The lines have blurred between agency, client and vendor

To improve CX and achieve these desired revenue outcomes, brands are seeking new ways to get a deeper understanding of where and how to improve their customer experience. Regardless of whether you outsource customer insights to an agency partner, have your own from an in-house function or rely on a mix of both, the important consideration is how you will get those deeper insights.

This might sound like an impossible challenge but next-gen insights platforms are already delivering on this promise. As such, both agencies and clients alike are benefiting. New technologies are in fact blurring the lines between clients and their traditional agency partners.

Benefits of contextual insights for clients

Digital channels are making it simpler for organizations of any size and budget to collect customer feedback. However, it’s easy to find yourself overwhelmed by the sheer volume of customer data collected across multiple channels. What’s key is doing something meaningful with all this information to empower better CX decisions. Improving your depth of insight is the only way you’re going to arrive at that destination.

We know this is already front of mind for CX and Insights leaders. According to a Forrester report, 71% of CX and Insights leaders said they were unable to meaningfully act and make decisions with their customer data. Other priorities the client side is actively seeking solutions for are reducing the time it takes to take that action (time-to-insights efficiency), tracking the success and impact of CX initiatives to business results and securing executive buy-in. What organizations need right now is a way to combine the need for depth of insight with the desire to find these deep insights faster. Technology will certainly get your organization there more efficiently (both from a time saving but also a cost saving perspective).

These are the expected benefits of deep, contextual customer insights:

  • Your organization knows exactly where and how to create a seamless customer journey that improves customer satisfaction. This is the only way to improve customer experience (and you’ll see the results of this change reflected in your high level measures such as NPS/CSAT).

  • Deep insights (whether they come from an agency partner or from your in-house team) ensure CX initiatives are prioritized according to impact on key metrics you care about. This ensures every decision that gets made ends up delivering tangible value to the organization and goals/objectives aren’t missed.

  • Insights can also be contextualized to specific customer issues that specific departments are well equipped to solve. Department leaders will quickly realize they can achieve their own KPIs much easier with deep insights. This in turn builds credibility with those departments and helps create stronger internal demand for insights.

Outsourcing insights vs. bringing it in-house - which is better?

In-house insights teams know what is and isn’t important to their organization. They understand the unique challenges faced by leaders in those departments and also know who has space in the budget to take the required action, what can be achieved in a realistic timeframe and so on. It’s this nuanced understanding which sets them apart from agencies.

As Annette Franz says, “customer insights and customer data are that much more valuable to the organization”. She also added there is now greater emphasis on the entire ecosystem, from in-house teams, to agencies and also vendors.

As previously mentioned, CX and Insights leaders in a Forrester report said they want to make decisions faster, with insights. While it’s true dedicated insights platforms reduce time-to-insight by up to 90%, if that technology is also able to provide deeper understanding then it’s easier to make the decision. You’ll know exactly where and when to improve the customer journey and know what action steps to take to address the issue.

What external research & insights agencies bring to the table is a wealth of expertise and wider industry understanding. We spoke with VoC consultant Alan Hale about where he sees the value of agencies. What he told us was that, "the ceo and marketing are pushing for more insights on the customer".

We also sought comment from CX leader TS Balaji at Cox Communications. Balaji said, "If you are in the formative stages of setting up a VoC program it would make sense to outsource it to an agency but it make sense to eventually bring it inside. If there is a KPI that's being used to report out to the organization, it might make sense to approach it through an agency (JD Power, Bain etc). but you would still need to do additional work to make that actionable."

Balaji also had this to say about outsourcing to agencies, "For me its about utilizing data from within (typically analytics) now that you have that you can get contextual insights from users/customers. You could outsource those contextual insights but that division of labor is just that, I don't see any inherent advantage to it."

Benefits of vendor technology for clients

Customer-centric organizations want to use deep, contextual insights to inform decision making and drive results. As more channels and sources are used for analyzing customer feedback, vendor technology will play a pivotal role in that transformation.

Bendigo Bank’s Head of Customer Voice, Ian Jackman, said they’ve been knee-deep in restructuring and investing in new technologies for the past two years. Their goal is to build a single view of the customer for frontline staff as part of a wider customer-centric transformation strategy.

As Jackman says, “While the group has had Voice of Customer (VoC) programs around advocacy and satisfaction for some time, including Net Promoter Score (NPS), there were a number of gaps. One of these was being able to go proactively to customers and ask them questions about what they think of the group, or why they chose a certain product or solution, then drive those insights back into the organization using metrics that also guide us as to what we do in response to that.”

Their end goal was to link insights to tangible financial outcomes. True insights in this manner are hard to come by without the help of technology vendors. If you can’t relate what customers are saying to tangible outcomes for the organization (such as revenue or LTV) then you’re left in the dark.

As both research & insights agencies and their clients seek deeper, more contextual insights to drive effective CX decisions, it’s insights technology which is blurring the lines. The choice is not between agency vs. in-house, it’s actually agency / in-house backed by the right technology.

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