Data sprawls are no excuse for poor service

By Andrew Lawson
Data sprawl can be tricky for businesses looking to be more efficient but that doesn't mean the industry should shy away from using it to their advantage

Data is everywhere. It’s coming from your suppliers, your workers, your customers. Data sprawl is a very real issue for businesses that are in a position where there are so many sources of data to review and make sense of. It’s hard to parse it, collate and find the value – but the value does exist. Identifying key insights from the data you collect and using the right tools and approaches to do so, can generate both increased business performance and customer loyalty – especially once your customers realise that their data is being used to treat them, not just trace them. 

In the past year, digitisation has become even more important. Organisations have had to transform their business process for digital, shifting online and enabling remote work. As a result, there are even more endpoints, more devices, and consequently more data points to be aware of, irrespective of what kind of business you operate in. Consumers and employees alike are spread across a broader range of locations both physically and virtually, creating more - and different - metrics to capture. 

The recent shifts have been seismic for businesses of all sizes and industries. According to official figures from April 2020, 46.6% of people in employment in the UK were working from home during the Covid-19 pandemic. Lockdown measures forced shifts in behaviour for both consumers and the brands they give their business to. A clear example is the retail industry: once shops closed their doors, consumers and the stores themselves were forced online – a realm where there is more scope to identify people and personalise the experiences they have. Even post-pandemic, the indications are that we will continue to see the upward trend in online shopping and further perpetuate the move towards data-driven shopping platforms. 

Sink or swim: Data that delivers

Companies are flooded with data but that doesn’t mean they need to drown. And that starts with a strategic look at how you’re using data. The important aspect to recognise is that with customer data, in particular, not all data is necessary. Why hoard reams of data that will make the job of gathering insights more difficult and put the relationship with the customer in jeopardy? Find out what the customer wants, how you can deliver the expected level of service, and work to identify the relevant data points you can use to deliver it. Discard anything else. 

Having the right solutions in place providing real-time insights gathered from across all different communication channels, is paramount for businesses to have a comprehensive, unified view of the customer and therefore make more informed business decisions. 

This isn’t an approach shared by everyone. Our research on CX Maturity and its impact on business showed a clear segmentation between the traits of the least mature customer service organisations (called Starters in the study) and the more mature (called Champions). We found that business leaders at Champions are seven times more likely than Starters to review customer experience metrics daily. 

The insights they gain can feed into everything from product strategy to CX tools and approaches, as well as the training provided to teams. In fact, Champions provide an average of 2.4 more days of training for service and support staff per year than Starters. This makes staff feel cared for and valued, making them more likely to stay. Champions were five times more likely than Starters to not experience staff turnover issues. It’s a virtuous cycle. High-performing companies find the right data points to mine, interrogate the data to look for customer and worker trends, then invest in improving the experience for both workers and customers. Everyone wins. 

The pursuit of loyalty

This way of using data relies on examining trends – but where does each piece of unique customer data come from in the first place, especially when people are hesitant to give away their personal information because of data privacy concerns? Here’s an important area of clarification. Consumers aren’t against data use – it’s data misuse they have an aversion to. According to the Zendesk CX Trends Report 2021, customers are more willing to share data than they were in the past. In 2019, nearly a third of consumers (32%) in the UK wanted to share “as little data as possible.” In 2021, that share dropped to 17% — a marked decrease over two years, as customers begin to recognise the trade-off between data privacy and reaping the benefits of personalised customer service.

Consumers may feel more comfortable sharing their data, but firms don’t have carte blanche to use it at will. Customers must be getting a perceived value from parting with their information and understand how it’s being used. According to a Cisco study, among consumers who don’t feel that their data is safe, 79% say it’s because it’s “too hard for them to figure out what companies are actually doing with their data”. 

Loyalty, like trust, must be earned and it can easily be lost. The biggest driver of loyalty is customer experience, and service is at its best when it is tailored towards each individual customer in a transparent way. Everyone wants to feel special and valued, and at the heart of that experience is data. If customers don’t feel like they are getting a better service from giving more information to the company they’re dealing with, it becomes harder to justify sharing the information.   

Behind the numbers

The end goal should always be visible: repeat business from loyal customers. Companies should seek seamless CX and service delivery. That doesn’t come about by accident. The right tools have to be used to turn the raw ingredient of data into insights that inform business decisions. Do you need rows and rows of people ready to answer phone calls if customers hate getting in touch via phone? Could that resource be better used to respond quickly via WhatsApp instead? How will you know if you don’t have the intel? The research shows that customers will share a little more data to sustain excellent service. This data enables businesses to act quickly and with confidence, knowing they are serving each customer individually, and their customer base as a whole in the best way possible.

Data sprawl, with its unwieldy mass, can be problematic for businesses simply looking to operate more effectively, but companies shouldn’t throw out the baby with the bathwater. They shouldn’t shy away from using the data at their fingertips because there’s too much of it. The best approach is simple. Focus on the right data, mine it, create insights and make your customers come back again and again


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