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How do you turn customer feedback into actionable insights?

Actionable insights can be gleaned from brand surveys and reviews, competitor reviews and social media. However, not all insights are insightful or actionable.

Much of CRM is about gathering information -- not just about the customer, but information that explains the customer. That information can provide insight into the customer's behaviors, needs and future actions, so businesses must know how to discover these insights from customer feedback.

Ideally, these insights are actionable -- indicators that point toward improvements in sales and marketing operations to enhance the relationship between the customer and the enterprise and, ultimately, boost customer experience. Indicators include ensuring a sale, bolstering brand loyalty, enhancing service or converting a lead into a customer. For indicators to qualify as actionable, they must be discoverable, with follow-up actions the company can execute on.

Here are some examples of how to glean actionable insights from customer feedback.

Reviews, not surveys. Surveys are OK for gathering customer feedback, but they are based on things already known and assumptions already in place. So, their value beyond acquiring metrics may be limited. Customer reviews of products and services are often better as a source of actionable insights because they are unprompted, self-motivated and rich with descriptive text. Much of this insight is highly actionable because the customer is telling the enterprise directly what action it prefers.

For indicators to qualify as actionable, they must be discoverable, with executable follow-up actions in routine operations.

Reviews of competitors. Businesses can also find actionable insights in what customers say about other brands. These reviews enable businesses to see what customers like or dislike about other companies and take proactive steps to head problems off at the pass. Take these seriously.

Social media can correct mistakes. Organizations may notice that brand loyalists are demographically sorted on Facebook or Twitter in ways that CRM does not account for; customers' attraction to a brand can often draw them into social forums and dialogues in which they might otherwise not engage. Paying attention to these channels can provide actionable insights into audience segmentation and point the way to useful customer input in unexpected places.

Lastly, companies should understand that not all insights are actionable, so just let go of those. Moreover, data is only insightful if it's something a business did not already know or couldn't learn from sources that were already well-established. Ultimately, actionable insights can be an effective barometer for how well a campaign or customer-based process is working, and businesses should use them as such.

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