Confusing "busy" with "effective"

Program Director, Category Marketing - Big Data & Analytics, IBM

How to avoid giving a child-like customer experience

Children are such a glorious creation; being a parent of three (eight, seven and five) I’m allowed to pass judgments like these. They can bring so much joy and so much frustration at the same time. And they are absolutely amazing to observe. Take chores for example: asking them to clean their room, brush their teeth or vacuum the floor is often more work than actually doing it yourself. They confuse looking busy (i.e. pushing the vacuum back and forth in the same area for 10 minutes) for actually being productive. But, these are the trials of a parent. We’ve got to help teach them. 

Many companies today suffer from this same child-like mentality: they confuse busy for effective. Perhaps they believe that doing something is better than doing nothing at all. Perhaps they are, just like my children, in the learning phase of their journey. But consumers are far too intelligent for this, and with the information that is available to help make the entire customer experience more positive and personal, settling for average is absolutely inexcusable. A recent e-book published by IBM talks about these escalating customer expectations and how companies can meet challenges head on by combining art with science.

Here is an example of an interaction I recently had with a consumer electronics company. I was in the market for a home theater projector. After doing my research and deciding on the make and model I wanted, I called the company merely to inquire as to the availability of this item and ensure this item qualified for my IBM discount. At this point, the customer service representative asked me what criteria led me to consider this projector. I was impressed with the question, and was more than happy to share the results of my research. I learned the item was in stock and ready to ship, but was unwilling to pull the trigger yet, wanting to see if I might be able to get a better price somewhere else. After receiving a case number, I hung up.

The second time I called, I gave the representative my case number and told her I was ready to order. Once again, during the course of the conversation I was asked what led me to choose this projector. My initial impression faded a bit, and I gave a much more abbreviated version of my answer. Three other times I called, because of various problems with the shipping date and the box contents, and each time they asked me the same question: “Great choice of projector, what features factored into your purchase decision?”

In this era of text messaging, Facebook, tweets and other social communications, actual person-to-person interactions are not only a potential gold mine for information, they are opportunities to make a lasting impression. More often than not, these impressions won’t be kept secret, they are shared with friends, relatives and the millions of other people that surf the web on a daily basis. These feelings (and other people’s reactions to shared opinions) are a valuable source of knowledge, but they are fragmented, often incomplete and hard to interpret; decoding tone (such as sarcasm or dissatisfaction), analyzing emoticons and classifying abbreviations is a challenge. IBM has solutions that can analyze, index and provide structure and context in order to incorporate this sentiment into existing customer information.

As an organization, it is your responsibility to unlock this information to make each and every interaction positive and memorable. Big data and analytics allows you to unlock and tap into all data’s potential. Not just data that sits in nice, neat rows and columns, but data that is spoken, written, recorded, inferred and/or generally unstructured. Information from one conversation, purchase or website session, or any other interaction, serves as fodder not only for a business’ next interaction with me (the customer), but for every other interaction with other customers that display similar attributes.

I know, easy to say, but harder to implement—I couldn’t agree more. Personalizing every interaction at a granular, micro-segmented level requires interdepartmental cooperation, a comprehensive data management, integration and governance approach and systems that may have to be specifically tuned and optimized based on the security, data and analytic workloads your company faces. It also requires robust, diverse and sophisticated analytics that span the gamut of descriptive (what is happening and why), predictive (what could happen), prescriptive (what action should I take) and cognitive (what did I learn, what’s best), which only IBM is able to provide. 

While this might seem like a daunting road, IBM can be a strategic partner throughout your maturity journey. We can help you truly understand and capture a more complete view of your customers to ensure each phase of the customer experience lifecycle (acquiring a new customer, retaining an existing one or growing a customer’s lifetime value) is unique and tailored based on each individual need.

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