Building a Better Dashboard: The Missing Customer Feed

I’ve talked to more and more teams lately who have a dedicated screen on the wall to show an active dashboard of what’s going on with their business.  Dashboards range from the cool (the real-time feed of search terms on the wall of one of the buildings at Google HQ) to the beautiful (some of the visualizations I’ve seen coming out of Geckoboard) to the simple yet functional (the dashboard on the Mini Cooper). From what I’ve seen, dashboards can be a lot like the gold stars we got in elementary school: great motivational tools, a broad indicator of whether we are doing well or poorly, but they don’t necessarily give us actionable next steps.

The Missing Customer Data

The key missing component is real-time information on the interactions customers are having with your business.  This information is a crucial addition because:

  • It shows your team the real impact they are having on an actual person. By being able to show a picture, a name or even a place for a single interaction, you add a level reality to why you do the things you do.  Why fix that bug that just got filed? Because you just saw that John in Stockholm filed it, and you can see that he uses your tool everyday. There’s nothing like being able to identify with a real person’s happiness or frustration with your product to give you motivation. You probably didn’t found your company just to be rich, so why should you only focus on an increasing # or $ amount?
  • It’s actionable in the short term. When you observe some one logging in for the first time, trying a new feature, logging a bug, or quitting your service, you can respond in real-time by calling, emailing, or fixing the problem specifically in their way.  If we focus only on high-level metrics, we’re a lot more likely to be focused on how the average customer is doing – which is a lot more static. For example, if we looked at the average child in a school, they’d probably be healthy, but if we looked at the 5% starting to feel sick, we could give them medicine.

How To Do It

There are at least three ways to approach this (largely depending on what you need): using a system like Geckoboard and adding it to your existing dashboard (a custom text feed is probably the way to do it currently), building your own widget, or using a tool like Klaviyo (designed as a tool rather than a dashboard, but we do talk to people who want to use it this way). Whether you work with us or build your own, there are probably some things to be learned from our approach. Here’s what it looks like:

A couple of things to note about this:

  • You probably want to combine data from multiple sources to get a true picture of all customer interactions.  If you focus only on one piece, you miss out on key data.
  • You need to carefully choose the right level of user activity to keep this useful. A stream of every single click made in your app doesn’t tell you much – but showing when someone ran an analysis or started a new project gives you the right focus.
  • Real-time data is important. Because a natural next step might be to reach out to someone directly via phone or email, real-time data lets you reach them at the best possible time – when they are actively engaging with your tool.

Does your dashboard feature customer data? Tell us more in the comments – and follow us on Twitter.


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