These days, there's so much written about "big data" that it can empty the concept of all meaning.
This is the case in the realms of customer relationship management, customer analytics and customer data management, where blog after tweet discusses the reasons to capture as much information as possible about what your customers are doing online and in stores, and to use that information to cross- and upsell them.
But what few seem to explore is what this means for the customers themselves, who are coming to view sharing personal data as a privilege, not a right, for companies and are willing to cut you off if it appears you're taking advantage.
Customers are more savvy than you think
Customer interactions begin and end with your information infrastructure.
Especially in the wake of the data breaches at Target and elsewhere, customers need to know that you manage their information as carefully as you manage your own corporate data. They know you fiercely defend the likes of your internal reports and pricing algorithms, and they have every right to expect -- and demand -- that you do the same with such data as their search histories and prior purchases.
Customers also understand that today's technology should improve your ability to serve them better, and they quickly grow impatient when companies can't quickly access their account records or bounce them among departments or make them repeat information they have just laboriously punched into a telephone keypad.
Perhaps most important, they can tell when they are being duped, such as when they are spammed with a "special offer" in every bill.
The impact of poor customer data management on customer experience
Customer interactions begin and end with your information infrastructure. To start, you're either creating new records or adding to existing ones. And to finish, you're sending an email or noting the resolution of an issue -- and if you're not, you should be.
Fore more on
Target data breach creates poor retail customer experience
Social CRM customer data management a challenge
So your technology challenge centers on improving the speed, accuracy and security of these tasks and the information they involve. In most cases, the list of functions needed includes search/retrieval, metadata management and authentication/authorization. But simply bettering those capabilities isn't enough; nay, you must also ensure the impact on the customer is consistent so that he experiences the faster, higher-quality results firsthand.
The key is to prioritize your enhancements in customer terms. Check call center notes to identify recurring service issues, and think about the technologies available to address them. Keeping the customer in mind, though, don't just focus on search and metadata. Translate the capabilities into metrics that will quantify your improved ability to view account information, answer questions and solve problems. Similarly, rather than focus solely on authentication, be attentive to your ability to back up your assurances that customers' personal information is being properly safeguarded.
Do this well, and follow through on it all, and your customers will view you in a positive light. Simply talk about it and do nothing, and they're likely to become someone else's customers.
This was first published in February 2014