Kirsi Pietilä
24.10.2016 · Kirsi Pietilä

Building a Great Customer Experience With Big Data

Big data is not about numbers. It’s about people, about the voice of customers.

It’s important for a company to know its customers. Today, more data than ever is collected about customers and their actions. So it might seem that knowing your customers is also easier than before. However, analysing and utilising data is much more complicated than collecting it. Although companies can accumulate large quantities of data, they rarely have real access to it, for numerous reasons. Data may be stored in databases that only a few can access, or retrieving the data from the database might be difficult. Even if companies do manage to collect data, it might be difficult to make relevant analyses of it using the existing tools. The goal is to create an analysis that helps a company to improve its customers’ service experience and make better decisions.

There has been much talk about big data in recent years; so much so, that the term has become highly inflated, often making it obscure. Data collected by a company itself is not big data. Big data is created when a company’s own data is enriched with other data. The combination allows companies to discover things that were not visible before. So using multiple data sources is the key to making relevant analyses and improving customer experience.

Big data helps to create value for customers

It’s clear that every company wants to create positive customer experiences. Satisfied customers are the most important asset for a company and its success. Good customer experience, on the other hand, requires that a company focuses on creating value for its customers. Everything else is secondary. Positive customer experiences are built in much the same way as other human relationships: through genuineness, honesty, keeping promises and the willingness to solve problems. Even with a competent big data team, a company must still ensure that the basics are in order. The customer’s problems must be taken seriously. Big data can help companies see customer experience as a whole.

How can big data benefit customers in practice? Many companies are already using the collected data to give their customers targeted content. This means that when customers are viewing the company’s service, they only see content that the company knows they’re interested in. Current technology already allows service content to be tailored to individual customers. They no longer have to spend time finding interesting or relevant content in services, but the content is automatically brought to the individual customer instead. This is possible by using big data to create a comprehensive profile of customers: who they are, in which segment they belong, what they care about, and what their interests are. This allows targeted content and targeted marketing to be displayed to individual customers, even for a company with a large and highly segmented customer base.

Development in technology also allows companies to make the customer experience more personal than ever before. Knowledge management deals with the use of information to make customers experience something far more valuable than they could ever imagine. In short, the goal is to convert big data into intelligence. Customers today are demanding, and perfectly timed and correctly targeted, easy-to-use services are in high demand. In the world of apps, it takes a lot of work to make customers feel that an app is easy to use. With the right attitude and tools, however, it is possible to understand customers.

Uber and Airbnb are often taken as model companies of digitalisation, because they work in an entirely digital environment. Data scientists have played a huge role in the success of both companies. The first seven employees of Airbnb included one data analyst; now their data science team is built of about 70 people. Their service may look simple to use, but there is a lot of competence and intelligence behind it.

Utilising big data requires a right kind of culture and customer-orientation

Usually, the greatest change for a company starting to use big data is to change its corporate culture. If data has only been available to a few selected people before, the benefits of big data can only be realised when data is available to a broad range of users. The corporate culture must concentrate on information management. When these conditions are met, the company management must be prepared to explain its decisions even more precisely than before, because the information is also available to a growing number of people. This is not something to be afraid of, but instead should be seen as a great opportunity for growth. Making information more widely accessible enables better and more multi-faceted decisions. In using big data, it is best to focus on one or, at most, two matters at once. Usually it’s good to start by improving customer understanding through segmentation. Only after that should one proceed to product and service innovations.

Big data is not about numbers. It’s about people, about the voice of customers. It’s important to listen to what it tells you. Examine it carefully to keep up to date with evolving customer needs. If decision makers and others involved in a project don’t understand what the data is telling them, the findings will never truly direct the company’s operations to a better customer experience. One of the most important tasks of a data science team is to make the voice of the customers intelligible to decision-makers.


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