New companies are springing up round every corner and are using better technology to further their business. This is resulting in to additional and massive volumes of data for all possible aspects. More companies, translates to more customers and that in turn means additional data and scores of information about them. The sum of all this makes for a voluminous and cumbersome amount of data that companies struggle to deal with and manage, giving rise to the latest phrase ‘BIG DATA’.
“Webopedia defines Big Data as a buzzword, or catch-phrase, used to describe a massive volume of both structured and unstructured data that is so large that it’s difficult to process using traditional database and software techniques. In most enterprise scenarios the data is too big or it moves too fast or it exceeds current processing capacity. Big data has the potential to help companies improve operations and make faster, more intelligent decisions.
This data, when captured, formatted, manipulated, stored, and analyzed can help a company to gain useful insight to increase revenues, get or retain customers, and improve operations.”
Big Data is finding its way in to companies that just have to deal with voluminous data because of the nature of their business. Customer service is especially benefitted from understanding this data – sources of data, using the data and the benefits of streamlining it. Unless companies and the customer service representatives have customer data at their fingertips, it would be difficult to understand the needs and expectations of the large number of customers. Poor customer service would lead to customer dissatisfaction and a host of problems leading to the decline of the company. Customers let companies know what they expect and display certain behaviors through a variety of sources that gives rise to data:
– The Voice of Customer or VOC is feedback received from every kind of stakeholder of the company – customers, vendors, partners – and could be solicited or unsolicited feedback. It does amount to a significant data size since it would have information about the different kinds of customers and pertinent information of each one individually.
– The Voice of Business that would be data about the functional, financial and operational processes
– The Voice of Employees is similar to the data received from the VOC, only just focusing on the company’s employees – engagement levels, company culture, how employees feel about working with the company
– Benchmarking exercises, data about competition, brand leadership, market research is the Voice of Market
Almost all of the information and data received from these sources would be relevant to the customer and their satisfaction with the kind of service and interactions they have with the company. However, just knowing this cannot suffice and companies must devise ways to use this data effectively for it to translate in to something meaningful for the customers. So companies must translate and use this data for it to have any use. So how can this data be streamlined and put to use?
– Data comes from various sources, as we have discussed. However, it cannot remain as independent sets of data and must be centralized such that it can be accessed and used by everyone within the organization to help customers. Centralized data would help in personalizing customer experiences across the multiple channels of communication now in use. It would be nearly impossible to analyze this voluminous data if it were scattered.
– Once the data is centralized it would require an in-depth analysis. Understanding of what customers actually want through the feedback provided, predict future behavior, analyze flaws in customer service arising out of employee discontent, what your company is doing right and what needs significant improvement. This is a troubleshooting, root cause analysis kind of method that will get companies to plan future courses of action.
– Analysis involves breaking down the information available. Once that is accomplished, piecing together the results of this analysis and putting it in to context would make it easier to improve customer service and experience levels and also improve the satisfaction levels of employees and other stakeholders. It would also be the basis of strengthening internal process and strategies.
– Companies must share this processed data with all members of the company and also share some relevant information with customers. If the data is not shared with people who it affects and relates to, it would not have the required significance.
– Use the data to make strategies, refine action plans and define future courses of action. The data and insights must be put in to an actionable format resulting in ideas of how manage customer feedback and respond to them and also the best internal processes and strategies to handle customer experiences and service.
– Put the action plans and strategies in to operation. Feed the data received by customers back to the relevant departments and various contact points that deal with customers. Monitor these departments and touch-points in terms of how they are using this data and continue to tweak internal processes to get the balance right. Ensure that these efforts are tracked to ensure that customers get a constant high level of service and any lapses overcome instantly.
Constant monitoring will ensure that the quality of customer experiences improves continuously. Companies can respond swiftly to customers via all channels and manage customer expectations. Managing Big Data is about a company having the requisite tools, technology and processes to not only handle these huge amounts of data but also having adequate storage capacities for it.
Management of Big Data is also about managing customer expectations. For each customer, the information they have provided and what they need is paramount to them. They expect personalized and on-demand service and a quick turnaround of information when they ask. Companies that have assimilated this Big Data will be able to provide this level of service thereby achieving customer service excellence and providing great customer experience.
– Companies can reduce and even eliminate customer distress that arises out of any changes that a company makes that customers are not expecting or do not like. Disgruntled customers have the ability to create a serious dent in the company’s reputation leading to drop in business and also attrition of other customers. For example if an internet service provider were to disrupt service, because the customer forgot to pay or could not pay due to any reason, could lead to a customer getting extremely frustrated. Instead if this provider were to send out intimations to customers about payment amounts and dates, it would be seen as value added service and help customers in paying on time. This would only be possible if Big Data was managed effectively such that customer payment cycles were easily tracked and customers regularly informed.
– Through management of Big Data, companies would understand and be aware of customer needs and expectations. It would be easier to personalize shopping experiences (online and in-store), send them relevant information based on buying patterns, provide them with loyalty and or coupon cards, greet them on special occasions thereby keeping the customer engaged with them that is relevant to the customer. When a customer receives what is required from the company they regularly buy from, they would not think of leaving or using any other company. It is all about creating great customer experience with every interaction even before a customer asks or least expects it. It creates an element of pleasant surprise making the customer feel special.
– Being able to service customers via any communication channel and the one most relevant for the particular customer reduces wait time for them. It also eliminates guess work and unnecessary queuing up of unresolved complaints or queries for the company. If the customer has asked for someone to be sent over to fix a system or product, the company can respond immediately letting them know when they will send a technician. Ensuring that this service commitment is met is also a vital part of this communication. Customers perceive this as committed service and their trust in the company increases with time.
Management of this big data allows companies to know customers not as a group but as individuals. They have sent you data that is important and relevant to them – it is therefore the responsibility of the company to handle this data to predict their needs, expectations and future behavior. Being one step ahead of customers will allow a company to increase the customers engagement and satisfaction levels. They perceive this as the company’s commitment to provide customer service excellence and will in turn spread this to all their contacts.
Of course, managing big data is not easy or simple but to know customers better, companies would need to deal with it effectively and translate that knowledge in to action.
Without big data, you are blind and deaf and in the middle of a freeway. – Geoffrey Moore