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Big data can transform customer service initiatives

Paul Newman

June 5, 2013

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For many companies in the private sector, the key to strong customer service is intimacy. Consumer care agents strive to know the people they're working with as well as possible, and to that end, they work to communicate with them as often as possible and gain valuable information about their interests and tendencies.

Even as big data threatens to revolutionize the way companies deal with their consumers, the concept of customer intimacy is still not lost. No matter how powerful spreadsheets and analysis tools become, there is still a place for human interaction and the lessons gleaned from it in the business world. The concept of intimacy is evolving, however.

According to Forbes, the idea of customer intimacy is evolving over time with the growth of data. Columnist Joe Weinman writes that customer intimacy is giving way to a new concept - collective intimacy - which combines real human knowledge with virtual clusters of information. The two work in concert to help companies paint clearer pictures of their clienteles.

"An intimate relationship is the exact opposite of an anonymous transaction," Weinman writes. "Rather than a standalone profitable transaction, such a relationship is oriented towards a long-term win-win. Customer intimacy is a competitive strategy, corporate culture, and organizational design—all rolled into one—supporting multiple such relationships."

Especially in marketing, where it benefits companies to know and understand the people they're targeting, data can be expected to have a transformative effect in the years to come. Companies will work to gather as much information, do everything they can to maintain data quality and ultimately go about the long-term process of improving the way they address customers.

Here are a few ways marketing and customer service can benefit from this data revolution.

Learning people's tendencies
Thanks to the advent of data, it's now easy for companies to analyze customers' tendencies. When, where, why and how do they spend their money? What motivates them? What trends exist that marketers can exploit? Olly Downs, senior vice president of Data Sciences for Globys, tells CIO that answering these questions is easier now than ever.

"By applying machine learning to big data, it's doing the discovery for you," Downs said. "That's the power. It's not about any individual scenario that's discovered, it's about being able to surface many of these scenarios and act on all of them in a way that's dynamic and meaningful."

Improving service initiatives
Digging deeper into this information can help companies make better decisions about customer service. Running a service department entails understanding consumers well. Corporations need to know when people contact them and how - whether it's over the phone, via email or using more high-tech methods like mobile messaging or social media sites. By crunching data on these various means of communication and their effectiveness, customer service departments can find better ways to level with consumers and give them the guidance they seek.

Giving companies a competitive advantage
Data can help companies get a leg up on their rivals, marketing-wise. By studying trend in their competitors' habits and how those trends affect their bottom lines, marketers can draw meaningful conclusions. Is there a certain demographic that's going untapped? A certain product that's priced sub-optimally, either too low or too high? A certain means of communication that's left unexplored? Marketers can find out what their competitors are doing wrong and capitalize on those mistakes.

Customer intimacy will never cease to be a valuable asset. But with the growth of big data, companies can bolster their personal knowledge with streamlined, real-time access to more information. This will empower them to make better business decisions than ever before.

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