By Dana Hyatt
Big Data is a Big Deal. As technology becomes embedded in almost everything used in life, more digital information is being gathered even more rapidly and from multiple sources in multiple formats. Recent research has estimated the world’s information is now doubling every two years.
So indeed Big Data is Big News…with Big Questions. The questions leaders must ask is: Now what? What will be done with all this information to run a more efficient enterprise? Make better decisions? Create better customer experiences? And do so faster than competitors.
Certainly the massive volume of data being harvested directly and indirectly and synthesized into the backend of retail operations begins to answer these questions, allowing for significant improvement in cost-efficient inventory distribution and management, marketing campaigns, real estate decisions and more.
While leveraging “operational” data is the first step to building a general relationship with the collective customer, it’s actually just the beginning. Shoppers are empowered as never before as to how, when, where and what they purchase. Additionally, since almost every product is now commoditized, all companies must sell and market “experiences” to customers rather than only product and services. No longer enough to merely have the right product in the right place at the right time and price, companies must also ensure their market advantage is secured by presenting and selling in a way their customers expect and define as “experience.”
This means many non-retailers must learn to think like retailers and retailers must rapidly and innovatively lead the way in taking their legacy focus on the customer to a new level. A purposeful Customer Experience (CX) strategy to leverage data to truly meet customers where they are to “show them that you know them” is the answer. While not simple or quick, CX has become imperative as part of any successful business strategy. Data showing the uptick in revenue and loyalty metrics for companies who demonstrate leadership in making efforts in this area prove they are well rewarded by customers for doing so.
First, leaders must commit to organizational-wide understanding, buy-in, and change management, a thoughtful and strategic short and long-term CX plan, and resources at the senior-most level to own the design and execution of the cross-functional CX strategy.
Next is to leverage select data to determine to whom to target these CX investments for optimized ROI, while observing the company holistically from the outside in to best meet these customers “where they are” in transacting business across the enterprise. Already challenging to identify which customers spend the most and/or are most profitable, it will become even more so as mobile payment options become more ubiquitous.
Such subtleties in purchase behavior and loyalty are agreeably challenging, but while ogling amazingly at the shiny bright object that is the massive data collected on the backend, retail leaders may risk missing the “gold” data that’s literally walking in their door – real and/or virtual.
It is in these face-to-face, phone-to-phone and/or screen-to-screen moments of truth that access to “emotional” data such as customer preferences and feedback will serve revenues well.
Transactional data gathered from the customer frontline remains powerfully leveraged there. By combining transactional data with associate’s captured notes on customers’ needs and wants (emotional data), any associate in any channel is empowered to create an experience in keeping with that specific customer’s expectations. Likewise it’s a win for associates who have access to information that makes upselling, cross-selling and event participation even more productive.
Not only does emotional data enhance both the associate and the customer experience to grow and sustain revenues, it improves the experience in the case of returns and minimizes exposure for potential revenue loss in the case of employee turnover. Executing on a seamless solution which makes such customer-centric data available across the enterprise, allows the company to also develop and sustain the relationship with the customer instead of only their primary point of contact being positioned to do so.
With the advent of near field communication (NFC) sensors, this data will become more easily accessible and retrievable so any associate with whom a customer interfaces will be able to identify the customer and know how and what to sell them as they walk in the door.
But what happens next? Where does the experience start and stop? How did the customer ultimately “feel” about what transpired and are they retelling their experience to others and as an advocate? Potential gaps in the customer experience cannot be allowed to stand; therefore, the culture must be such that not only, “How can I help this customer” is asked, but also, “How can I leverage my interaction with this customer to help future customers?”
The individual and aggregated data of the customers own words are the answers to these questions. When optimally solicited, captured and leveraged, they provide vastly rich and actionable insight into every aspect of business operations, allowing for keener decision making and improved ROI.
Regretfully, at a time when survey feedback data around customer experience and engagement has reached an all-time high in its level of importance, it’s quickly sinking to a record-low capture rate, regardless of the incentive.
Customers of all types have become alienated and resentful of surveys, oftentimes because of the associate’s plea for completion, the effort and time involved to go online or on the phone to complete it and/or ultimately the feeling that the survey questions were based more on serving the company’s purposes than the customer. Referred to as “survey fatigue,” both the quantity and quality of “emotional” data from feedback is on the decline except via hard-to-affect social media means.
Along with NFC, Quick Response (QR) codes are quickly becoming the solution to this challenge and can be very affordably outsourced and customized. Offering novel, fun, engaging and real-time means with which customers engage in a two-way dialogue with businesses improves both the quantity and quality of this all-important data along with the customer experience. An email notification that a survey has been submitted gives managers the ability to meet personally with the customer who has completed it while they are still in the store. Such just-in-time responses provide unsurpassable operational insight along with unparalleled training and recognition opportunities.
Among the most powerful and innovative uses of this survey technology is the ability to know who is NOT doing business with you on a particular day and why. Since this technology lends itself to being located other than on sales receipts, the voice of the customer who is shopping and not purchasing can finally be heard, raising the question, “How are we doing?” to a whole new level and providing even more data.
Who said Big Data was Big Enough?
Dana Hyatt is a Principal at Dallas-based Meritage, designers and implementers of cross-channel customer experience strategies for generating revenue and customer loyalty. firstname.lastname@example.org
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