Lenskold Article Series

by Jim Lenskold

4 Pillars of Insight Transformation

It’s Not About Knowledge But How You Use It

At a local event I recently attended, a small business owner received an award for outstanding business performance. He had grown his spa and salon business to multiple locations with several hundred employees by focusing on strong customer relationships. In his acceptance speech, he commented on how he was able to succeed with just a high school education while many more educated business owners struggled or failed. This entrepreneur made it clear that it is not the knowledge you gain but how you use it that drives success. Managers of CRM initiatives can take note of the lesson presented here; it’s not what you know, but knowing how to use what you know.


Customer data has certainly become more abundant thanks to CRM and the many data warehousing systems now in place. This data serves as pure customer intelligence, which represents what you know about the customer—i.e., information collected from customers, internal transactional and behavioral data, and external data enhancement. Improving customer relationships and value is dependent on Insight Transformation to create customer insight, which represents knowing how to use that intelligence for each specific customer.


I’ve partnered with John Picard of Picard & Company, an expert in Relationship Architecture and co-author of this article, to break this transformation process into four distinct components. The 4 Pillars of Insight Transformation outlined below should help business managers move past pure data analytics to create stronger, more valuable relationships from their CRM initiatives.

4 Pillars of Insight Transformation

1. Relevancy

How do we use customer intelligence in our dialogue with the customer so products, services, messages, and offers are presented in such a way that is truly relevant to the customer? This means going beyond looking at the last transaction or information from constrained data fields. Take for example a customer service rep from a catalog company who made notations about a customer’s purchase for their daughter’s 12th birthday the previous year. This year’s call in the same time period allowed the support and cross-sale initiatives to be highly relevant to the customer.

2. Context

How does our view of the customer intelligence change when we learn more about why the customer has exhibited previous behaviors and what their true underlying needs are today? Take our same example and think about how differently the rep’s conversation is based on knowing the customer is gift shopping instead of personally shopping. The context of a repeat birthday shopper should also set a trigger for future contacts.

3. Timing

How do we connect customer intelligence with the critical aspect of timing to benefit from reaching customers in the right window of opportunity, creating an appropriate sense of urgency, making contact at the right point in the decision-making process, or factoring in the seasonality and cycles of customer needs? Besides the obvious timing of the birthday purchase we’ve established for our example, we can also factor in the daughter’s age and the season of each purchase to make specific recommendations for the customer.

4. Emotive Factors

How do we enhance our customer intelligence to understand and benefit from the underlying emotive factors that lead to what the data would determine are irrational or unanticipated decisions? Knowing the importance of a birthday purchase for a close family member is valuable insight. Through the rep’s dialogue with the customer, it may also be possible to capture additional emotive factors such as how comfortable the customer is making purchases for someone in this age group. The interaction is different once it is known that this is a stressful purchase where the parent depends on the helpful guidance of the rep.

Customer insight often exists in true one-on-one relationships, such as those that observant sales people, advisors, and small business owners have with their customers, because the information is typically received a dialogue that provides relevancy, context, timing and some indication of the emotive factors. In our high-volume, high-tech environments, we must make a more significant effort to understand and apply these four components to the knowledge we gain. CRM must go beyond the minimal personalization of direct marketing letters that insert a piece of knowledge or are dependent on some basic data-driven segmentation.

The solution requires attention on the customer touchpoints where both better collection of intelligence and more effective application of intelligence are possible. There seems to be two primary gaps in the application of customer intelligence. Sales personnel, who already have the benefit of personal connections, need to understand the value of data and intelligence since they are well positioned to convert this to insight. Customer service reps on the other hand need additional guidance on the conversion of intelligence into insight since they tend to have access to lots of data while lacking a direct customer relationship.

Insight Transformation is critical step but the true ROI comes from the broader process of converting insight into actions that improve customer value. We will expand on this concept in future articles.

John Picard of Picard & Company can be reached at jpicard@picardmarketing.com.