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The customer insights function is ripe for a boost

A new Periscope by McKinsey survey reveals a big gap between aspiration and reality

Understanding your customers is crucial to develop strategies for sustainable growth, create superior customer experiences, and drive innovation. In a new Periscope by McKinsey survey, more than 200 senior insights professionals from a wide variety of industries acknowledge the importance of consumer and customer insights (CI) as a source of sustainable growth and competitive differentiation.

An overwhelming majority of respondents aspires for CI to become a true thought partner for the entire organization. But today, only 23 percent describe their companies as being there already. In this article, we explore the root causes of this gap between aspiration and reality, and we examine what executives who seek to boost the role of insights at their companies can learn from self-professed CI pioneers.

You think you own your business, but you don’t. Customers do. Their perception determines what you can do: the competitors you can outperform, the trust you can command, the new business opportunities you can capture. And because customers own your business, you cannot afford to steer it inside-out, or at least not exclusively. No company can be everything to all people.

On the contrary. The sharper the profile of your company, and the more differentiated your propositions, the bigger your chance is to stand out from the crowd. So, to maximize the value of your business–and the return on your investments in R&D, marketing, and sales –you need to understand what customers really want, what they might want in the future, to what extent they are getting it from your company, and how you can keep them coming back for more.

To generate the fact base that will enable you to optimize your offering, inform your innovation initiatives, optimize your channel management, focus your messages, and set the right prices, you need insights. Insights tell you what customers value, to what extent your company delivers it, how market trends and consumer needs evolve, and which levers you can pull to improve your performance relative to your competitors. According to recent research, organizations that leverage customer insights outperform peers by 85 percent in sales growth and by more than 25 percent in gross margin.

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