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The 4 biggest challenges insights & analytics professionals are facing right now (with solutions)

Some companies are seeing massive growth as a result of COVID-19. This brings its own set of challenges and opportunities for customer insights & analytics leaders. 

One way we’ve responded at Thematic has been to start hosting virtual roundtable discussions for customer insights and analytics professionals to connect and share how everyone is managing. 

During these conversations, we’ve noticed a few trends that we wanted to share with you.

We’ve noticed that insights and analytics teams are falling into three categories: 

Hair on fire! 

These folks are seeing massive increases of new business, and added growth from existing customers. It’s amazing that they found the time to join the conversations! 

Business as usual*

I added the asterisk because even for companies that are still operational and insights people whose jobs haven’t changed, there is a different climate that requires adjustment. 

Shut down 

In the hardest hit industries, entire teams have been furloughed, and jobs cut. However, even in these environments, we’re seeing insights teams play a valuable role in helping their companies understand and respond to the situation, as well as planning for when it is over. 

In this post, I’ll share the biggest challenges participants of our first virtual roundtable discussion are currently facing, along with the strategies they’re using to address them. 

Without further ado, here are the 4 biggest challenges currently facing insights & analytics professionals.

#1 Volume: Insights to support rapid growth during COVID-19 

The first challenge comes from too much of a good thing: rapid, even exponential growth in new business and demands from existing customers. We’ve heard of mortgage companies with 300% growth in applications, and call centers with increases that dwarf this figure. 

Business is no longer running as usual at these companies, and the stakeholder landscape has an entirely different set of demands. Suddenly everyone needs new insights to make decisions. As an insights leader,  you need to quickly understand how to adjust to the new normal.

To deal with the increase in volume, we’re seeing people adopt the following strategies:

Look for non-linearity

Identifying areas of the business that are seeing non-linear change can create a map of the “new normal,” highlight areas for focus, and identify bottlenecks to growth.   

Normalize metrics

When business systems have continuous and unpredictable spikes, yesterday’s KPIs are no longer relevant, and everyone needs context for today’s numbers. Examples of this include increasing sales targets for teams with much higher demand, and adjusting expectations for overwhelmed call centers. 

Focus on incoming demand

New customer demand likely isn’t just more of the same; customers have a different set of needs and pain points in the wake of COVID-19, and may be buying for an entirely different set of reasons than before. Deeper segmentation and insights into inbound demand can help businesses prioritize, triage and respond to backlogs. 

#2 Urgency: Find the root cause of changes in feedback

The second challenge stems from urgent customer demands. B2B companies with  customers in high growth industries are most affected; their customers are asking for new features and fixes NOW to deal with their own volume and capacity challenges. 

Go towards intensity, and get to root cause

Insights leaders dealing with a barrage of demands and data are responding with deeper empathy for customers and playing closer attention to customer feedback in order to get to the WHY behind that feedback. 

Predict needs, and identify problems before they arise

Understanding root cause allows companies to pre-emptively address customer needs. We’ve seen companies do this in product features and pricing, as well as in communication. For example, Happy or Not released touchless, QR code-based kiosks, and many banks have eliminated overdraft charges for the time being. 

Pitch in

We’ve heard of research teams pitching in to write content for overwhelmed support teams. Increases in urgency and volume interrupt the normal cycles of socializing and acting on insights. In this climate, be prepared to roll up your sleeves and help colleagues act on the insights you’re surfacing. 

#3 Shifting CX focus: Start to blend teams and their efforts

The first two challenges have created environments where the customer experience is being redefined. Operational areas like call and support centers are the new frontline, and now represent major bottlenecks or competitive differentiators.

Kill two birds with one stone

We’ve seen insights teams focusing more on analyzing support ticket notes, for instance, in order to help reduce support bottlenecks, while surfacing deeper insights for product teams. 

Think outside the box 

We spoke with a product leader at one B2B2C company that is taking responsibility for aspects of their customers’ customer experience. This represents a major value add for their customers, and allows them to pre-emptively address issues at the end-user level, saving time and effort for both companies.

#4 Rapid change: Becoming flexible

The final challenge we have heard is that the above issues aren’t limited to one domain. There are continuous, simultaneous, multi-level changes happening in multiple domains. Roadmaps are changing daily, parents are now home-schooling, and social circles are disrupted. To deal with these issues, we’re seeing people:

Adopting flexible models 

We’ve seen teams implementing COVID-specific customer segments, as well as internally categorizing projects into groups like “keep the business running”, “respond to immediate stressors”, and “build for the future” in order to level perspective. 

Soften and harden analytics approaches quickly

Some insights leaders have dealt with the flux by asking more open ended survey questions in a particular segment and quickly replacing surveys with multiple choice questions as themes emerge. Being nimble in this way allows them to be strategic about the level of attention and effort they direct to different issues. 

Make time to breathe, connect and reflect

Some leaders have mentioned that their professional identity is undergoing shifts in this time, and getting clear about how they personally want to orient to the situation has been key to staying ahead of the chaos. 

We’re here to help!

Let’s all remember that like anything else, this too shall pass. As insights and analytics professionals, you’re in a unique position to help your organizations and customers remember this, and make the best decisions moving forward. 

Thematic has always focused on rapidly surfacing deep, actionable insights from customer feedback. If you need help understanding customer feedback, identifying and prioritizing solutions, or getting real time feedback on whether those solutions are working, please reach out.

We’ll continue to host these roundtable discussions, and would love for you to join and hear how your peers are rising to the challenge. 

You can also click HERE to join our Insights community for CX, product & analytics professionals.This group is a great opportunity for you to network with like-minded professionals and where we will share more updates and announce future roundtable conversations.

How you can help the CX & insights community

To further our understanding of the current pandemics effects on the community, we are hosting a short survey we need your help filling out.

We will use Thematic to analyze the survey responses and release a free report on the findings.

If you have a few moments to spare, please fill out the survey: Insights & CX in Times of Turmoil

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