Developing customer insight

Customer insight is an ongoing programme that evolves with changes to citizen and customer needs, a council's political priorities, and the local, regional and national policy landscape. It should be built into everyday mechanisms for performance management, decision making and engagement.

Councils that are successfully using customer insight are generally characterised by:

  • strong leadership
  • a senior director with responsibility for actively driving insight
  • a chief executive with an active interest in it.

People and skills

In practice, customer insight is often developed by an internal team - recognised experts with knowledge of the tools and techniques, access to data, and the ability to bring the two together.

Customer insight tools, data and techniques

However, some of the required skills often already exist within a council or its partners - for example, policy and performance, consultation, research and customer service.

Councils need not necessarily gain a lot of new skills, but they will need people to:

  • analyse and manipulate data
  • present and use data to inform strategy and policy
  • understand and use market research techniques and methods
  • communicate the results of customer insight analysis in a way that makes an impact on the audience
  • enthuse others and engage effectively with staff members throughout the organisation.


Established processes are vital to collecting, analysing and disseminating information, and using this to inform a council's activities. Business processes that should be informed by customer insight include:

  • service planning
  • business cases
  • engagement and empowerment.

Data and systems

Good data is the foundation of customer insight analysis. Information collected about citizens must be stored and shared within and between organisations. Data sets - particularly those purchased externally - need to be held in one place and made available to the whole organisation.

Understanding an individual customer's interactions with the council - a 'single customer view' - is critical to setting up a single 'clean' data source on a customer. This can then be used to develop reliable customer analysis.

Getting started

This is a standard way for a council to approach a customer insight project:

  1. Identify the objectives for using insight and the related question or issue.
  2. Work out how better understanding your customers will help you.
  3. Undertake an audit to establish what people, processes and data you already have, the data you need and where to get it. This includes identifying the tools you will use.
  4. Develop a model for customer insight in your organisation and a plan for achieving it.
  5. Undertake a pilot to help build skills and stimulate demand for customer insight throughout your council.

Electronic service delivery (esd) toolkit

The esd-toolkit is designed to help the local government sector meet the challenges of performance monitoring, evidence collection, knowledge exchange and central reporting. The toolkit includes information on customer insight:


Delivery Council workplan

The Delivery Council, on behalf of the Cabinet Office, has published the following guidance, including 'Establishing an Effective Customer Insight Capability in Public Sector Organisations':

Delivery Council workplan 'Establishing Customer Insight as a Strategic Asset in Public Service Design' - on the Cabinet Office website

Local Government Customer Insight Forum

The Local Government Customer Insight Forum promotes work on local service transformation and acts as a link to central government. It is a sub-group of the Local Government Delivery Council, established in 2007 by the Local Government Association (LGA).

Local Government Customer Insight Forum

Join the Customer Insight Community of Practice (CoP)

Local Government Improvement and Development (formerly IDeA) hosts the Customer Insight CoP which helped shape published guidance and this web resource. The CoP is the place to discuss and publish best practice and guidance on customer insight. To join the CoP, follow the link below and register on the website - it only takes five minutes. Once you've registered, search for 'customer insight'.

Join the Customer Insight Community of Practice

26 July 2010

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