketer.  Both were needed to make Apple successful.

2.  It is not enough to be smart.  I am looking for people who will collaborate and be a team player.  Lee Iacocca captured it well.  “A major reason capable people fail to advance is that they don’t work well with their colleagues.”

3.  Team members need to talk and listen to each other.  The best ideas often result from the back and forth of discussion and reflect a combination of insights and suggestions.  Further, we learn and grow professionally by listening to and potentially challenging the ideas of others.