Big Data is a verb and it’s Amazing for Customers

Early in my career I remember a manager coming over to my cube. The manager was frustrated and beside themselves. I inquired as to the issue and they showed me an excel file with about 20,000 rows and an equal number of columns. Then they said they needed to understand X in this data and how it relates to Y, but there is no way to parse or understand it. I think I am going to fail at this task.

Have any of us felt like that before? I imagine with the ever increasing amount of data in the world today, we have all been overwhelmed at some point in our careers. Perhaps you felt like me and just wondered where Commander Data from Star Trek is when you need him. He seemed to have the ability to traverse massive amounts of data and then pinpoint the exact value needed in every situation. Sometimes we all just need that capability.

The simple answer for the manager was a few nested “if” statements and a visual basic query. These seemingly complex actions were quite simple for the right person or technology to handle and deliver. As the world increases in data size and complexity the answers are still simple, but can easily overwhelm any person that traverses work on a daily basis.

The bigger challenge now is that there is a,b,c,d,e and many more variables and data sources to consider to get to that simple answer. This is where Big Data comes into play. A lot of people may confuse Big Data as a noun. I believe it is a verb. Big Data is less about the actual data and more about how one uses the data to deliver value.

If you tie Big Data into the customer experience, you can really see this come to life. If I start the customer experience with the sale, I have a sales database. Then that customer contacts me for support, now they are in a support database. This same customer also purchased training and other added on services. So yet another entry in the sales database. Then yet another database to track usage of the product. And yet another for logging product defects to the engineering team after the support experience. You can start to see a lot of entries adding up for this customer. By the way we have 20,000 customers. A lot of entries in siloed data bases. Which in most companies are managed by different teams.

This is where Big Data becomes a verb. Imagine the ability to consolidate all this information into one view that demonstrates your customer individually and also from a persona view. Regardless of the team you are on, you get a consistent view. All teams are able to help the customer in a collaborative and meaningful way. The customer receives the attention and value they feel they deserve. And it actually takes less resources for the company to do. This is possible and Big Data can make it happen.

What this means is that the manager that approached me so many years ago would feel enabled and empowered, not frustrated. Not only can they succeed at their job, they can be more productive and collaborative than was ever possible before. Which will mean higher value for their customers and better revenue for their company.

Think about it, we may not all have Commander Data around; but if we can turn Big Data into a verb in our companies. Then perhaps we can pinpoint the exact value we need in each and every customer engagement.

Then the amazing possibilities of true customer success can be realized!

Employees make True Customer Success Happen!

Two years ago, I moved to San Francisco. I decided to take my wife out for dinner. We had it all planned, the reservation made.  We were dressed, ready to go, and left for our date. Forty-five minutes later we made it to the restaurant. Of course, the restaurant was only three miles away. So what was the problem? Parking! For me, searching for a parking spot caused unnecessary tension and ultimately put us in a bad mood for the rest of the night. It wasn’t an overly productive experience, and we missed out on a potentially amazing evening.

The very next day, I went shopping to solve our parking problem. I bought a GPS device that included all the parking lots and garages in the city. Now, I just put in the address and the GPS tells me the five closest places to park near my destination. I never spend more than five minutes looking for a place to park. Magic!

How many of us feel that same way every day when we go into work? As an employee, you want to come in, be productive, and not have technology get in the way. All too often, your PC has issues, your conference room technology goes down, you can’t sign-in using VPN, and email synch with your mobile device just won’t work! Don’t you wish your company treated you just as they would treat their revenue paying customers? I do.

I believe that your internal IT department should treat you as if you are paying customer because you actually are. If you consider your revenue and divide it by your employees, the ratio of revenue to employee will always trump revenue per customer by a long shot. So why do companies make the mistake and treat employees like second-class citizens when it comes to technology experiences?

When I could not find a place to park, all I wanted was an easy way to find a spot. When employees want to be productive at work and add value, they are looking for ways to easily get their work done. Most employees want to do amazing things. They want to transform the company, hit revenue goals and targets, and they want customers to love the services and products their company offers. With this passion for success, IT leaders should put themselves in the place of the employees they service.  They should think about an employee’s work-life and goals. They should think about an employee’s IT experience from the employee’s point of view and not IT’s. Employees should be treated like each of them makes a difference for our customers.

3 tips to consider when delivering an amazing end user IT employee experience:

  1. Employees operate differently. One size does not fit all. You need to understand your employees and their behaviors. I recommend categorizing them into personas. This will help you understand the diversity of employees and why they behave in different ways. It will also ensure that you truly understand how to deliver the best experience for them personally and then more broadly.
  2. Employees don’t want to contact you. It is a waste of time for employees to contact IT for help. They not only lose time, but they lose valuable work productivity. Create avenues and ways for your employees to serve themselves. Make it easy to do the most common things. Give your employees more authority to do what’s right for them. Worry less about meeting a global standard pushed down for the masses.
  3. Employees want to communicate and collaborate. All too often, companies throw together conference rooms in a way that looks sexy, cool, or has the latest gadgets. However, this mostly caters to a single persona and not the employees as a whole. Most employees will be frustrated and annoyed, and will have to create their own solutions. I recommend you truly understand the entire experience on a conference call or in a conference room. Then, create an environment where all employee personas can be productive.

Now, think a moment about your latest experience with IT. What feelings or thoughts come to mind? Do you feel like IT truly thought about the experience from your point of view? Are they making it possible for you to be productive?

If not, be an advocate. Don’t be afraid to help, influence, and drive change. You are the most important asset to any company. Vineet Nayar said it best in the title of his book, “Employees first, Customers second.”

If you are productive, aligned to the company direction, and the company has a great product. The company can never fail!

Courtesy: http://www.employeesfirstbook.com/

The Death of an Apple Lover

I woke up yesterday morning and heard news that I thought I would never hear in my life. My wife said she was tired of Apple and how she no longer feels connected to them. She said I am going to go ahead and get an Android Phone…and she did, a Samsung Galaxy S5.

So most folks might say, hey its not a big deal. Customers change their minds all the time. I think what surprised me the most is that she has been an Apple Lover since she started using technology. She is a designer and artist by trade and has never had a desire to use another product. She has consistently, over the years, defended Apple like Apple was her mother or a family member. She has often said it is her duty to support the Apple family and upgrade after every launch. I was of the mind never to ask her to choose between me and the Apple product she was currently using 🙂.

This revelation from her really peaked my interest. I asked her what were the 3 reasons why she decided it was time to move on:

  1. Apple used to be niche and now they have become too mainstream – She said Apple used to care about their customers. They used to make me feel special. I really felt Apple was making products for me as a designer. Now I feel they are making products like Microsoft does, for the masses.
  2. Apple stopped giving their customer power over their experience – Many folks think the free U2 song was a great thing. My wife said it was a huge mistake. It was a forewarning that Apple is not giving its customers choice and is taking control of their experience. She made several comments about how other companies give more power to their customers to customize their software and hardware (I.E. Batteries interchangeable). Her view was the customer should always be in control. She used to feel that way with Apple, now she doesn’t.
  3. Apple is not relevant and cool any more – The example she gave is their commercials. She said they used to be awesome and now they are gimmicky. She would wait with baited breath for the keynotes and then watch every minute of it and now she might watch them on demand and then fast forward through most of it.

So, I said what is cool? What is the new experience? What is something that makes you feel special? She said this video is an example of a product and company that gets its now:

i.am+

http://youtu.be/ZB1j8rHrwKU

As a true advocate for customer success I found the whole conversation super interesting. I don’t think she hates Apple, but now she just groups them with all big corporate companies that produce products. She has fallen out of love. She will probably use an Apple product again if it competes well against others. However I imagine if companies like i.am+ connect with her, she will probably leave Apple and other large companies in the wake and go for a company that speaks to her and makes her feel special.