World Association of News Publishers

Smart Data – Report 3: Sustain relationships by improving customer experience

Smart Data – Report 3: Sustain relationships by improving customer experience


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Boiled down to one word, the message of this report is "listen!" Use your ears – and your heart. To paraphrase Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, "It is only with the heart that one can hear rightly; what is essential is inaudible to the ear." Who should you listen to? Your customers and the people employed in all levels at your company.

That might seem like an odd message for the last report in a series about data. Aren't we getting into "touchy-feely" territory here? Can you really achieve quantifiable results – boost your company's bottom line – by harvesting information about people's emotions? Yes, you can.

Xavier van Leeuwe and Matthijs van de Peppel of NRC Media in the Netherlands learned a lot about listening in the last few years. They put their lessons to work to improve NRC's bottom line, and they share those lessons in this report. As mentioned in the first two reports in this series, NRC's leap into data and analytics was assisted by Mather Economics of the USA. Together with Matt Lindsay of Mather, Van Leeuwe and van de Peppel have written a book about their experiences and generously allowed us to publish excerpts in this series of three reports.

The first report, subtitled "How to make data work for your news organization," is available at The second report, subtitled "Building valuable relationships," can be found at at

While the first two reports focus on "listening" to customers and staff members by means of bits and bytes, this one will inspire you to sit down with those people to find out how they really feel about your products and services. Yes, it is time-consuming, but necessary. In fact, it is unavoidable if you are serious about sustaining and improving relationships – the core of your business – by improving customer experience.

When it comes to what the customer is actually experiencing, data tells only half the story, as described in the first chapter.

Interestingly, if you involve people at all levels of your organization, the relationships you will sustain and improve are not just those with your customers. The common goal of upgrading interactions with your products and services can knit your staff together more closely too. It can form bridges among departments and break down silos.

Turning feelings into financials

Van Leeuwe and van de Peppel describe how they implemented service design, a focus on customer needs, and techniques for measuring the impact of emotionally-driven factors – and achieved black-on-white financial benefits. They describe in detail how you can implement the methodology from Stanford University, originated by the Kelley brothers.

Also illuminating and inspiring are case studies from a U.S. metropolitan daily newspaper and a large international bank.

As asserted at the beginning of this text, effective listening consists of far more than ingesting the literal contents of what another person is saying. The authors describe how they learned techniques of active listening, which can bring out much deeper feelings that can help you improve your products and services.

Your customer is providing your bread and butter – so go find out what makes him or her tick. If you keep an open mind and follow the advice in this report, the experience will return more benefits than you might anticipate.

Xavier van Leeuwe and Matthijs van de Peppel, NRC, The Netherlands; and Matt Lindsay, Mather Economics, USA


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2017-12-20 16:28

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