The Hidden Side Effects of Using Big Data to Better Understand Your Customers

July 27, 2016
Aaron Polmeer

By Sherice Jacob

When it comes to better understanding your customers, you likely leverage every possible resource from personas to mapping the customer experience journey.  For marketers, big data is a boon – it’s a gold mine of information that, to be sure, requires a bit of digging through the dirt to get to the real treasure.

Big data has been used to tout everything from customer sentiment to fraud prediction. By letting computers do what they do best, it is believed that crunching all that information can lead to some pretty significant correlations – between click streams, geographic location, and even transactional data. Tying it all together helps bring the customer service lens into even greater focus.

With that being said, however, relying too much on big data has its drawbacks.  Beyond the fact that we’re just starting to understand what’s out there and how it’s all relatable, big data should not be looked at as a marketing or customer service panacea.  In fact, there are a lot of areas where relying too much on big data to better understand your customers can have the opposite effect, like these:

Lack of Availability

Let’s say you’re shopping online for a new pair of shoes. You’re scrolling through pair after pair on your cell phone until you find the perfect pair. Unfortunately, they’re backordered.  You want to be notified when more are in stock, but you’re not sure how to do that.  You tap for customer service. You’re invited to type in your question and see a list of canned solutions.  That’s a bit too cumbersome so you look for a way to contact a representative.

Instead, you’re asked to submit your question to a helpdesk or online community. Trying to fill out a trouble ticket, you see that the service isn’t compatible with mobile. You give up in frustration. Shortly thereafter, you get an email reminding you about the item you were interested in, and asking how the company can do better.

If you’re visualizing a cartoonish response of steam coming out of your ears from anger and frustration, now you can imagine the limitations that big data has.  Perhaps the only retailer to truly get a handle on big data at this level is Amazon, and they’ve been able to integrate unimaginable reams of data seamlessly while being able to grow and scale their company with consistency.

Amazon had to grow and scale its operations – and quickly, yet they still deliver consistently high-rated customer service thanks to big data analytics.

When the service you need isn’t available, you grit your teeth for long wait times ahead, and test your patience with the poor rep that has to look up the details of the backordered product in a sea of potential choices. The point is, Big Data shouldn’t just be pored over by analytics experts, but made available to everyone at every tier in the organization.

Rush to Judgment and Unrealistic Expectations

Big data is the foundation of a perilously-positioned scale. On one end, you have the camp that’s rigid …read more

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