How to build customer intelligence (and why you should)

Today’s consumers expect personalized experiences, and in order to deliver, brands need customer intelligence. Here’s how to get it and what to do with it.

By Paulina Phillips, Contributing Writer

Published November 1, 2021
Last updated November 9, 2021

Ever wandered into a store and immediately felt like you were in the wrong place? It could’ve been the inventory, the music, the vibes—whatever it was, it just wasn’t very you, so you lost interest in the brand.

You’re not the only shopper who craves familiarity. Consumers want to buy from companies that understand them and deliver customized experiences. In fact, the Zendesk Customer Experience Trends Report revealed that 66 percent of buyers expect personalization from brands.

To offer personalized experiences, brands need customer intelligence. This is becoming even more important in an increasingly competitive landscape. Read on to learn what customer intelligence is, why it’s important, and how to build it.

What is customer intelligence, and why is it important?

Customer intelligence (CI) is the process of collecting customer data and pulling insights from it. CI allows companies to figure out who their customers are—where they live, what products they like, what problems they’re looking to solve, and so on. The goal is to use the information to tailor each interaction to individual customers and improve their experience.

But excellent support teams don’t just settle for whatever customer data comes their way. Instead, they take steps to find the right customer information to analyze, then use those insights to strengthen the customer experience. With a deep understanding of their customers, support agents can communicate with buyers in a way that makes them feel understood and appreciated, leading to increased retention and loyalty.

How do you build customer intelligence?

There are numerous types of data to collect and different ways to gather and organize it. Here are some customer intelligence best practices to inform your customer intelligence strategy.

1. Invest in a good CRM

Consumers today are interacting with brands via various touchpoints—social media, chat, phone, in-store, and so on. Manually tracking all these interactions can lead to serious errors. It's just too much to keep track of, so key data can fall through the cracks.

Instead, support teams should use a customer intelligence platform to automatically collect, store, and analyze customer data. CRM software is one type of CI platform that can:

  • Monitor customer interactions. Look for a CRM that tracks customer interactions at every touchpoint, whether that’s a social media message or a one-hour phone call with the support team.
  • Provide valuable reports. What good is data if you can’t interpret what it means? A good CRM completes that analysis by generating data-driven reports, such as annual profitability reports or quarterly sales cycle reports.
  • Integrate with other tools in your tech stack. If your customer data lives on multiple disconnected platforms, the information will be challenging to manage and access. Housing customer data in one location makes it easy to view information at a glance and form actionable insights. Say you want to send email campaigns through Mailchimp to a targeted list of customers. Zendesk Support integrates with Mailchimp so your support team can seamlessly communicate with those customers and personalize their experience.
  • Automate support processes. Find a CRM that uses artificial intelligence technology, such as chatbots, to enable self-service. Customers can resolve issues at their own pace while reducing resolution times for agents. Some CRMs even allow support teams to set up automated workflows, so they can minimize tedious tasks and focus on helping customers.

Your CRM is one of your most important business assets. The software not only stores invaluable customer intelligence but also sets up your support team for success and keeps your business in sync.

2. Collect data from multiple sources

Because customers interact with companies in so many places, it doesn't make sense to collect data about them from a single source. Instead, compile information from multiple data sources to build in-depth customer profiles.

  • Lead capture forms: Embed sign-up forms on landing pages to secure leads’ contact information—name, phone, email, and other relevant details such as their profession.
  • Social media: Gauge customer sentiment and trends by tracking brand mentions. For example, you might use social media monitoring to see what people are saying about your new product release. We suggest using social media monitoring tools (like Hootsuite), which track brand mentions, mentions of competitors, and keywords related to your brand on social media.
  • Calls and messaging: When your customers call or message your support team, your CRM can log those conversations. This allows you to track what customers are commonly asking or reaching out about, so your support team knows what feedback to pass along to other departments.
  • Google Analytics/Snowplow Analytics: These platforms tell you what site visitors are clicking on and how often they return. You can learn what your most visited pages are and what your visitors’ demographics are, for example, giving you the insights you need to improve acquisition and retention.
  • Product analytics: If your company’s product team is using an analytics tool like Amplitude, consider using the data from the platform to inform your support outreach. For instance, you might proactively send an email to a customer who repeatedly experiences program freezes or crashes.

The data sources you choose should integrate with a CRM so all your collective data can live in one place, making it easier to manage and analyze.

3. Turn insights into action

You’ve gathered a lot of customer information in your CRM—what next? It’s time to assess your data and pick out patterns so you know what parts of your support experience need improvement.

Suppose 30 percent of your customers call to complain about your website navigation, and 10 percent complain about your shipping times. In this case, you would probably want to focus on improving your website.

Use your CRM to identify customer ticket data trends. The software can categorize your tickets by issue to determine the most common customer complaints.

You can also segment customers by certain demographics—such as age, location, or industry—to better understand recurring issues across similar groups who use your product. From there, you can determine the best ways to resolve the problems for that segment.

Beyond finding common issues, you can also use your CRM dashboard to view data at a glance. This dashboard will display your most critical metrics—unopened tickets, tickets per day, and more—so you can make connections between different data points and identify where your support team may need help.

Strengthen your customer intelligence with Zendesk

The process of securing and learning from customer data is critical for any support team—but all that work doesn’t need to rest entirely on your agents’ shoulders. Use software like Zendesk to automatically collect customer information and access reporting so you can strengthen your customer knowledge and, in turn, provide superior customer service experiences.

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