Escaping the Big Data Black Hole


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In a recent client meeting with a large US bank, we were talking about the way customers’ expectations have changed and there is a greater need to be relevant on a continuous basis. We were in agreement, but our client then said something that I found thought provoking – “…it is amazing how much data we gather on every customer, and how little we do with it to help the customer.”

My first thought was that big data and analytics could probably be a solution, but then I thought again about the end of the statement, “…and how little we do with it to help the customer”.

The fact that our client did not say, “how much better we can target/segment” or “how much more efficient our marketing campaigns could be” was an indication for me that there was a change in mindset establishing itself in our client’s company.

My interpretation of these changes, which we see with other clients too, is that the need to ensure a continuous valuable experience to customers is becoming more important if you want to maintain long-term relationships with your customers. This can only happen when you understand both what your customers are doing and combining it with why they do it.

The problem: All that data only tells you what people have done – their behavior

In typical CRM (generalized categorization) environments we manage knowledge based on the number of transactions (campaigns, interactions, events, etc.) we can gather. Our ability to decipher and decode the transactions into something meaningful is what provides the competitive advantages we seek. This knowledge helps us generate more transactions – an endless loop of “what’s.”

But does the “what” give us the insight we need to help customers? Partially, but not perfectly. It simply records an outcome (responded, bought, called, etc.) and the true reasons for the particular outcome remain hidden. By looking at the past transactions, we try to understand the reasons, but this is not enough – it does not reflect what people feel.

The key to the solution: Finding out why people do what they do

Understanding what customers feel requires that we ask “why.” People act on what they feel, their emotions, and by asking the right questions the insight we need is uncovered. The trick here is to not only do this at a given point in time (moment of truth) or following specific transactions like a complaint follow-up, or a service request. It needs to be constant and over the lifetime of a customer.

Maintaining a constant check on your customers is impossible unless your customers feel that it delivers value. To quote a client again – “People will be willing to share more with us if they felt it added value for them to share it.”

Reciprocity is what adds value and helps the customer

Asking the right questions and listening helps to understand the latent needs that our customers have regarding products, services, people, and brand. Armed with new insight, we can focus on improvement and optimization activities. But this is not going to bring you very far if you continuously aggregate and average everything out.

It has to be individual, personal, and unexpected. It has to be relevant. I believe that the best way to achieve business growth is through a reciprocal distribution of value through the entire customer experience. This means applying a process of learning and then influencing. Learning what customers need to have a fulfilling experience and then assisting them to achieve it will influence their feelings and perception of value. This will be repaid in value gain for your company.

It’s time to change our vocabulary and our point of view

Combining it all, bringing the “What” and the “Why” together over the lifetime of a customer allows us to generate reciprocal value by addressing immediate and latent needs. Helping the customer “finish” the job using all the data you have gathered.

Value is not created in one or two moments – it takes a lifetime to fully realize. So instead of using terms like management, or measurement, should we not be talking about the journey, an exchange, an experience seen from a customer’s point of view, rather than the companies’?

This means, turning the world upside down and letting the customer decide who does the talking based on their needs. It is time to change or be left behind – the endless bombarding of sales and marketing is quickly filling the customer’s trash box and delivering no value to you or your customer.

Wouldn’t customers appreciate you more if they felt you were talking about what is important to them, rather than what is important to you?

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Lorenzo Introna
Lorenzo started his career in IT engineering which led to a position at one of Germany's premium automobile manufacturers. As responsible manager for various international systems he executed and headed international projects in different sectors in Europe and Asia. He changed roles from IT into Marketing, taking care of the CRM strategy and innovation and was manager for sales channel strategies and retail CRM integration.


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