All businesses want to shine in the marketplaces filled with hungry competitors. A lot of companies just like yours are competing for recurring customer dollars i.e customer retention.
While gaining a competitive edge is hard, maintaining it is harder. You must keep pace with consumer demands, market trends, brand image, and above all, your competitors.
But how much do you actually understand your corporate rivals?
What new services or products are they building?
How effective are their existing customer service strategies?
How happy are their customers?
To remain ahead of the curve, you must ask these crucial questions to yourself. For that, competitor intelligence (CI) is one of the most effective methods to get answer these questions to improve customer service in 2023.
What is Competitor Intelligence?
Competitor intelligence involves systematic collection, monitoring, and analysis of data obtained from multiple (legal and ethical) sources on your market, competitors, and customers to inform decision-making. This intel incorporates anything related to your competitive landscape – products/services, industry, supply chain, and technologies.
Competitor intel helps you identify loopholes in your customer service-led growth strategies and discover white spaces. Additionally, it enables you to look over the horizon and base your retention-based growth strategies on data-driven market insights.
Simply put, the underlying intention of competitor intelligence corresponds to the famous movie dialogue, “Keep your friends close but your enemies closer.”
That said, you do not need disguises, trench coats, or undercover agents for this form of industry research. After all, competitor intelligence is not the same as corporate spying. While spying is secretive and shady, competitor intel is transparent and honest.
The Importance of Competitor Intelligence in Customer Service
In today’s digital economy, data rules everything around us. Information sources such as website activity, social listening, buying history, and user demographics are already crucial inputs into organizations’ service-led growth frameworks. Nevertheless, competitor intelligence is just as vital and effective if used accurately.
“A piece of information like your competitor’s next office location might be meaningless individually, but when you aggregate it with other details, these disparate data points tell an important story.” – Peter Mertens, Director of Market Strategy, Sprout Social.
A survey suggests that brands are 12% more likely to acknowledge the rising competition in their industries than in 2020.
The information gathered through CI processes empowers teams in:
- Customer service to address customer objections and pain points
- Marketing to tweak their messaging to better match user profiles
- Product development to keep up with competitors’ packaging models and pricing
In a nutshell, competitor intel provides insights into competitor motivations and behaviors and, more importantly, puts you in the driver’s seat.
Building a Competitor Intelligence Framework
In the ever-dynamic competitive landscapes, having a knowledge advantage is a must for companies to boost revenue, brand equity, and market share. Read on to know how to create a competitor intel framework to improve customer experience in 2023.
01. Set Clear Objectives
The amount of competitor intelligence you can collect often has no bounds. So, determine the areas you want to learn about your rivals and the objectives you want to meet with your competitor intel process.
- Is it time to refresh your customer service-led growth strategy?
- Are you looking to develop new services or products? Or want to add new features to them?
- Do you want to revamp your marketing?
As such, you can determine which avenues to pursue and which data sources to focus on. However, do not go too far, or you will drown in a sea of unusable data. Instead, pick a few focal points to kickstart your strategy. Having a crystal-clear goal guides you where you need a deep dive and where you can afford staying at the surface level.
02. Know your Top Competitors
If you think your business has no competition, wake up! Actionable competitor intel is impossible until you know who your competitors are.
Start by filtering out your key direct competitors. These are the brands that deliver a similar product/service and share the same focused groups. Generally, it is a zero-sum game – if customers do not purchase from you, they will turn to others. Think Flipkart vs. Amazon.
Then, narrow down your indirect competitors. These companies sell different products/services but may still target your user personas. Monitor them for inspiration instead of for competitive advantage. For instance, both McDonald’s and KFC are fast-food chains that satiate hunger differently.
Finally, compile a list of replacement competitors (or phantom competitors). They operate in different markets but can replace your service/product to meet the same demand. Consider Haldiram’s vs. Starbucks.
Once you specify your competitors, shortlist 4-5 direct competitors and an equal number of indirect competitors. Replacement competitors should not bother you unless they find ways to fix the issue your offering (s) is trying to solve.
03. Gather Data from Multiple Sources
The beauty of competitor intel is that you can collect all public-facing information from pretty much anywhere. You can find these insights for your customer-led growth strategies sitting online in the form of:
- Competitors’ websites: For overall brand strategy, user persona details, product/service info and pricing, messaging, and branding.
- Social media: Business social media handles offer brands a mic to communicate directly with their existing and potential customers, so better focus on what they are saying. Moreover, closely monitor their preferred channels, posting frequency, and who they follow.
- Industry reports: They contain data about your competitor’s products/services, revenue share, strategic initiatives, financial performance, and strengths and weaknesses.
- Customer reviews: To understand the strengths and gaps of your competitor’s offering, quality of customer service, and overall satisfaction with the product/service.
- Competitor intel software: These tech tools help brands monitor industry trends, business activities, and customer behaviors – all from a single platform. For instance, competitor intel software like Moz, Semrush, and BuzzSumo will gather mentions of that keyword to track the entire press release about a specific topic.
- Mystery shopping: This approach involves your employees cold-calling a competitor, purchasing their products, or simply getting a demo, disguising themselves as customers. These secret customers examine the entire customer journey, from the initial contact to the service delivery. That way, you will have firsthand insights into the quality of your competitor’s customer service, sales tactics, engagement practices, and overall customer experience.
04. Put That Data into Action
Great job so far. Now, what follows after the above steps is converting that raw data into actual deliverables. Here are some common ways to do so:
- Strategic group analysis: To look into the competitive dynamics and rivalry among players within an industry. These insights help you understand the entry barriers, pricing structures, and retention-based growth strategies used by brands with similar products/services.
- Perceptual mapping: Establish a visual representation of how customers view and feel about various brands or products. Also called product positioning maps, this method helps you identify gaps in competitors’ offerings, discover opportunities for innovation, and eventually compare your brand position with that of your rivals.
- Benchmarking: You can showcase how your brand compares to competitors on all enterprise fronts, including sales growth, profitability, service-led growth strategies, and customer satisfaction.
- Porter’s five forces: Analyze the threat of rookie players, the bargaining power of suppliers and buyers, the threat of substitute products/services, and the magnitude of competitive rivalry.
- Growth share matrix: Also known as the Boston Consulting Group (BCG) matrix, this planning tool offers you intel to check how your products/services stack up against those of competitors in terms of market share and growth potential. That way, you can highlight areas where your competitors boast strong market positions or potential weaknesses.
- SWOT analysis: Assess the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats of competitors. By digging into competitors’ market positioning, customer-led growth strategies, and capabilities, you can underline potential gaps to exploit, areas of differentiation, and strategies to outsmart them.
How to Use Competitor Intelligence for CSLG
Let’s see how you can leverage competitor intel for your customer service-led growth frameworks:
01. Stand Out in the Market
Competitor intel enables you to explore avenues to differentiate your customer service offerings from your competitors. This involves offering tailored support interactions, proactive support, self-service options, or additional channels to communicate with customers.
For instance, Zappos uses competitor intel to study its rivals’ customer service practices. As such, the online shoe and clothing retailer boasts differentiation with its customer satisfaction and a no-hassle shopping experience. The company is now known for its exceptional customer service, generous return policy, and free shipping, standing out from other online retailers.
02. Understand Your own Strengths and Weaknesses
Why do people pick you over the competition or vice versa? Is it about customer service quality? Or hyper-personalization?
Use competitor intel to compare your retention-based growth strategies and engagement practices with those of your industry rivals. The raw insights equip you with accurate benchmarks to measure your brand’s success and identify potential gaps in your customer service.
That way, you can figure out where you excel and lag in your customer service tactics against your competitors.
03. Identify Potential Areas for Improvement
Knowing what areas for improvement exist in your customer-led growth strategies is good.
Your market rivals can determine which domain is still fresh for the taking. So, use competitor intel to know which areas they are innovating or introducing new services or features in.
Learning how your competitors position themselves, build user personas, and communicate with people helps you spot potential avenues for improvement in your customer service. This involves improving existing features, launching new ones, or filling untapped white spaces in the market.
04. Learn from Competitors’ Successes and Failures
Everything is so transparent with the Internet nowadays. So much that you can find businesses who have failed at selling to their focused groups or earned more customers with their phenomenal customer support in 2023.
With competitor intelligence, you can understand where your competitors excel and where they fall short. Analyzing their customer service tactics provides you with information about what works well and apply those practices to your own processes.
Likewise, you can identify instances where your competitors faced challenges, experienced setbacks, or made missteps to avoid potential pitfalls.
These insights will help you determine how to market, position, sell, distribute, and even build out your product/service. More importantly, you can offer the best serve and meet your customers’ expectations.
Boost Customer Satisfaction in 2023 with Competitor Intel
Your business does not reside in a vacuum. Whichever industry you function in and howsoever unique your selling proposition is, you will always find other companies competing to grab the biggest slice of the market.
So, when you peek into your customers’ brains, you will discover dozens of competitors striving for their cash.
Whether you are devising a marketing strategy, a customer-led growth strategy, or a more general corporate strategy, include competitor intelligence in your business’s DNA for long-term success.
It pushes you several steps ahead of the competition and enables you to identify any issues before they arise. Likewise, you can anticipate risks, challenges, and opportunities even before they knock on your doors.
Armed with accurate data, you can set yourself apart and better align with customers’ expectations and needs using competitor intel. This differentiation offers you a far greater chance to win.
Remember that gathering competitor intelligence is not a one-off process. You will not be on the right lines from the start. What is important is to keep going, learning, and progressing along the way.
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01. What is competitor intelligence?
Competitor intelligence is the systematic process of collecting, examining, and interpreting data about competitors and their activities to direct future customer service-led growth strategies.
The information includes competitors’ strategies, market positioning, products/services, and strengths and weaknesses. These insights provide a holistic view of the competitive landscape.
02. How can brands analyze the data collected via the competitor intelligence process?
Businesses can transform raw competitor intel into actionable insights using the following methods:
- SWOT analysis
- Porter’s five forces
- Strategic group analysis
- Growth-share matrix
- Perceptual mapping
03. Where can businesses extract competitor intelligence from?
Brands can find crucial competitor intel for their customer-led growth strategies from the following sources:
- Competitors’ websites
- Social media
- Customer reviews
- Industry reports
- Secret shopping
- Competitor intel tools