Big data is big on ... well, data. In other words, information. What it lacks is intelligence.
The leaders of customer-centric entities will fully comprehend these sentiments, and their implications.
It is rare that a consumer or client exclaims: You lack information.
They do, however, repeatedly declare that service providers lack understanding.
Big Data, and data at large, provide insights and, more particularly, overviews on what happens. To a limited extent they can and do offer perspectives on how things happen. Thus, for those who do not have access to Big Data, all is not lost.
However, like surveys, they have innate biases, limitations and differences.
Take for example, on-line after–sales surveys. They appeal to and attract a limited segment of customers, and an even lower percentage of people in general.
Time-poor individuals readily dismiss the opportunity to dedicate 10 minutes or more to complete a survey, with little evident, immediate and direct personally beneficial outcomes.
Time-saving initiatives in survey designs, like providing pre-coded answers, seldom, if ever, provide a complete and meaningful insight. They imply the researcher or the company already know the answers and are simply seeking to assign percentages. If it's communication you wish to promote, then be sure that it is two-way.
A meaningful understanding of the needs, wants, values, aspirations and action determinants of customers is derived from a focus on the question, WHY?
Attitudinal (or qualitative) research is invaluable. It complements and adds both data value and meaning to the data which is retrievable from sales, service and call records, much of which is accessible from the cloud and is referred to as Big Data.
External professional researchers can be retained to formulate, document and conduct both quantitative and qualitative research methodologies. Their skills, experience and detachment provide for objective and pertinent analyses and conclusions.
However, that professional input should complement, not replace, the insights and understandings gained from the interactions between internal service providers and customers, clients, suppliers and associates.
Personal, informal interactions offer scope for recognising, responding to, comprehending and influencing a broad spectrum of nuances, perspectives and expressions.
People - customers and clients – feel valued when they are heard, respected and directly responded to.
Relationships are founded and enhanced, trust is promoted and integrity established and sustained when time, effort and resources are dedicated to encouraging and enhancing relationships.
Big Data is one thing. Attention to the little points of detail is another. Remember, little things mean a lot.
The prevailing straitened times ensure that the margins for error are typically wafer-thin. Strategic and operational decisions are most effective when they are founded on well-informed analyses.
Big Data provides invaluable, but only partial information. So too do statistically based surveys. Both provide perspectives on the big picture, even with one-on-one relationships.
In many instances, the findings gleaned from Big Data and surveys identify their intelligence gaps and necessitate engagement with existing, prospective and past clients, to address the issue of WHY?
Those businesses whose leaders encourage, facilitate and support increased interactions between their service providers and customers - external and internal - inevitably enjoy greater sales, customer satisfaction, repeat purchases, referrals and stability.
Specific skills, qualifications and training in research methodologies, practices and analyses can be, and are, readily complemented by the heightened sensitivities of engaged team members.
Those in the know generally seek more, achieve more and are more motivated.
One can never over-allocate time, money and resources to studying, understanding and intelligently interacting with customers. They will ensure that knowledge about the big and the small things is retrieved and can be utilised to refine philosophies, beliefs, policies and practices.
An eminently sensible approach to pursuing more information, intelligence and understanding of existing, prospective and past clients is to deploy efforts and resources to utilise and to integrate Big Data, qualitative and quantitative research and interpersonal interactions and relationships.
The most readily available pool for such is held by staff members. Leaders need to be selective in the questions. Many answers will be forthcoming, so that all will be “in the know!”