So, You’re the Data King. Now What?

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In this special guest feature, Tara Kelly, CEO of SPLICE Software, discusses how the practice of trying to be Big Brother while offering customers little in return will lead to the eventual death of effective CRM. Instead, companies can use this data to provide an experience that people value enough to see the benefits of sharing their personal information. Tara has a passion for enabling clients to engage in a meaningful, Data Driven DialogTM with their customers. As a serial entrepreneur who has developed three companies, including one outside the technology field, Tara’s expertise is multidimensional but focused on creating businesses that use technology to enhance operations, service and the customer experience.

Here’s a mind-boggling statistic: About 90% of all data in the world today was created in the last couple of years. Data is flowing in from so many different sources — social media, streaming services, photo-sharing platforms, commercial transactions, page clicks, user reviews, sensors, telematics and more — and the volume will keep increasing as the Internet of Things grows.

Over the past several years, business leaders have come to understand the value of data. They’ve invested in software to help them collect and analyze information more efficiently. They’ve accessed cloud services to enable them to personalize customer communications and create more effective outreach.

Understandably, the exponential increase in data volume has prompted businesses to focus on how to achieve business objectives using technology. It has inspired a race to develop tools to turn data into actionable insight as well as the creation of tons of point solutions to help business leaders accomplish specific tasks, such as platforms to trigger automated offers in response to data signals.

But when it comes to data, maybe it’s time to take a step back and think about “what” rather than focusing so much on “how.” It’s safe to assume that data will continue to accumulate in mind-blowing volumes and that developers and data scientists will keep finding new ways to collect it and mine it for information to drive business goals. But aside from generating more revenue, what should those goals be?

As more data rolls in, gets captured and converted to insight, it’s tempting for those of us who hold all that information to think of ourselves as kings and queens of data. We’re the kids who have all the toys. What will we do with all that power? So far, it looks like we’ll use it to extract value for our companies, and that’s a worthy goal — an essential function that matches the letter of our job descriptions.

But the spirit of our work as data kings and queens is to use technology and apply information to make life better, not just to pump up revenue. In other words, we must extract value for the customer too. As holders of an incredibly valuable commodity, we have power, but also an awesome responsibility. And the best leaders are those who see their role in terms of serving others rather than imposing their will.

So, how do we use data to serve customers better? It starts with listening to them. Find out how customers want to interact with your company. Hear their concerns about privacy — and act on them. Instead of just collecting data, gather permission to interact with customers and collect their communication preferences so that you can contact them on their own terms and apply the data you have correctly.

The second step is to choose what you’ll do with that information. With new data sources coming online every day and data-crunching and application tools getting more sophisticated, we have a choice: We can be a Big Brother figure who sees every move consumers make and uses that omniscience to extract value for the company, or we can become the consumers’ trusted advisor, facilitating a value exchange.

Many fitness and lifestyle brands have already figured this out and provide a great model for aspiring data kings and queens who hope to become humble advisors. They collect data on customers and use it to generate revenue for the company, of course. But they also focus on maximizing value to their customers, using data to generate insights on health and wellness that make their customers’ lives better.

Other industries are getting in on the value exchange and becoming trusted advisers to their customers. Property and casualty insurers can now use connected sensors in customers’ homes to detect problems (such as a water leak, temperature spike, etc.) and send an automated message to their customers’ mobile phone or contact a vendor on their behalf according to customer preferences.

In both scenarios, the company wins: A fitness device maker benefits by securing customer data they can use for product development and upselling products. A property and casualty insurer prevents a major loss and cultivates customer loyalty. But the customer wins too, gaining access to data they can use to improve their health or avoiding a loss of the things they hold most dear.

Win-win scenarios are possible in virtually every industry when data is accurate, applied correctly and used in ways that deliver value to the company and the customer. So now that you’re the sovereign of all data, you have a choice to make. Will you embrace the possibilities of delivering customer value? Be the hero of the story and put customers first — it’s good for them, and it’s good for your company.


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