Customer what?

June 18, 2008

Helen Begley (Assistant Director, Service Transformation, Cabinet Office) was chairing a debate on the IDeA Communities today (18th June 2008). Having challenged her for a definition she came back with “Insight is defined as a deep ‘truth’ about the customer based on their behaviour, experiences, beliefs, needs or desires, that is relevant to the task or issue and ‘rings bells’ with target people.” This definition is taken from the Government Communication Network’s Engage Programme and is commonly accepted as a useful working definition in most major government publications on this subject. The Insight section on the Engage web site includes more detail on methodology and tools, together with some examples of where deep psychological truths derived from customer insight activity have been applied effectively in campaigns to drive behavioural change.”

Unfortunately I am not a Civil Servant nor on the Civil Service network and so do not have access to this material and so can’t reveal its hidden truths.

She also had this to say “There is much that can be done quickly and simply: the things which matter to people are often far more straightforward and basic than we think. The design of a form, the sequence of a process, a well-timed question can make the difference between success and failure. However the real challenge is cultural. Being customer-centric and using insight is not just about being able to collect data and information. It is about having the capability to turn that information into action and it requires a culture which values insight and is willing to act on it. Too often, customer research is commissioned without first understanding what it is we really need to know and how best to find that out. And too many organisations fail to ensure that the intelligence that they collect on the needs and behaviours of those they’re trying to reach is used effectively and not discarded.”

Which I think is a more verbose way of expressing my view that one collects customer dissatisfaction and acts upon it. Personally, I think customer insight includes much more than her description, it is understanding customer need, which is a step or two further on from collecting feedback and employing that to improve the customer process. I stated in the one-to-many that it was not necessarily the use of the phrase ‘customer insight’ that was confusing but that amongst all the others such as need, satisfaction, engagement etc., along with all the reports that have issued from Cabinet Office in parallel with the drafts of National Indicator 14 (NI14) or ‘avoidable cotact’ coming out from the Communities and Local Government Department, that rather runs contrary.

Since Helen has been so kind to provide a definition of ‘insight’ my next task is to collect definitions of all the others and compare them, to extract the ideal term for what we what from our customers!