A month ago I saw a Forrester presentation on Customer Experience measurement that began with a great quote from the Global Bank: “We are drowning in data and starving for insight.”
Aren’t we all?
Most organizations have more data than they ever could have wanted, but that data is either sitting idle in databases or cloud environments, or it is used sub-optimally. Why is it that WeWork can build a tool to manage its 350 properties as a website and digitally view every detail about every building, but Fairway regularly emails me with first time user coupons that I am not eligible for as an existing customer?
Make Data Usable
The answer to this question is fundamentally simple, but practically complex. The first step is to centralize and clean the data so it can be used in an actionable way to extract insights. For existing companies this requires organizational redesign. That makes this step complex, political, and difficult to execute.
In one case, a major brand acquired three small start-ups with the business strategy to grow its customer base. The brand worked on learning how the three customer segments feel and what each segment wants in order to optimize the brand’s offering with three different products. Even though this was the correct first step, the strategy did not progress well because the company was not ready to centralize the customer insights systems and the teams of the three distinct brands they had acquired. Each start-up had its own customer database and customer definitions, and none was open about giving access to that data. No insights were derived from any of the three brands.
This case only scratches the surface of how companies miss opportunities with data. Accessing and aggregating data is an essential step for all organizations, but that is not enough to derive insights. Even after teams and data are centralized and aggregated, insights are not available until the definitions of the data are aligned. How is a customer defined? How far back should the data go? How much spend per customer makes that customer “valuable”?
Get Everyone in the Room
Organizations must answer these and many more questions the same way in all data pools in order to create the capability of the data insights. Often, companies complete step one and fail to work with the data to define the key parameters of it. Why? The answers should come from the consumers of the insights, not the technology teams building the insights. And those people are not in the room. Until there is a real engagement by the business and a collaboration among the teams, no one is getting any insights from their data.
The last step of getting insight out of data might seem the simplest, but it is often missing. The quality of insights is directly correlated to the quality of the questions asked from the data. I will repeat that. The questions asked of data are the engine of the insights derived from data. This is where democratizing the cleaned data with a very user friendly UI is key. Good questions rarely can be formed on the spot. As business challenges arise and new situations emerge, questions come out. It is important that access to the data is readily available (no coding or SQL skills necessary!!) to all so the end users can run reports and get the answers they need – and can act upon – in real time.
Successful brands like WeWork turn data into a tool. Once existing companies understand data as a tool, they will be able to create real value for customers. Until they are ready to make the difficult steps of organizational redesign and pay for cleaning the data, we will continue to receive those coupons we can’t cash in.
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