Image courtesy of Pixabay

I originally wrote today’s post for Intradiem. It appeared on their blog on March 17, 2014. 

What is big data? and how is it used to deliver a great customer experience?

“Big data” has been defined in many different ways and seems to most often refer to the sheer volume of data, but for the purpose of this article, I’m going to refer to the data sources.

Data Sources
Any initiative to improve the customer experience will be unsuccessful without understanding the customer and his needs. To do that, we must have the right data at our fingertips. What is the right data? There are many sources, but they are best classified as:

  • Voice of the Customer (VOC), which also includes voice of partners, franchisees, and other constituents, is structured and unstructured data from solicited and unsolicited feedback; I’ll also add behavioral/purchase data here, as well as anything else we know about the customer
  • Voice of the Employee (VOE) includes similar data formats about the employee experience, employee engagement, and the workplace culture
  • Voice of the Business (VOB) includes financial and operational metrics
  • Voice of the Market (VOM) includes market research, brand perceptions and research, benchmark data, and other competitive data

I think that probably covers 98% of the data out there that’s relevant to the customer experience. But I’ve said before that data are just data until you do something with them. If you’re going to listen to each of these voices, then you need to use the data in a meaningful way.

So now what?

Transforming Data
Once we’ve inventoried all of our data, it’s time to put it to good use; it’s time to transform it into a usable format so that the business can consume it and affect the  customer experience in a positive way. I have six rules for transforming and consuming the data.

1. Data must be centralized. Data are useless to improving the customer experience when they remain siloed; siloed data mean siloed experiences.  You cannot deliver a personalized customer experience across your various channels if the data are housed in several disparate systems. You need a way to bring the data together in one place so that it can be analyzed in a sane way.

2. Data must be analyzed. Analysis takes many forms because there will be many different types of data to make sense of. You’ll need a way to crosstab, predict, identify key drivers, and prioritize improvements with survey data; mine and analyze your unstructured data; and track, review, and prioritize social media inputs and influencers. You’ll conduct linkage analysis to link customer and employee data, customer feedback with operational metrics, and all data to financial measures. And you’ll need to conduct a root cause analysis to understand the why behind it all.

3. Data must be synthesized. Once data have been broken down and analyzed for better understanding, they are most useful for the end user when transformed into insights. Put all the pieces of the analysis together to tell a story, to put it into context for those who need to act on it – a story that can be easily understood and translated into a better customer experience.

4.  Data must be socialized. Those insights and their corresponding stories must be shared across the organization and in such a way that people know what to do with it. Insights and resultant recommendations must get into the hands of the right people who will do something with them.

5. Data must be strategized. To strategize means to define your strategy or your action plan, and in this case, it involves both tactical (how you’ll respond to each and every customer) and strategic (how the business will respond, including operational, product, and process changes) measures. This is where we turn insights into action.

6. Data must be operationalized. Ensure that you have the right feedback at the right time from the right customers, then glean insights, create action plans, and drive it all back to the right departments and right employees who take action at the right touchpoints at the right time. Then close the loop on your own change management process: track and measure your efforts in order to maintain a continuous improvement cycle.

I might make this sound simple and simplistic. I know it’s not. Challenges arise, especially as we try to identify the data sources and as we run up against silos and other issues. Using tools like customer journey maps, customer feedback maps, and a general data architecture/map can help to bring it all into focus. It’s also important to conduct the proper analysis to uncover the desired outcomes. Enlist the help of an analyst to review your needs, if needed.

Action through Insights
Quite simply, the more we know about our customers, the more we are able to deliver a great customer experience. But siloed raw data doesn’t help anyone, so figure out what’s available and make sense of it. Transform your data into insights to transform the customer experience into one that will delight your customers.

Without big data, you are blind and deaf and in the middle of a freeway. –Geoffrey Moore