Big Data: Is Customer Service Ready for It?


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A very interesting blog post by Bernard Marr demystifying big data defines its essence and explains the extensive global influence and boundless benefits that can be derived. Big data also has many possibilities in elevating customer experience to new heights.But there is just one niggling doubt.

Is customer service ready for big data?

The talk about big data, and the euphoria surrounding it, is contagious. Hailed as the penicillin of service in the 21st century, it seems to promise the eradication of all that ails customer service. It will fix customer profiling, customized service, quality and the overall experience.

I am fairly convinced that it can. But will it?

Knowing how customer data is used in service, my pessimism is not unfounded. Ever since the advent of the computer, spurred on by the internet and aided by some innovative software, customer data has been collected and stored with relative ease. However, it has been very sparingly analyzed and applied, if at all.

Customer Data and its Usage
The tool that captured ‘all’ customer data was the CRM system. For a long time after its introduction the CRM tool remained largely restricted to the sales team for creating a customer pipeline and tracking conversions. Later, as its usage extended to the service desk, the rate of gathering information and the quantum of data grew rapidly. But there existed a gap between collection of data and its application. The data just sat in the CRM and was used for trivia such as looking up the customer’s contact details or last billing information. It just wasn’t being used to its full potential; which was to understand the customer and tailor service accordingly. Surprisingly, many organizations still do not allow customer service agents to access even the simplest of information about the customer via the CRM.

I can’t even remember how often I have answered the same questions repeatedly when I called a service desk; answers which I expect the company to know.
“Sir, may I know your name?”
“Could I have your email id?”
“What is your current usage plan?” (if you’re a telecom or internet subscriber)
“When does your billing cycle start?”
And the questions go on endlessly. As a customer, I find it frustrating!

It’s apparent that all the ‘little’ data gathered so far has not been put to good use. Let’s not delve into the reasons for the negligence in using information that can retain a customer, reduce churn, augment revenue and save repeat acquisition cost. But that it is so, is unquestionable. And more importantly, employees have not been exposed to, nor engaged in, using this data to analyze and manage their customer.

Intimidating Big Data
Now here comes along ‘BIG Data’; many times larger, enormously complex, and infinitely more informative. The construct of this information, if used to its full potential, has the capability to provide tailored personalized service, impeccable quality and an experience which will ensure customer retention; all of it leading to enhanced revenue. Very exciting.

But going by the poor track record of using available customer data for service, it is possible that Big data will stay just that, a pile of data, a very BIG pile of data. If CRM data hasn’t been processed and leveraged to its optimal capacity, big data will surely be an intimidating, almost frightening, proposition.

Clearly, the flaw is not in the data, but in the way it is used, or rather, not used. This makes it imperative for organizations to introduce big data in their business in a way that it doesn’t follow the route of CRM data.

Systematic Approach to Big Data Readiness
Strategic decisions will be driven at the highest levels using big data analytics, but the implementation will be done at the frontline using the output of that analysis. So, while the juggernaut of technology gathers momentum to provide big data analytics for business enhancement, how that data must be used to enrich the customer’s life should be taught to the frontline.

There is a simple 3-step approach to ready the frontline for big data:
1.     Before introducing big data it is first necessary to get all employees into the rhythm of using existing data resources in a disciplined manner and optimally.

2.     Information from tools, such as the CRM, must be included to –
a.     Derive better service strategies
b.     Redefine service processes
c.      Tailor service for the customer

3.     Measuring the improvements derived from the usage of this data will reinforce the effectiveness of using data.

Once in sync with using data as a primary source of managing service efficiencies, the employees will be engaged to take on the humungous amount of structured information thrown at them with big data.

A systematic approach can realize the potential of big data to improve customer experience. Or else, it bears the hazard of being lost in the black hole of service, silently collecting humungous amounts of data, out of sight out of mind.

Bernard Marr’s post:

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Sunil Panikker
Sunil Panikker is a business consultant specializing in customer service, operations and business strategy. He has honed his expertise over 30 years of experience, working in senior management positions, with companies having global footprints, and responsibilities that have been cross-functional & multi-locational. His blog shares the experience and expertise assimilated from managing customer experience across multiple diverse industries.


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