Can We Stop Talking About Big Data and Start Talking About Business and Customer Outcomes?


Recently, the business world has been awash with stories about the possibilities and applications of big data, analytics, automation and artificial intelligence technologies. However, reading many of these stories, reports, case studies and pieces of research, I find myself slightly conflicted by it all.

On the one hand, I am excited by the impact these technologies will have on an organisation’s ability to deliver improved service and experience to their customers.

Here’s a few examples that illustrate the growing sophistication, application and potential of these technologies:

  • Bell Canada is using advanced analytical techniques to better understand the relationships that exist between different customer interactions. For example, they have discovered that a large number of their service calls come from customers who have purchased particular products and tend to call back soon thereafter for instructions of how to use the product or set it up. As a result, they have trained and enabled their service agents to provide quick tutorials on the use and set up of the product to their customers at the point of purchase. This has allowed them to lower the call volumes associated with these purchases by 16% and reduce their customer churn by 6%.
  • Budget Truck Rental has deployed intelligent virtual agent web self-service tools to provide instant answers to questions from prospective customers. In doing so, they have achieved a 28% reduction in inbound calls, a 74% reduction in email enquiry volume, a 35% increase in online bookings as well as significant cost savings.
  • Westpac in Australia is using big data and analytics to better understand their customers buying behaviours across the customer lifecycle. In particular, they found one group of customers who, over time, adopt the same three products in the same order and for the same reasons. However, they also identified a subset of this group that had so far only adopted two of the same three products but, based on their analytical work, they calculated that there was a 90% chance that they would adopt the third product if they were offered it at the right time . As a result, Westpac trained and equipped their branch representatives to inform the ‘two-product customers’ at the ‘right time’ what could be their ‘Next Best Option’. In doing so, the branch representatives have been able to achieve a 40+% conversion rate when offering the 3rd product to these customers.
  • Meanwhile, Talk Talk in the UK have gone one step further and are using big data and analytics to make ‘Next Best Action’ recommendations to their customers. Utilising Pega’s Customer Decision Hub, the recommendations are based not just on revenue rules and targets but also on predicted customer needs, based on where they are in the customer lifecycle and what is in their best interest. Doing so, has allowed them to achieve tens of millions in incremental cost savings, lower call times, better quality sales, a 10% reduction in churn rates, a 40% reduction in early life complaints and a 15% reduction in calls as well as significant improvements to their customer satisfaction scores.

But, whilst these examples provide evidence of the promise of these new technologies, I also find myself becoming increasingly concerned about the impact all of this attention is having on some organisations, particularly when I hear stories that talk about:

  • The lack of data and analytical skills that exists across industries at the data scientist, operations, marketing and management levels;
  • How many firms and executives feel that they are drowning in data;
  • How the increasing focus on data and analytics is causing many firms, and the services that they offer, to risk losing their ‘human touch; and
  • The danger that we are at risk of repeating the mistakes of the near past, particularly those surrounding CRM technology, which when it first emerged on the scene, promised so much but took so long to deliver.

Therefore, I find myself wondering if we should be wary of getting lost in the technologies and their possibilities and whether we should try and mitigate against this by focusing on what we want our businesses to achieve…….like improving service, experience, revenue and profits.

After all, big data, analytics, automation, artificial intelligence and similar technologies are only tools and not ends in themselves.

Geraldine McBride, former President of SAP for North America and founder and CEO of MyWave, put it very well when in an interview she said:

“We need to change the conversation and stop talking about data and start talking about outcomes. Outcomes that brands want to achieve and outcomes that customers want to achieve.”

Companies would do well to consider stepping back from the technological possibilities in order to figure out what job they want to do first before they pick their tools.

This blog post has been re-published by kind permission of Adrian Swinscoe – View the original post

Published On: 16th Sep 2016 - Last modified: 18th Feb 2020
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