“Hey You!” & OAuth – Monetization of Social Media’s Big Data


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I am a great fan of creating meaningful and memorable customer experiences through social media and big data. I am an even greater fan of predictive analytics and being able to do more than just extrapolation-forecasting and correlation (without causation presumption) analysis.

But I want to narrate a quick personal anecdote for context before making my technical points. I used to live off my scholarship allowance in my pre-university days in Singapore. It was very minimal and not sufficient to make ends meet. Every day I used to have $2 for lunch, not a penny more. I used to go to a particular food-court, with many stalls, right opposite my school for lunch and buy whatever I could within that $2. There was one Chinese food stall operated by a middle age gentleman where I used to go quite regularly to get 1 plate of rice with 1 potato and 1 small chicken piece for $2. One day I had no money due to something unforeseen. Come lunchtime I went with my friends to the food-court anyway. My male ego would not let me borrow, so I decided to walk around just to pretend that I am planning to buy something and then not buy and join my friends with the context that “I am not hungry, today”. I walked past this Chinese food stall, looked at the stall owner, greeted him, looked at his food and walked past. Subsequently I went and sat with my friends without any food and said “I am not hungry today”. We were sitting within the line of sight of that particular stall owner. After a couple of minutes the stall owner pointed at me and called out “Hey Boy, come here”. When I went over, he handed me 1 plate of rice and 1 potato and 1 small chicken piece. I looked at him and said “I am not hungry today” and he said very harshly “nonsense… young big boy like you, always hungry… today you got no money… go… eat… “. Impolite the tone but the gesture was most caring. I took the food with gratitude and joined my friends for lunch and said sheepishly “looks like I got hungry ☺”.

A few weeks later, word of my academic skills got out and I started getting called to tutor young kids. I started making a few hundred dollars a month working 15-20 hours per week. Now I could afford lunch, not just the $2 type but a whole lot more. And guess which food stall became my favourite, how much money I spent over there and how many friends I recommended that stall to?

In 2010, 15 years after my school days incident, I found out that same gentleman went on to establish 3 very large self-service Chinese restaurants in Singapore and was almost a millionaire. His language was still equally rude, English equally atrocious but his manners still most genuine.

Moral of the story – Many…

First, your customer can always tell the intent with which you extend your goodwill gestures. So be genuine.

Second, customer loyalty is not one-way, it is two way. Reciprocate. Become a friend.

Third, make honest effort to understand your customer and you can tell their purchasing intents with great degree of accuracy through their behaviour outside of your business. Their problems should be yours, their celebrations, likewise. Learn about your customer, even if it’s not about your business.

Finally, be proactive. And genuine, friendly gestures based on sound knowledge of your customer would most definitely, be handsomely rewarded.

Be genuine – Contextualisation (Relevance, Personalisation, Localisation) & Experience Creation

You know what I do with multitudes of “Happy Birthday” messages and vouchers I get every year from banks, credit cards and airlines that I am a frequent flier with – throw them in dustbin. For digital versions – delete. Why? They are mostly fake, one-size-fits-all kind of offers mostly designed to encourage me to spend money. I never spend money on my birthdays, my wife does and mostly on that day, she is not looking for bargains but “experiences”. When I was unmarried, my parents and my friends used to spend the birthday money on me and again priority was experience-over-bargains.

Become a friend – Listening and Discovery through Social Media and Big Data

Thanks to technology today it is easy to become a ‘friend’ of your customers. So don’t just get your customers to ‘Like’ you on Facebook and follow you on Twitter, reciprocate. Go out there to study what they post online, what they indulge in often, what they avoid, who they talk most with, when is their birthday, their anniversary, make effort to learn their wish-lists. Do what any good friend would do – just hang out, mostly and be there in time of need. Just like that Chinese hawker did for me. Mostly he hung out to observe what I did and what I ate but on that fateful day, he was there for me – like a friend. Long before social media became a craze, it was just pure sophisticated business acumen. And it holds true in the digital age. Instead of sending mass mailers and automated discounts and offers with a 3% conversion rate, look out for that one opportunity that would have a 50% conversion rate and even without a discount. Someone stuck in a foreign land, not knowing what to do due to something unforeseen, someone who got hurt and has to stay home over the weekend, a family tragedy requiring an urgent last minute travel on a day when all flights are full, someone looking for recommendations for a honeymoon place, someone with a new born whose parents are in another country, someone looking to treat her husband who is a great fan of wines but she herself is clueless, someone going abroad on business travel not knowing how to spend his evenings – all opportunities for an airline or a hotel to reach out with a helping hand in a relevant and personalised manner. And while waiting for that opportunity, just be friendly – occasional comments on profile pages, “like” the photos of your customers, wish them luck, congratulate their achievements, empathise their challenges, all while being truly genuine.

Learn to predict

With today’s technologies around social media and Big Data, real-time processing of large volumes of data is not difficult. Complex updates to personal pages can be processed to isolate those pre-defined personal events that a business is looking for in the lives of their customers. Events that are relevant to its business activities and those that it believes can help make an appropriate prediction of what its customer is looking for and how it can fulfil their needs. The predictive analytics can help create the framework required to execute on customer loyalty strategies. Loyalty that is perceived in context of both past revenue and future potential – total customer value. So not just numbers of miles flown with your airline but how many more can a passenger fly?

Be proactive

Once a business has figured out what its customer prefers and what he/she is going to need in the near future, it’s time to get proactive. Mostly, as humans we are afraid to show moments of weakness or turbulence, but if a business detects one, it should – in measured discretion – reach out to offer for help. Remember the Chinese Uncle who shouted out to me “Boy, come here”…. Age old adage – “friend in need…”

OAuth – where Experience meets Experience, Analytics, Big Data and Social Media

Oauth - The Center Piece: Oauth - The Center PieceOauth – the CenterPiece: Experience,Social,Data,Analytics

Now for the final piece where I believe a lot of airlines and hotels can take the first step to their long-term strategy of building customer loyalty. Abandon, all separate logins on your websites requiring customers to memorise yet another username and password. Use OAuth (Open standard for authorization) and offer the option of using Facebook, Google and LinkedIn logins for your website. This would not only save them the hassle of remembering another set of credentials but also start your relationship of being able to tap into their social profile, create opportunities for you to genuinely learn about their preferences, friends and activities and waiting for that priceless moment of opportunity which I call “Hey You!” moment, extend the offer to help.

“Hey You!” Moments

Be sensitive, don’t abuse the system, create unified logins, learn about your customers, mine their data and then in the “Hey you!” moment proactively make a relevant personalised offer and the experience you would create would be so memorable that you will never have to struggle for customer attention or customer loyalty ever again.

With great experiences, you can build great loyalties and through great loyalties you can make large amounts of money – just look at Apple’s US$170billion cash pile.

Service companies like Airlines and Hotels should take the lead in revolutionising this change in connecting with customers – a way for businesses to be more than just a service-provider. These businesses should aim to have personalities, brands that customers want to be-friend because they can depend on them in their hour of need. Aim to engage with their customers on a meaningful and personalised manner rather than superficial and artificial manner than most businesses do today. Don’t just say “we value your business”, actually mean it. And you don’t need an army of customer service staff to execute on that, just rock-solid technology products with a lean business development team. The technology would mine all the data for you and throw up those “Hey you!” moments based on a predefined set of rules that your business development team can quickly capitalise on. From that point on, customer loyalty would be a given. Humans are social beings constantly looking to build relationships and have pleasant memorable experiences and for those businesses which understand that can quickly capitalise on it when a “Hey You!” moment presents itself.

Start with OAuth implementation for a long-term execution plan of the ultimate customer loyalty program based on helping your customers during their “Hey You!” moments.

So what is your customers’ “Hey You!” moments where you can be there for them – as a friend not a social-media-strategist… (Thank you, Pink Floyd)

Abhishek Singh
Currently, Abhishek holds the responsibility for conceptualizing, implementing and managing the IT product strategies for Infosys subsidiary, EdgeVerve, in the Digital space. Prior to this, several years at Singapore Airlines as well as his years of entrepreneurship ingrained in him the importance of customer experience.



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