Paul Laughlin, Author at Insurance Thought Leadership



Paul Laughlin

Paul Laughlin

Paul Laughlin is the founder of Laughlin Consultancy, which helps companies generate sustainable value from their customer insight. This includes growing their bottom line, improving customer retention and demonstrating to regulators that they treat customers fairly.

Laughlin works with customer insight and marketing leaders, to help them maximize the value created by their teams. He also provides executive coaching to ensure leaders can then sustain this delivery themselves.

A former head of customer insights for both Lloyds Banking Group Insurance and Scottish Widows, he has more than 12 years experience of creating and improving customer insight teams and 25 years experience of deriving value from data and analytics. His teams have added as much as £10 million incremental profit per year through improvements to customer acquisition, experience and retention.

This is achieved by enabling businesses to maximize the value they can drive, from using data, analytics and research, to intelligently interact with their customers. It also means ensuring that customer insight teams, especially their leaders, have the knowledge and skills they need to sustain this improvement.

Recent Articles by Paul Laughlin

Succeeding at Hard Conversations

During this time of teams being physically apart, it is easy for leaders to avoid difficult conversations. Empathy and compassion matter from leaders at this time, but you will not be serving your team if you use those as an excuse to avoid all criticism or challenging feedback. For that reason, I am hearing from a number of my […]

How to Think Better by Using 6 Hats

Continuing our series of helping leaders listen and think better, in this post I share why I recommend Edward de Bono’s thinking hats. Over 20 years ago, when I was learning my trade as a leader, most management training programs included his technique. However, in recent years, I find that it’s fallen off the radar. Many analysts and leaders have never […]

How to Be Productive Working at Home

Although the speed of recent changes for us all has been breathtaking, learning how to be productive when working from home is not new. Given that so many leaders, perhaps including you, are suddenly facing the challenge of working from home as a new normal, it seems only fair to share what I’ve learned in the nearly six […]

The Power of Pressing Pause

I recently had an opportunity to experience one of the benefits of pressing pause. While presenting to over 30 Chinese non-English-speaking executives, I learned when to pause for my translator. She was excellent and taught me how long to speak before pausing for her translation. (It’s longer than you might think, as she needed context […]

Why Analysts Need Business Awareness

I have mentioned before that analysts benefit from stronger commercial awareness. But what do I mean by this term? The easiest way to explain is to set it in context. A lack of commercial awareness is normally shown when an analyst presents findings. The impression the analyst leaves with internal customers is of being naive. […]

Product Managers Needed for Analysis?

I mentioned, in a debrief from the Data Leaders Summit, the rise of the product manager role within data science teams. This surprised me. I’ve become used to hearing about the need for more data engineers or analysts to complement data scientists. But the focus on product managers and product development life-cycles was a new one. This was not an […]

Setting Goals for Analytics Leaders

For the last couple of years, I’ve shared a post recommending a system for setting goals and achieving them. However, a few conversations with insight leaders have reminded me that advice remains generic. What about which goals to set? As this blog aims to support customer insight leaders, I want to also offer more specific advice. […]

2019 Trends for Customer Analytics

As we near the end of the first quarter of 2019, which trends are worth watching? Data Visualization 3.0 To kick us off, let me highlight an area that is a regular topic on this blog, data visualization. Progress in this area is always a combination of skilled people as well as technology. So, building on the positive examples from IIB Awards […]

Don’t Neglect the Politics of Analytics

To complement recent advice from our guest bloggers, let’s consider the political dimension of applying analytics in business. Annette and Peter have shared useful tips on applying analytics for both customer experience and marketing. However, unlike in the classroom, advancing such use of analytics in business always involves politics. Over the years, as well as protecting technical stars from performance management systems, […]

The Future of AI and Work Life

The future of AI as a threat to our jobs is a popular topic. Here is a book to help you respond. Unlike so much that is written on this topic, Tony Boobier‘s latest book focuses on a positive response. It also investigates the implications of AI at a deeper level than most analysis. While […]

9 Pitfalls to Avoid in Setting 2019 KPIs

As we all start working toward our goals and targets for the year, what defines a good KPI? Guest blogger Hanne Sorteberg returns to share her experience and advice on how to get these priority metrics right. She also helpfully shares nine pitfalls to avoid. Whether you are an analytics leader setting KPIs for your team, or influencing other teams, this is for you. Over to […]

5 Key Business Lessons From GDPR

With so much focus on the detail of GDPR, let’s take some time to look at the business lessons from this external change. Whatever the size of your business, the world around you changes, and you need to be able to adapt. Regulation is just one of those key drivers of external change. So, to help […]

A New Framework for Your Analysts

As we focus on Analytics & Data Science, I’ve been reminded of how a Competency Framework can help. Both work with clients, and my own experience in creating and leading analytics teams has taught me that such a tool can help in a number of ways. In this post I’ll explain what I mean by a competency framework and […]

Are You Reinventing Wheel on Analytics?

Once your analysts have a clear business question to answer, do they start new analysis each time, potentially reinventing the wheel? After creating or leading data and analytics teams for many years, I began to notice this pattern of behavior. What we seemed to lack was a consistent knowledge management solution or corporate memory that could easily spot […]

The Challenges of ‘Data Wrangling’

A couple of conversations with data leaders have reminded me of the data wrangling challenges that a number of you are still facing. Despite the amount of media coverage for deep learning and other more advanced techniques, most data science teams are still struggling with more basic data problems. Even well-established analytics teams can still […]

What Blockchain Means (Part 2)

Our first post covered the morning sessions on blockchain at the #CityChain17 event organized by MBN Solutions and held at IBM’s spacious SouthBank offices. Our next speakers focused more on applying the technology in your business. So, here are some more reflections from listening to those speakers, together with blockchain resources that I hope you’ll find useful. How to […]

What Blockchain Means for Analytics

I recently had the pleasure of attending #CityChain17 (blockchain conference) at IBM’s SouthBank offices. Chaired by Paul Forrest (chairman of MBN Solutions), the conference was an opportunity to learn about blockchain and how it is being applied. In the past, I viewed the hype about blockchain (following excitement about Bitcoin its most famous user) as just […]

Where Can You Find Growth (Part 2)?

We are continuing our two-part series on where leaders should focus for growth in a changing world that is full of new technology. This post builds on Part One, which covered major trends, the need for customer insight and what is required to manage your data effectively. Our attention turns again to your customers — but this time also considering the […]

Where Can You Find 21st Century Growth?

Having spent a number of weeks speaking at, or chairing, various industry events, I’ve seen how firms are nervous about the rise of fintech/insurtech and are convinced they should focus on digital and technology for growth. Is that right? Does success and sustainable growth come from that focus? In response, I want to share a […]

How to Avoid Being Bit by GDPR (Part 2)

This is Part Two of a two-part series focused on helping data insight leaders plan for GDPR. Find the first part here.  With the EU-approved General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) set to be implemented in the U.K. on May 25, 2018, GDPR must be a consideration for all insight leaders. In the first post, we focused on needing to […]

How to Avoid Being Bit by GDPR (Part 1)

With the EU-approved General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) set to be implemented in the U.K. on May 25, 2018, this topic must be a consideration for all insight leaders. In my own work with clients and in my conversations with others, I find GDPR is cropping up more often. However, I’ve become a little alarmed at […]

The Hidden Issue in Facebook Dispute

Headlines can have direct bearing on the world of data and insight —and this has been even more frequent in recent years. This, increasingly, including topics like data monetization. One such story was the news that Facebook was preventing Admiral Insurance (in the U.K.) from using social-media-activity data as a means of assessing risk. Admiral planned to enable Facebook users […]

Missed Opportunity for Customer Insight

Customer insight (CI) teams can take different forms in different businesses (partly rightly, to reflect the needs of that business). One such variation is reporting line. Some CI teams report into operations, sales, IT or even finance. However, by far the most common reporting line is into marketing. See also: 3 Skills Needed for Customer Insight   […]

Should You Use a Coach/Mentor?

It’s time to share the results of our coaches and mentors poll. You may remember that, back in August, we launched a short survey. Thanks to those who participated. We now have stable enough results to give an interesting, at least initial, picture. As someone who works as an external coach and mentor, I was surprised  by […]

4 Ways to Avoid Being a Foolish Leader

April Fools’ Day is just one day a year, but there are common mistakes an insight leader is prone to (and that could end up making him look like a fool) all year ’round. This isn’t surprising when you consider the breadth of responsibility within the customer insight leadership role. Such leaders have multi-disciplinary technical teams to manage and […]

How to Pick Your Insight Team

Amid the merry-go-round of new objectives, targets and budget allocation that keep many a leader of an insight team busy, there is a question of “Who?” Who will do the work? That is probably accompanied by “how many people will there be in my team?” and “do they have the skills and motivation they need?” At […]

It’s Time for a New Look at Metadata

In today’s search for bigger and bigger big data, I fear metadata is getting overlooked. Put that way, it sounds ironic. Given that many organizations are almost desperate to mine their data assets for advantage, why would anyone intentionally overlook metadata? But, in fact, this is nothing new. Thinking back to when I successfully led […]

How to Choose a Great Coach

The Institute of Leadership & Management (ILM) published a report titled “Coaching for Success: The key ingredients for coaching delivery and coach recruitment.” There’s plenty of interesting snippets of research findings and practical advice. If you have time, it is well worth a read, but the points that caught my eye were a three-stage process for […]

3 Skills Needed for Customer Insight

While working in Amsterdam, I was reminded how insight analysts and leaders can shine brightly in very different contexts. In the Netherlands, a mixture of training and facilitation was helping an events business. What struck me was the similarity of the challenges faced by their insight teams to the challenges I see in the U.K. The more I […]

What You Must Know on Machine Learning

I’ve yet to hear a financial services executive focus on machine learning as a key part of his company’s insight strategy. “Analytics” still dominates Google searches (not only ahead of “machine learning” but far ahead of even “big data”): Businesses are increasingly looking to hire data scientists, and they leave universities having been taught machine learning […]

How to Resist Sexy Analytics Software

Who’s made the mistake of buying apps or sexy analytics software just based on appearance? Go on, own up. I’m sure at one time or other, we have all succumbed to those impulse purchases. It’s the same with book sales. Although it should make no difference to the reading experience, an attractive cover does increase sales. […]

Are Your Customers Like Berliners?

Soon after the Soviet Union erected the Berlin Wall, President Kennedy uttered the now-famous words, “Ich bin ein Berliner” (I am a Berliner). Initially, this was a statement aimed at the Russians that was intended to show Western resolve. Over the years, however, it has become adopted by Berliners as a statement of individuality and freedom of […]

Leadership Coaching: Is It For You?

Have you experienced the benefits of leadership coaching? Years ago, U.K. business leaders appeared to just see it as an American business fad (for a culture that has also embraced the benefits of therapists and given us great TV like “In Treatment“). However, over the last decade, more and more U.K. businesses have embraced executive […]

What Are Other Marketers Doing?

“Insurance Marketing & Distribution Summit Europe 2015” proved to be a great event. There were interesting speakers, a range of topics and plenty of opportunity for interaction. Plus, it was a pleasure for me to share with this group, but more on that later. Following events that were useful for getting close to leaders on […]

Frustrated on Your Data Journey?

It’s going to take how much longer?! It’s going to cost how much more?!! If those sound like all too familiar expressions of frustration, in relation to your data journey (projects), you’re in good company. It seems most corporations these days struggle to make the progress they plan, with regards to building a single customer […]

Are Softer Skills for Analysts Neglected?

Are you neglecting the development of softer skills in your analysts? Based on conversations with customer insight leaders, including at the very pleasant DataIQ Talent Awards, it would seem you are. When I shared the experience of Laughlin Consultancy, that training for analysts in softer skills is our most popular service, these leaders were not […]

Is Research Ready for ‘Gamification’?

It has been interesting that, after several years of excitement around the topic of “gamification,” this year more commentators have suggested that it’s “game over.” I certainly agree that this concept has moved through the Gartner hype-cycle, into the wonderfully named “trough of disillusionment.” However, that is the springboard for entering into the stages of […]

A Wedding’s Lessons on Customer Insight

Enjoying the emotions of my second son’s wedding was the highlight of our family’s year. After the drama of the ceremony (including the comedy of a fire alarm that wouldn’t give up), we enjoyed great food at the reception, moving speeches and then the joys of drink and dancing into the wee small hours. Everyone […]

9-Step Model for Data Analysis

When training analysts how to deliver more value, two topics have proved the most popular. One is training in Socratic questioning techniques, to get to the real business need. But, as many analysts have “fallen into” this line of work, rather than making a conscious education and career choice, few have been trained in methodologies. With […]

6 Tips on Recruiting Analytical Talent

The well-trailed difficulties in recruiting data scientists or other analytical roles, followed by the equivalent challenge in retaining them long enough to recoup your investment, have been likened to “talent wars.” There are hotspots around the UK, but it seems all areas to some extent share this experience. London is perhaps the most challenging place […]

What Socrates Says on Customer Insight

Are you and your Customer Insight team too often frustrated that you’re not making a difference in your business? Do your internal customers ever criticize what they receive from your team, asking, “Where’s the insight?” Sometimes this is because of technical skills or barriers that need to be addressed, but very often it’s because of […]

The Dangers of Public Segmentations

Recently, it seems that developing public segmentations of your customers or citizens and then sharing it for all to see is becoming fashionable. In part, this is to be applauded and welcomed.,/p> The trend highlights a key tool within the customer insight toolkit, encourages greater focus on understanding people and embraces the need for greater […]

How Effective Is Your Marketing?

When speaking about the power of having different technical disciplines converge to yield customer insights, it’s common to focus on analytics and research. However, another rich territory for seeing the benefit of multiple technical disciplines to deliver customer insight (CI) is measuring how effective your marketing is. One reason for calling on the skills of […]

Creating a Customer-Insight Strategy

Too few companies have a customer strategy, let alone a customer-insight (CI) strategy. At least, that’s my experience. In fact, many business strategies that I’ve seen, which seek to pepper their presentation with customer language, are really channel strategies or product strategies that reflect the silos in that business. This is unfortunate, as most CEOs […]

4 Tips for Creating a Culture of Action

More than a decade of creating and leading insight teams has taught me that two aspects of culture are critical for customer insight teams to make a real difference to the wider business. One is collaboration between the different technical disciplines (to deliver holistic customer insights). The other is action-orientation, galvanizing the team behind a vision […]

Customer Insight: 4 Ways to Sway C-Suite

As more and more customer insight leaders rise in influence within blue chip companies, it seems timely to consider this question: How can they use their insights to influence senior management? My last search on LinkedIn turned up nearly 50 customer insight directors (CIDs) in the UK (excluding research agencies, where this job title does […]

Should You Offshore Your Analytics?

There has been much on LinkedIn and Twitter in recent years about the shortfall in analytical resource, for the U.S. and UK especially. Several years ago, I had the learning experience of attempting to offshore part of my analytics function to India, Bangalore to be precise. It was all very exciting at first, traveling out […]

How to Be Happier and More Motivated

The sub-title of a great little book, “Happier,” by Tal Ben-Shahar, is “Can you learn to be happy?” Ben-Shahar explores that question through a series of short chapters, summarizing the most popular course at Harvard University today. This book might seem a strange topic for my posts (as a writer on customer insight), but my coaching work […]

New Year, New Job? Get the Right Support

As the first month of the new year unfolds, some of you may be facing the challenge of starting a new job, or at least a new or expanded role. Psychologically, many people seem to prefer starting new life challenges like this at major milestones, like the turning of the year. Whether that is the […]

How to Organize the Insight Function

They may seem like curses of modern corporations, but org charts and regular reorganizations are now a fact of business life. I’m sure, as an insight leader, you will have seen your fair share. As you’ve risen up the hierarchy, you’ve probably changed your role, from recipient to author. From my experience, two major opportunities exist for […]

Best Way to Track Customer Experience

Many commentators have recently debated the relative merits of customer effort score (CES) vs. net promoter score (NPS). As a leader who remembers the controversy that surrounded NPS when it first came to dominance, I find the debate concerning. I still recall the effort people wasted trying to win the battle against NPS, pointing out […]

How Customers Really Think About Insurance

Since presenting on the topic and writing an article for the Chartered Insurance Institute’s’ Journal, I’ve continued to hear a demand for more understanding of Behavioral Economics (BE). It appears the majority of insurers have delegated the challenge of understanding behavioral economics to their risk and pricing teams, and few are engaging actively with their marketing and customer […]

The 4 Requirements for Customer Insight

Different businesses continue to use the term “customer insight” (CI) to mean different things. Even in a recent poll of more than 100 customer insight leaders, only half considered data management or database marketing to be part of customer insight. The majority also had only research reporting into them, not analytics. Does that ring true […]

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