iStock photoUncovering existing insight that makes a difference is the real key to Big Data.

Why are guest bloggers like London buses? You wait ages for one and then three come along at once! Hope you’re enjoying our recent guest voices on this blog. Now, over to Gerry (the uniquely titled Customer Lifeguard) to explain more about the big deal with big data.

With the recent news about the cyber-attack at Talk Talk, data, and data security, has been in the news for all the wrong reasons. However data, in the right hands, used judiciously, nurtured carefully and leveraged intelligently can provide increasingly beneficial insight to all parts of a business. Marketers continue to wax lyrically about the potential value of Big Data and while that gathers much of the headlines, and the attention of many companies, it’s worth noting that not all data is good data nor is quantity the defining metric. In my experience many companies either choose to ignore those maxims, or don’t bother analysing and segmenting the data effectively to gain maximum value for both customers and themselves.

I don’t know about you, but I’m drowning in a sea of meaningless communications, mostly emails, but also text, direct mail and even phone calls, from companies hoping to entice me to do something, mostly legal, with their company. Customers and prospects are becoming increasingly disillusioned with the daily tidal wave of intrusive, unsolicited and mostly irrelevant marketing communications they are getting. In many cases, if these businesses just looked at the data they already have, or could easily acquire through careful customer management, they’d find a treasure trove of really useful, relevant insight right under their noses. This could help them handle acquisition, retention, complaints or any other key touch-point on the meandering customer journey more promptly, intelligently and with enhanced and measurable value to their customers.

As an example I recently moved house which, in itself is not particularly worthy of a blog post and would probably even fail to excite the most avid Twitter follower, as thousands of people up sticks every day.  But it did lead to a minor eureka (that’s Greek for “this bath is too hot!”) moment about how companies could improve their customer experience, and increase their business through the power and leverage of data regardless of its size or provenance.

Once in my new house I had to update my personal details with all of the businesses that I patronize, and while there are companies that will do this for you, ongoing concerns about identity theft convinced me to do this myself and know that the information is in the right hands. This relatively simple task turned into a time-consuming and frustrating exercise in self-flagellation, as over 50% of the companies that I had to contact had no facility for being able to do this on-line. These dinosaurs, the same ones that make you repeat your details after you’ve slogged through their mind numbing, time-wasting, incomprehensible IVR on a 084X number, made me call them and/or send an email, thus wasting my and their time and significantly increasing their cost. Not only that, but none of the people who I spoke to, or responded to my email, seemed remotely interested in finding out more about my circumstances. Had I won the lottery? Inherited a small fortune? Come to my senses and left London? How crazy is that? With the number of people and companies that move on a regular basis, many organizations are missing out on a great opportunity to reconnect with their customers, gain better insight and use the information to enhance their relationship, and improve their profitability.

So this one small example got me thinking about how companies could better leverage these customer interaction opportunities and what they need to do to change the formula without investing a small fortune and take months, or years, to do it. This is achieved by enabling businesses to maximise the value they can drive from using existing data, analytics & research, to intelligently interact with their customers and developing an insight strategy that has four main elements.

  1. Firstly, you need to figure out the specific challenges facing your business that more effective use of data can address and identifying some carefully selected, but relatively simple pieces of information, that could help you target and convert more effectively. This could be last order date, order value, feedback score or other key data that you should have already or can find in other systems.
  2. Then, blending that with what you already know about your customers and prospects The insight that you gain needs to be actionable and contextual to help you make timely offers that can provide immediate, valuable and recognizable (to the customer) benefits. This could be based on their anniversary as a customer, information on previous purchases, a local event or their location.
  3. Next, the offers need to be relevant and closely matched to the customer’s profile and growth potential and readily visible and accessible to customer sales/service staff or when a customer self-serves. Ideally something that aligns with their demographic and avoiding things those don’t. An example of this being an email I received about opening a student bank account from a financial services company that I already did business with and would have seen that my date of birth used Roman numerals.
  4. Finally, the offers must be personalized and content rich so that the recipient can see that you’ve used their information intelligently and that you understand their needs, wants and preferences. This alone can win over many cynical customers who are frustrated with getting “Dear >name<” emails, or similarly bad examples of companies that can’t be bothered to even get the basics right.

There are still lots of real, or perceived, challenges about Big Data, and data in general, not the least of which is agreeing on what it really is and how to gather and use it, effectively and appropriately.  Here is where I believe that size doesn’t matter, but that the quality and insight gained is far more important and can have a profound and sustainable effect on both customers and the company.

With #BigData size doesn't matter, it's the #quality & #insight gained that counts. Click To Tweet

My moving experience has helped me to help other businesses develop new insights, gain new customers, and respond more effectively to existing ones. This can lead to reduced costs and increased profits and there’s no reason that this type of approach can’t be equally valuable, and effective, for all businesses large or small. There’s a fertile seedbed of data in your own back yard already showing some green shoots, waiting to nurtured, harvested and turned into valuable insight when used creatively to spot new business opportunities, develop new products and enhance the customer experience. So what do you have to lose by not at least watering and fertilizing the data garden every now and then? Only your customers, and your business.

Hope that was helpful. You can find out more about Gerry and his mission to save the world from bad customer service here.

Do let us know if you have examples of driving real value from big data. Did you achieve the insight, simplicity, relevance & personalization Gerry advocates?