man on phone in front of "productivity" sign
PHOTO: Andreas Klassen

In the 2018 Big Data Executive Survey by management consultancy NewVantage Partners, 97 percent of the nearly 60 respondents said that their companies are investing in data analytics, big data and artificial intelligence.

That’s not surprising. Executives intrinsically understand the power of analytics in attracting customers and growing a business. Business leaders look at the sites of leading digital companies like Amazon and Netflix and find responsive pages that deliver content tailored to each individual visitor — content that adapts and changes to reflect individuals’ preferences and behaviors.

Individual visitors each get different results when they visit Amazon or Netflix because those sites’ internal analytics engines analyze user's profiles and their unique shopping and viewing histories to determine what they will want to see or buy next. Unfortunately, while business leaders have no problem understanding the power of analytics when it comes to customer-facing sites, they’re often less clear on what the technology can do for their own internal systems.

But it doesn’t take long to uncover promising examples of how analytics can be used internally. One of the key advantages of tracking user activity is that it gives you the ability to uncover critical frustrations in the user experience. This concept is just as applicable to internal sites and processes as it is to customer-facing sites, opening up ways to improve productivity and smooth out employees’ daily tasks.

Let’s look at some examples of how internal use of analytics can improve onboarding, sales and customer support.

Related Article: Using Intranet Analytics? Here's Where You Might Be Going Wrong

Improve Onboarding

When new employees join your company, they are likely to spend their first weeks attending training sessions, reading up on company rules and procedures and learning about your product offerings and your customers. They will do some of those things in person, but they will do others online, via your company’s onboarding portal. Analytics allow you to better understand what employees are doing on your internal portal and give you insights into how you can help them work faster and smarter.

For example, if you keep track of the topics new hires are reading up on or watching videos about, you can use that information to generate automatic recommendations of similar or related content, so they don’t have to hunt down additional material on their own if they’re interested in learning more.

Analytics can also be helpful in situations that involve the exact opposite behavior. If, say, a new hire skips a crucial section of training content, analytics will reveal that. Managers will then know the individual has fallen behind in the onboarding process. Some companies are already using analytics in this way. For example, in recent research on the topic of people analytics, Deloitte cites the example of a large Indian telecommunications vendor that “analyzes the time to productivity of every new hire across the company, giving line managers and corporate leaders a dashboard to note when people are behind in their onboarding process.”

Analytics make it easier to measure progress, and you can aggregate the data and then analyze it to assess the effectiveness of the overall onboarding process. If you identify any gaps, you can address those to ensure your training and orientation activities are effectively getting new hires up and running as quickly as possible.

Related Article: Why You Need to Map the Employee Journey

Streamline Sales

Let’s talk about a topic near and dear to the hearts of most CEOs: sales.

The vast majority of businesses today have already deployed customer relationship management (CRM) systems and some sort of internal sales portal or dashboard. Unfortunately, these internal tools often resemble websites from the 1990s, with static, one-size-fits-all views.

Powered by analytics, these internal sales tools could be much more than just aggregations of data from different sources. For example, analysis of past deals can reveal information that may help gauge the likelihood of successfully closing future deals. Or you may find that prospects with certain roles, or those looking for a specific feature, are more likely to purchase. Similarly, data analysis can uncover red flags that signal potential churn.

Analytics also allow managers to understand where salespeople are getting stuck in deals, both individually or in the aggregate. Those types of insights help managers take appropriate remedial action. For example, if the majority of marketing-qualified leads end up being rejected by account managers, it may be hard to pinpoint the root cause. Detailed analytics around the qualification criteria can make it possible to drill down and assess what adjustments to make.

Tensions between marketing and sales can also arise if sales teams are not entering required information into systems such as Salesforce. That’s because marketing (and sales operations) professionals rely on having as much detailed information about leads as possible so they can be accurately attributed and the business can make informed decisions with regard to lead generation. Yet information frequently remains uncollected, not because salespeople are lazy or malicious, but because systems can be cumbersome and difficult to understand and use. Here too, engagement metrics can help by identifying where salespeople are getting stuck and highlighting content to help them improve.

Related Article: Top of Funnel Inefficiencies Are Draining Your Sales Pipeline of Value and Revenue

Optimize Customer Support

The value of internal use of analytics doesn’t end when a prospect becomes a customer. It simply takes on new forms. In recent years, businesses have made considerable investments in customer success services and software, including in internal customer support applications. In this case, analytics help support representatives sift through previous cases to determine how issues were addressed in the past and offer the reps content and recommendations to help resolve similar problems in the future.

Even better, leveraging analytics within a customer support portal allows support representatives to uncover trending issues with products, or specific versions of products, and proactively reach out to customers. For example, in a situation where a company has recently launched a new product, analytics tools in a customer support portal can track customer complaints about new features, and that information can be used to prepare support representatives to answer questions from customers and provide a list of affected customers to proactively contact with fixes.

The Way Forward

The value of analytics for internal systems really comes down to increasing productivity. Just as analytics deployed in customer-facing sites help to make the purchasing process smoother and more pleasant, analytics deployed in internally help employees more easily find valuable content that allows them to work more efficiently and, ultimately, deliver more value to customers.

Has your organization tested or already deployed analytics internally? What are your questions or concerns about the technology? Let me know in the comments.