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Data quality plays a significant role in customer service

Paul Newman Archive

Perhaps for smaller businesses, the best way to keep customer service operations running at a high level is to rely on genuine conversations between consumer care reps and patrons. By getting out there and talking to people, companies can gain a better understanding of the market around them and shape future strategies.

The bigger a company becomes, however, the less realistic this gets. For a larger business, it's hard to gather enough anecdotal evidence to paint the full picture of who customers are and what they want. At this point, collecting data becomes more important than having one-on-one conversations. Bulk information provides a more comprehensive picture than any one person's viewpoint ever could.

Instead of service quality, larger corporations are now striving more for data quality.

Knowing where to start
The Times 100 recently published a case study on Enterprise Rent-A-Car, a company that recently overhauled its operations by focusing more on data. The business now doles out rental cars to travelers all over America, and it needed more data to get a handle on its operations.

To undertake this effort, the company drew inspiration from the motto of its founder, Jack Taylor.

"Take care of your customers and employees first," Taylor said. "Profit will take care of itself."

With that in mind, Enterprise focused on gathering data about precisely those two elements - customers and employees. They started paying attention to what kinds of cars people wanted to drive, and when and where they wanted them. Internally, they looked more closely at how to attract and retain strong employees. Using data, the company was able to figure out a lot about its customers and itself.

Taking action with data
Of course, gathering data is only the first step in a multi-faceted process. The next objective is to find a way to take action. According to Taylor, it can be difficult to begin with data and turn it into a plan for real progress.

"Customer service is the most important thing we do," the founder said. "What are you going to do about it?"

The best strategy ranges from business to business. It might be a matter of delivering people more personalized, customizable service, or alternatively, the challenge might be to leverage technology better. It really just depends on the specific attributes of the company in question. Overall, though, the approach is the same - begin with actively striving for data quality, and ultimately try to turn it into results.