FEATURE6 May 2011

Overruling the sample of one

Features News

New research from Accenture suggests senior managers might still rely on personal experience as much as data when making decisions about what customers want. Natalie Kouzeleas, a partner in the firm, explains why a more mature approach to analytics is both necessary and valuable.


In their research, 23% of respondents described personal experience as very important when making decisions about customer wants, versus 22% who said simple data and facts, and 17% who credited more complex data analysis.

“The result was a surprise to us,” says Kouzeleas, a partner in customer and retention analytics, “especially when you look at facts around the level of satisfaction customers have with the relevance of marketing communications.” She points to some earlier research Accenture conducted which suggested that only 21% of consumers felt that the companies they do business with talk to them in a way that is particularly relevant to them.

So consumers continue to be bombarded with unwanted and ill-considered marketing messages, Kouzeleas says, despite plenty of evidence that carefully targeted communications perform considerably better. Indeed, Accenture has found through past research work that “companies that invest in advanced analytics capabilities outperform the stock market by an average of 64%” and that those same companies “were able to recover more quickly from economic downturns”, Kouzeleas says.

Asked what’s holding companies back from fully embracing analytics, respondents cited corporate culture – in particular, Kouzeleas says, “It has a lot to do with not being able to get hold of data across departments”. To illustrate the point, she recounted the tale of a financial services firm that had to wait two years before they could get access to data they needed from elsewhere in the business that would help them convert credit card customers into banking customers.

Accenture found that even when companies are analytically active – using it for marketing, sales and customer services, say – those same organisations might not necessarily be applying it broadly across all their marketing and customer activities, in areas such as pricing or product development for instance.

This type of organisation would sit fairly low down on the analytical maturity model Accenture has developed to score companies according to their capabilities. At the top of the heap, Kouzeleas says, are those firms with a central analytics function that is able to work across departments.

Getting to the point would be a positive step for most organisations, she suggests. But Julio Hernandez, global lead for consumer analytics at Accenture, says that “regardless of how analytically mature they are, most firms largely focus on using analytics to better understand the customer’s value to the organisation and much less on the organisation’s value to the customer”.

“This leads to a customer experience that is over-indexed on meeting the needs of the organisation,” Hernandez says. “Organisations will benefit from a more balanced approach to using analytics, one that takes into account what’s sustainable for the business as well as what’s relevant to the customer.”