This guest post is by Lawrence Feldman. Lawrence manages a small tech company and works as a freelancer when he’s not taking MBA classes.
Top-tier managers and accountants love metrics. Quantitative measures are the be-all and end-all for number crunches in the business world. Goal-setting and company objectives hinge on increasing or decreasing numbers. Airlines want to sell 100 percent of their seats on every flight, hotel owners look for full occupancy with the highest rack rate booking averages, and retail outlets invest millions of dollars every year to achieve a 1 percent increase in market share.
While numbers have a significant role in responsible fiscal management practices, tracking trends relies on more value-oriented elements. For example, it is difficult to translate satisfaction into a real, tangible number that can be measured and overcome. Managers should avoid falling into the single-loop learning trap, which prevents them from responding to market changes swiftly. Focusing on long-range goals and failing to notice current trends in the marketplace can be a setback.
How does a company use metrics and tracking methods effectively? Technology — in conjunction with short-term periodic review processes — identifies market shifts that influence goal-setting and avoids that single-loop mindset. Here’s how:
Data Intelligence & Daily Reporting
Gathering information through a variety of channels is instrumental to compile relevant data. Customer service software tracks behavior and demographic information via on-site, off-site and third-party collection points. Understanding customers drives traffic to a business website and personalizes customer experiences. For example, services by live chat by LivePerson, a business-to-customer engagement company, can improve customer conversions by 20 percent with live chat software solutions and analytics. Companies can also acquire real-time information to guide daily decisions by targeting strategies that incorporate industry-specific data and online intelligence from services such as Google Analytics and Google AdWords.
Customer Relationship Managers (CRM)
Proponents of incorporating CRM software into mid-sized businesses spotlight ease of flexibility. Sales teams gain valuable purchasing data about individual customers and can link to accounts from social networking platforms, such as LinkedIn and Twitter, for personalized details and interactions. Merging social networking and email campaigns doesn’t require add-ons or third-party apps for full integration. Information gathered leads to higher sales volumes and shorter sales cycles. Centralized data storage makes daily, weekly or monthly report generation flexible for sales managers and team players.
Inventory Management Software
Clothing retailers rely on software management systems to monitor trends in fashion, for example. Maintaining appropriate inventory levels can be a problem for retail businesses though. Store planning software provides retail merchants options that ensure an agile response to new styles and customer buying trends. Metrics can help evaluate customer behavior and provide data about trends. While establishing objectives and achieving goals, business can’t afford to not effectively respond to sudden market changes. Intrinsic values are qualitative, not quantitative, and essential to every analytics program.
What are your favorite technology applications to track trends in your business? Share them in the comments.