We’ve spoken a lot about big data over the last few years. We’ve emphasized how important it is to bring together all the data you already have in your systems to make more informed decisions about the future.
But I have a nagging suspicion that for many of you, the concept is still a bit opaque. I say that because even though I understood the theory, I felt the exact same way about many of big data’s concepts. And that made it difficult to explain without relying on buzzwords and consultant speak.
That changed this week while I was at the Sapphire Now annual meeting for SAP users. During the opening keynote, Elena Donio, president of SAP’s Concur, gave me the description I have been looking for:
Big data is about turning those bits and bytes of data into conversations that your customers don’t know that they’re having with you.
Many distributors have said to me over the years that in order to add value, they have to try and understand what their customers need before they know they need it. These conversations in data can help you identify what those needs are.
Think about it: Every time your customer interacts with your systems and with you, they’re taking several actions. Some of them are conscious decisions, such as choosing the specific product or products to search for that day, but others may be more subtle.
Do they have a pattern of searching for X a few days after searching for Y? Why not recommend X every time they search for Y to streamline the order process for them?
When they call customer service, are their questions usually service or product based? Use this pattern to help streamline future calls. Put notes in your records for them to help guide the customer service rep to the appropriate information more quickly. That rep not only will be able to meet current needs but might be able to uncover cross-selling opportunities.
How do your customers search? How do they order? Use this information to start a dialogue about their buying and shopping wants and needs.
There are so many possibilities; I’m just scratching the surface here.
Your competitors are hiring talent and investing in analytics capabilities in hopes of meeting customer needs more quickly and more effectively than you.
And your customers are providing you with a wealth of information that can help you better serve them – and in the long run, better serve yourself.
They’re trying to have the conversation. Are you listening?